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October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘the Torah’

It’s All Happening at the Central Bus Station

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

One of the liveliest places in Yerushalayim is the Central Bus Station. “HaTachana HaMercazit.” First of all, you really sense the Geula/Redemption when you are there, with Jews of all sizes and shapes, from all parts of the world, coming and going, jostling and hustling, dark-skinned Jews from Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, and Iraq, along with gelifta-fish-complexioned Jews from Russia and Poland, and the young, bright-eyed Americans studying in Israel, whose accents stick out like the torch of the Statue of Liberty as they call out, “Oh, Sally and Chuck, how colossal, how awesome, look, we can get hamburgers and fries over here!” The bustling scene in the Jerusalem bus station is literally the revelation of prophecy – the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the globe, taking place before your eyes.

In addition to the rush and joy of people, there are three floors of stores and booths selling everything from the latest fashions and jewelry, to cell phones, computers, chess boards, helium balloons, oriental spices, fresh roasted nuts and pastries you can smell all the way to Tel Aviv. And the food court has everything your palette might crave: mouth-watering humus, Chinese food, pizza, hamburgers, and felafel on rye.

One of the shops, “Dabree Shir,” specializes in religious books of all sorts, with baal-tshuva stories and guides high on the list. For a small country, Israel produces a tremendous amount of books, and it’s always nice to see that this bookstore is packed with all kinds of people who are seeking to come closer to God. Whenever I pass through the bus station, I try to stop by and say hello to the fellas in the bookstore.

Though you people may think I’m a hack writer, the religious-Zionist community in Israel appreciates my books, especially my novel, “Tevye in the Promised Land,” which almost every family seems to have read. Last week, when I passed by, I asked the manager what was his current bestseller. “Binyan HaEmunah,” he answered. That was encouraging, I thought. The book, written by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, founder of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva, is an in-depth study of true Jewish faith, filled with many of Rabbi Kook teachings. How wonderful, I mused, that the average, bus-station traveler, men, women, and young people alike, are purchasing a book like that – the very same book which I just happen to be translating into English for the yeshiva, to make a little parnassa/livelihood.

The basic premise of the book is that in our generation of Redemption, Emunah (Jewish faith and belief) must be learned, along with the learning of Gemara and Halacha. This is because, over the nearly 2000 years of exile, yeshiva study became the dry learning of Talmud and Jewish Law, with the main focus devoted to matters which applied to day-to-day life, while more exalted matters like the all-encompassing goal of the Torah, and the establishment of the Divine Ideal in the world, through the Kingship of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, were ignored.

Rabbi Kook writes that this dry approach to Torah study, which ignores, and even negates, the secrets of Torah, is the reason why entire communities of Jews have become alienating from our age-old yearning for Zion; have opted to remain in gentile countries rather than making aliyah; and why their exile in Brooklyn, Beverly Hill, and Boca, is seen as pleasing in their eyes.

In effect, Emunah, the very heart of the Torah, which teaches us what God and the Nation of Israel are all about, was left out of the yeshiva curriculum. This led the Torah giant, the Gaon of Vilna (who encouraged his students to make aliyah) to state that Emunah must be learned, specifically emphasizing the need to learn Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s classic study of Jewish Faith, “HaKuzari,” saying, “The principles of Emunat Yisrael and Torah are precisely formulated in it” (Siddur of the Gra, pg. 512).

In establishing the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook made the study of Emunah one of the foundations, alongside the intensive learning of Gemara and Halacha. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, would explain every year to new students the vital importance of this learning, and how it happens that Torah-observant Jews can turn their backs on the very foundation of the entire Torah, the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, due to their failure to learn Emunah.

Confessions of a Brain Surgeon

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I don’t know how many of you noticed this quite unusual story in the news. A new Ethiopian immigrant to Israel, just off the plane, went to visit a sick relative in one of Tel Aviv’s major hospitals. Not knowing Hebrew, he got lost in the big hospital and wandered into the surgery theater. Thinking he was an orderly, no one paid any attention as he walked into one of the operating rooms where a patient was undergoing brain surgery. The Ethiopian watched in horror as one of the surgeo’s raised a small electric saw and proceeded to slice open the patient’s cranium. With a scream, the new Ethiopian immigrant charged at the doctors to stop them. He thought they were killing the patient when, in fact, they were trying to save his life.

Of course, this incident didn’t really happen, but I’m using it to make a point. Some readers have accused me of “Sinat Chinam,” gratuitously hating my fellow Jews because I highlight the shortcomings of Jewish life in the Diaspora. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love all Jews: religious and not religious, Israelis and Diasporians, rightists and leftists.

People who know me can testify that I am not the cruel monster that some readers accuse me of being. On the contrary, just like the surgeon in the story, I am trying to save people’s lives. Out of my passionate love for all Jews, especially my brothers and sisters lost in the darkness of galut, where I was once lost like them, I am doing my best, with the skills that the Almighty has given me, to help them see the light.

Unfortunately, sugar-coated aspirin and a moist compress won’t help someone who has spent his life in an alien gentile land and doesn’t know that there is something better. A band-aid and sweet tasting syrup won’t help a Diaspora Jew who has been taught a truncated, distorted, watered-down version of Torah. In cases like this, immediate and massive intervention is needed. Sometimes an entire brain transplant may be called for.

I am not only speaking about the average Diaspora Jew who doesn’t know better, because he was never taught that a Jew’s real place is in Israel, and because the darkness and spiritual pollution of the exile prevents him from grasping this clear message from a simple, straightforward reading of the Torah. He isn’t to blame. No one ever told him the truth. I am also speaking about the Diaspora Jew who studied in yeshiva, considers himself Orthodox, even Haredi, yet still thinks that the goal of Judaism is to build magnificent Jewish communities in foreign gentile lands.

There are even those who are so mentally confused that they try to discourage others from coming to live in Israel. It isn’t enough to speak nicely to them, and show them pretty pictures of Israel, and to point out the endless Torah verses commanding the Jewish People to live in Eretz Yisrael. These extreme cases have so internalized their gentile surroundings, cultures, and upbringing, they think like the goyim. They may speak Yiddish, but instead of a “Yiddisha kup,” they have a “goyisha kup.” Instead of following the Torah, they follow themselves. To save them, an electric saw is needed.

The saddest thing is, because of the terrible darkness of galut, and years of yeshiva study which removed the Land of Israel from the curriculum, they don’t even recognize that they have a problem. In their minds, all of the Jews who are dedicating their lives to the rebuilding of the Jewish People in Israel are wrong, and they, in their glass glatt kosher castles are right. To their distorted way of thinking, even God was wrong in establishing the State of Israel the way He did – they would have done it differently.

So they get angry at me when I point out the error in what they’ve been taught – or when I stress things that they never learned. Just as a patient with severe schizophrenia sees his psychiatrist as an enemy, they misinterpret my attempts to help them for hate.

But just as a psychiatrist doesn’t give up when his patient lashes out at him, because the physician knows better, I won’t give up trying to help these confused but beautiful souls. I know better because I was once severely brain damaged myself, when I was in New York and Los Angeles, a stranger in a strange land, with the head of a goy, believing I was an American like everyone else. Then, with the grace of the Almighty, I underwent a successful brain transplant, so I know what it’s like to live in darkness, and that’s why I want to help.

So, while my writing may be blunt and painful to some, I don’t blame the Jews in the Diaspora for their misunderstanding of what the Torah is really all about. Like I said, by and large, they simply don’t know that they should come on aliyah. No one teaches them. Not their Rabbis, not their high-school yeshiva teachers, not their shul presidents, not the sisterhood, nor the Federation, not their parents, no one. So, they simply don’t know that the true goal of Judaism is to establish the Kingdom of God in the world via the Jewish People leading a Torah life in Israel, not in the United States of America.

Even in the books they read about Judaism, Eretz Yisrael has been deleted. Take a look at a few indexes of the most popular “frum” books in English on Jewish Philosophy. You won’t find a word about Eretz Yisrael.

True, an Internet surfer might be carried by a wave one day to the Internet edition of The Jewish Press or Arutz 7, where he may be confronted with the importance of aliyah, but not having heard about this great foundation of Judaism from his teachers and parents, he is likely not to take it to heart at all.

For this reason, the Jews of the Diaspora are like “children who were kidnapped and raised amongst the gentiles.” This category usually applies to Jews who were never taught about Judaism. Not having been exposed to the tenets of the religion, unfortunate Jews like these can’t be expected to keep the Torah’s laws, because they have never heard of them. The secular Zionists pioneers in Israel fall into this category, as do the secular Russian Jews in Israel today. Even though they have all heard of the Torah, they never had anyone sit down and teach them, so it is something foreign to them, like Chinese. This is exactly the same when it comes to Diaspora Jews and aliyah. Yes, Israelis yell at them for not coming, but they don’t hear it from their own teachers and Rabbis. So they are like children who have been kidnapped and raised amongst the gentiles.

A metaphor for this is the story of Tarzan, who was lost at sea as a child and raised in the jungle by apes. When he grew up, he thought he was a monkey, too. There was no one around to tell him that he was a man. So he identified with the apes. Just as they felt perfectly at home, living in the jungle and swinging from tree to tree, he felt perfectly at home too, aping their habits. Not having been raised in civilized surroundings, he didn’t know the difference.

But, of course, a human isn’t an ape, even if he grows up in the jungle. And a Jew isn’t a gentile, even if he grows up in a gentile land. A Jew isn’t an American, or a Frenchmen, or a South African, even if he grows up there. A Jew has a homeland of his own, with his own code of life, the Torah, which is meant to be lived in Israel.

The Jews of the Diaspora don’t know this, because no one ever taught them. They are not to blame for thinking they are at home in strange, gentile lands, no more than Tarzan was to blame for believing that he was at home in the jungle. It’s as simple as that. I don’t blame them. But, bezrat Hashem, I’ll keep trying to show them the difference – precisely because I love them so much.

New Diaspora Religion: Bagelism

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Last week, the administrator of a popular Facebook group called something like “Kaballah Lite,” asked me not to post blogs on their page that stressed the mitzvah of living in Israel because it made his readers uneasy. First, he wanted to get people involved in “spirituality” and then he’d teach them about Israel, he said.

When I replied that according to the Kaballah everything in Israel is spiritual, the rocks, the trees, the tomato fields, even the secular Jews, and that Eretz Yisrael represents the exalted sefirah of Malchut, without which the spiritual blueprint of the world is shattered and God’s Presence doesn’t appear on Earth, he answered that the uninitiated can’t understand this very basic foundation upon which the Kaballah is based. First, they have to learn about the joy of spiritualism, he said.

That’s a little like baking an apple pie and leaving out the apples. After the pie is finished, you can’t go back and stick in the apples. They haven’t been cooked! So too, you can’t teach Judaism and leave out the Land of Israel, and then stick it in at the end, as if it’s just some added spicing. The apples aren’t something extra – they’re the essence of the pie itself. So too with Judaism – the Jewish life in the Land of Israel isn’t just another ingredient – it’s the filling. It’s the pie itself.

Another Facebook group about being “frum” in New York also kicked me off its list. When I asked why, the administrator said that she was trying to bring unaffiliated Jews closer to the joys of Orthodoxy and my writings about Israel raised uncomfortable “political” issues for liberal New York Jews, and turned them away from pure Judaism. Pure Judaism? Without the Land of Israel?

Sorry, but that isn’t Judaism. It’s a new religion. Maybe, to give her, and others who think like her, the benefit of the doubt, you could call it “Diaspora Judaism.” But it isn’t Torah. Eretz Yisrael isn’t a peripheral matter to Yiddishkeit, or merely a nice place to visit to feel proud to be a Jew. Building the Jewish Nation in Israel is the very goal of the Torah. Over two-thirds of the Mishna concern the commandments that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of God from Yerushalayim.” Not from Brooklyn, Monsey, Beverly Hills, Toronto, or Mexico City.

So along with Reform and Conservative Judaism, which aren’t Judaism at all, we can add Diaspora Judaism. It’s closer to Orthodox Judaism than the others, but huge chucks of the Torah are still missing. Let’s call this new religion of Diaspora Jews, “Bagel Judaism,” or “Bagelism,” because its center, the Land of Israel, is missing.

The countries of the Diasporas may be very enjoyable places, like the taste of a bagel, but something is missing. Diasporas can come in all sorts of flavors, just like plain bagels, and sesame, onion, pumpernickel, and whole wheat bagels, but they are all empty in the middle. The center, the Land of Israel, is missing! Diasporas have synagogues, and Shabbos, glatt kosher restaurants and yeshivas, but the center, the Redemptional focus of the Torah and Prophets, the desire to return to Zion, and the all-important national component of Judaism are missing. Take for example the “Kedusha” we say during our Shachrit prayers on Shabbat: “When will You return to Zion? Speedily, in our days, may You dwell there forever. May You be exalted and sanctified in Jerusalem, Your city throughout all generations and to all eternity.” Zion and Jerusalem -not Brooklyn, Beverly Hills, Boca, Buenos Aries, or Berlin.

Without the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, without a national Jewish calendar, a Jewish army, a Jewish government, without all of the mitzvot that apply n the Land, children who grow up speaking Hebrew, and Jews who marry Jews and not gentiles, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a hollow Judaism. Just like a bagel, the outside ring is tasty, but the center is missing. Like a bagel, the Judaism of the Diaspora is missing its heart. When you relish the bagel and don’t notice the gaping hole in the middle, then something is wrong with your Judaism.

Have You Made A Difference In Someone’s Life?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Originally published October 24, 1971

A rose that I picked from our garden to enhance the beauty of our sukkah is so exquisite that visitors remarked that they didn’t realize it was “real” until they noticed the water in the vase.

Only the Almighty could have created something so perfect, I thought, as my mind wandered back to a time long ago, when our daughters (now married) helped to “build” the sukkah. How excited they were hurrying home from school to put up the decorations.

I recall a special day when the girls and their friends were having a get-together in the sukkah and, with spirits high, they sang the lively Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish people live! A neighbor passing by stopped in, drawn by the spirited singing. “And who did the decorating?” she wanted to know. When told that the girls had done most of it, Mrs. Hochman said, “They’ll never get into trouble that way!”

They never did, thanks to G-d whose “Guide” for living (Torah) we follow. Interestingly, a psychologist in the police department – lecturing on preventing juvenile delinquency – said, “Keep them busy!”

Now, it’s our grandchildren who are being kept busy – building, not only our sukkah, but theirs, a block and a half away. Meals were divided between their sukkah and ours, so that the Sukkos holiday should be joyous, for this holiday specifically referred to as a time of joy!

How much more joyous is it when, by the Grace of G-d, not only are there children but grandchildren as well joining in the festivities, and one sees they too are following the righteous path. For not only will they never get in trouble, but also they are already contributing members of the community – being of service to others, helping when needed. For then they will know not only the joy of the Sukkos holiday, but also the joy that comes from serving, which was so well put by a young woman quoted in last Sunday’s News. She said: “I felt like all of a sudden I was awake, like I was really present in life. I no longer felt like a spectator!”

That remark was made in connection with her participation in “Make A Difference Day” – an event started seven year ago in which volunteers from all over the U.S. get involved in helping others, at least one day a year.

It’s a great idea, which ought to be made a “must” for students in the public schools. Perhaps it would have a good effect in those schools that are plagued by dangerous gangs [nowadays bullying].

As for the Torah community, “we have it made.” Serving others – everyday – is one of the most important tenets of our religion. May the remainder of this special holiday bring much joy to all, and to all – a “Good Year” – a year in which we will all “Make A Difference” and help to bring the Messiah!

Don’t Let Santa Fool You

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

A friend just back from New York says it’s beginning to look a lot like Xmas everywhere you go. Xmas trees, manger scenes, Salvation Army Santas, stockings and candy canes in window displays along Fifth Avenue, Jingle Bells tinkling in the stores…. Frankly, I don’t understand how any self-respecting Jew can live in a Christian country like America when he could live in Israel instead. It baffles me.

Here, in Yerushalayim, our pleasant Hanukah menorah decorations are lit up over our streets. There’s absolutely no sign of Xmas at all. In fact, if you didn’t get lost on the way to Rachel’s Tomb and end up in Bethlehem on Xmas day itself, you’d never know that such a pagan holiday existed. Thank the good Lord that my kids don’t have to walk the streets of America at this time of year and feel like second-class citizens amongst the idol worshippers. I challenge someone to disagree with me if I’m wrong.

Just so the jolly little elves and white-bearded Santas don’t fool you, it pays to recall the truth about Christianity.

During the midst of World War 1, Rabbi Kook understood that Christianity was to blame for all the slaughter:

“The moral repression found in the profane culture which exerted vast dominion over the nations, brought oppression to their hearts, and caused evil traits, diseases, and anger to multiply and be pent up in the depths of their souls. And now these are erupting their fetters through the horrendously bloody and awesomely cruel wars, which are more in keeping with their still unrefined natures” (Orot, 2:4).

Rabbi Kook comes to explain how an enlightened, industrialized, and cultured Europe could unleash such destructive barbaric forces that brought the world to war. What went wrong?

The “profane culture” he writes about which has come to dominate Western civilization is the outgrowth of Christianity, whose doctrines of repression have now burst through Christianity’s outer guise of gentility and brotherhood in a monstrous storm of violence and hate. This is because, in denying the Torah and its commandments, Christianity separated mankind from the true ladder to God. Unlike the constant self-correction and moral improvement demanded by the Torah, through the hard work of perfecting character traits, Christianity’s false show of morals, and instant salvation for belief in its virgin-born messiah, proved impotent in uplifting man’s baser traits. Only the Torah has the unique power to refine man’s nature. All other disciplines, whether religious, secular, or philosophical, can add to man’s quantitative knowledge, but they cannot effect any inner change.

Christian civilization, and the profane secular culture which grew out from it, know what is evil, but does not know how to correct it. It learned about morals from the Hebrew Bible, but in cutting itself off from Israel and the commandments of the Torah, it severed mankind from the one and only path to God and true morality. It left man simmering in darkness in a cauldron of unrefined passions and lusts which finally exploded in the devastating world wars of the previous century.

Judaism, in contrast, presents a practical path and down-to-earth guidance to character perfection. Our Sages teach us how to actualize the proper midot (character traits) in our lives, defining the measure of each and every trait, and their proper time and place. For example, in his “Introduction to the Mishna,” the Rambam presents his famous doctrine of “the Middle Path,” whereby man reaches a balance between the extremes, not repressing his baser emotions like lust and cruelty, but learning to give each emotion its proper expression in the proper time and place, so that sexuality becomes a holy union between man and wife, and cruelty is called upon when uprooting the wicked from the world.

“L’havdil” a thousand thousands of differences, Christianity, under a guise of holiness, condemns man’s natural passions from birth. But mankind cannot adhere to the repression of character traits that Christianity imposes, because it does not provide man with a true means to holiness and moral refinement. Cut off from the Torah, Christianity breeds a culture which dooms man to guilt, aggression, and a festering rage which explodes in violence and war.

Inevitably, the target of the world’s murderous rage turns against the Jews. Behind the hatred for Israel lies the recognition that it was the Jewish People who introduced the Divine moral framework to the world. Cut off from the true word of God, mankind remains in its barbaric state. The Divine moral message of Israel is received as an obligation and burden. Mankind wants to wallow in an uninhibited sensual and material lifestyle. The Jewish People get in the way by reminding the world of God and the allegiance due Him. Unable to kill the beasts within themselves, the gentiles resort to killing the Jews.

Although Rabbi Kook was unequivocal in his condemnation of Christianity, it is important to note that he never encouraged open conflict with its doctrines. He advocated that other religions be enlisted in the universal task of leading the world to God:

“As to alien faiths, I will tell you my opinion, that it is not the goal of Israel to uproot and destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destructions of the nations, but rather for their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, that they will link themselves with the source of Israel, where dew drops of light and blessing will fall over them, as it says, ‘I will take away the blood form out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he too shall remain for our God’” (Zechariah, 9:7. See “Letters of Rabbi Kook” 112).

Only in the near future, when Israel’s light shines in its full glory from the Land of Israel, will the nations realize that the true enlightenment and joy is not in Santas and fairy tales from Bethlehem, but in the Torah of Israel, and then they will rush gladly to the Lord’s House in Jerusalem to learn the ways of Jacob, and “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah, 2:2-4).

May it be soon. Amen.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

I do not question the sincerity or intent of HaGoan Rav Chaim Kanievsky. As a religious Jew I agree that Torah protects Klal Yisroel from harm. From YWN:

Rav Kanievsky told the hundreds who inquired to simply remain in Bnei Brak, for the Torah city may rely on the words of the Chazon Ish ZT”L, that there is nothing to fear in Bnei Brak due to the zchus of the limud Torah and bombs will not land in the city.

All well and good. But I have to question why he did not mention the great Hishtadlus of the Israeli government that with the help of the United States created the “Iron Dome.” Which in large part has aided in that objective.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Israel has in place an anti-missile system that seeks out and destroys those rockets from Gaza that are aimed at population centers. So far it has been 90% effective, although unfortunately 3 people have been killed by rocket attack, it would have been a lot worse without it.

The problem with these kinds of pronouncements is that it makes it seem like there is no Hishtadlus needed. One need not be concerned and be careful about bombs as long as one lives in the holy city of Bnei Brak.

Really? Is Bnei Brak immune from attack? …or any other evil that may befall it just because of the Torah learned there? I don’t think so. The great Yeshivos of pre Holocaust Europe were also great M’komos of Torah. The city of Vilna where many of them were located was called the Jerusalem of Lithuania. We all know what happened to them.

One might answer that the Holocaust was an exceptional circumstance where God carried out His heavenly decree which overrode the protective seal of the Torah. But I must ask, how can anyone today know that this is not the case once again?! …God forbid!

There were also similar statements by many Gedolim in Europe during the Holocaust telling people to stay put. We all know what happened to them as well, Rachmana Litzlan.

Rav Kanievsky is not a Navi.There is absolutely no Nevuah today. But there is something called Ruach HaKodesh. That is when one becomes imbued with a non specific heavenly spirit that helps guide them in making decisions. But I do not recall Rav Kanievsky ever making any such claim. His father in law, Rav Elyashiv, actually admitted that he did not have Ruach HaKodesh to Rav Nosson Kamentesky when he jumped the gun on banning his book, Making of a Gadol.

In times of trouble like these, it behooves us to remember a phrase made popular in song after the attack in Pearl Harbor during World War II. A phrase that speaks to Hishtadlus: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. This certainly holds true today. We indeed must pray for God’s protection but must also make the maximum effort to do whatever can physically be done to protect ourselves and defeat the enemy.

I also wish he had mentioned the contributions of the IDF. Do they deserve no credit for protecting Bnei Brak’s residents? Many Israeli soldiers from the most secular to the most religious (Zionists… and these days even Charedim) are poised and ready to go into battle for their countrymen. Which includes the residents of Bnei Brak. These young men are literally putting their lives on the line for Klal Yisroel. Why not mention that when speaking of the Torah’s protection? Does he not recognize their contribution?

I’m sure he does. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he and other rabbinic leaders have called (or will call) for a mass prayer rally for the protection of our soldiers. But it would have been nice if he had mentioned it here too. Hakoras HaTov to the IDF is better expressed before the fact than after the fact in my view. Because that would give Chizuk – strength and encouragement – to all of our fighting men as well as to their worried families back home.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Letter to Our Son After Shabbat

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Dear Son,

I hope you had a Torah scroll with your platoon for Shabbat, and that you heard the Torah reading. The Parsha of Toldot begins, “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Now this is very strange. When the Torah says, “These are the generations of Yitzhak,” we are ready to hear about the offspring of Yitzhak – Yaakov and Esav – yet the verse continues, “Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Why talk about Avraham? He’s the father not a son! From this, we learn that the father is in the son. The father is passed down to his son and grandchildren from generation to generation. That’s how I feel, right now, as if I am with you on the outskirts of Gaza, waiting for the orders to wipe out Hamas and the other hornets’ nests of terror based in schools, mosques, hospitals, homes, and underground tunnels under the city, where they are hiding like cockroaches in the dark.

Over Shabbat, I remembered back to the Gulf War. Just before the missiles started falling on Tel Aviv, I had been called to milluim and was doing reserve military duty in the all Arab city of Tulkarim. You were maybe nine months old at the time. When the first missiles were launched, soldiers with beards received an order to shave, so that gas masks would fit better in case the missiles were armed with chemical heads. So I shaved. I didn’t tell your mother, thinking I would surprise her when I came home on leave, and sure enough, when I knocked on the front door several days later, the second she saw me, she gasped and retreated back into the living room, startled, as if some strange frightening caller was standing at the door. But the minute you saw me, you called out, “Ba!” and came crawling like a rocket, recognizing me immediately, even though I didn’t have a beard. When I picked you up, you were as happy as could be. “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Father and son. Son and father. We’re the same.

So know that I am with you. So is your mother. The whole Shabbat, she waited for the moment she could turn on the radio to learn what was happening. Of course, when the warning siren suddenly sounded in Yerushalayim on Shabbat evening, and a distant boom shattered the tranquility, that brought the war even closer for your mother. More reservists were called up during Shabbat, and we heard rumors that troops would be sent to the north as well, but wherever you are, and whatever you end up doing, know that ever role is vital, whether it be that of a pilot, or the soldier that loads the bomb on the plane, the controller in the computer room, or the “jobnik” who folds the emergency parachute. King David made sure that everyone in the army of Israel received the same share of the booty, the soldiers that fought in the front, and those who stayed behind to guard over the camp.  “All for one, and one for all.”

Because I am in you, like Avraham was in Yitzhak, I know many of the things you are feeling. Even though you have received the finest training, going into battle is not an easy thing. You have a sensitive and caring soul, and even though you are as big and strong as Samson, in civilian life you wouldn’t hurt a fly. But as we learn in this week’s Torah portion, sometimes Yaakov has to dress in the clothes of Esav to bring blessing to the world. At his mother’s urging, to receive his father’s blessing, Yaakov puts goat skins on his arms, so that when his blind father embraces him, he will think it is indeed his eldest son, the hairy hunter Esav.

Rabbi Kook explains the story represents the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil. Yet to triumph over the wicked Esav, the holy and righteous Yaakov is forced to resort to cruelty and deception.  Though it goes against his inner nature, Yaakov takes up the characteristics of Esav, the hunter, murderer, schemer, and warrior, to insure that the blessing of Avraham comes to the world through its proper channel.  Like today, when the Nation of Israel is forced to adopt Esav weapons of killing and war, it goes into battle not for the sake of destruction, but to bring an end to all killing and wars. Not out of a beastly passion for killing and war, like that of our enemies in Gaza, but out of the knowledge that this is the only way to make the world a better place. The arms and armies are like the arms and armies of Esav, but the voice is the voice of Yaakov. We fight when we have to, not for the sake of killing, but to put an end to all killing and bloodshed.

When we have to, we take up the rifles of Esav, but we are still Yaakov inside, guided by the light of the Torah. We have no other choice. In a world that lives by the sword, we have to take up the sword too. We cannot merely sit and pray for miracles. One of the commandments of the Torah is “Milchemet Mitzvah,” the mitzvah to go to war to defend Jewish life and to conquer the Land of Israel and keep it under out own Jewish sovereignty. You, my dear son, are engaged in a “Milchemet Mitzvah” twice over – defending the lives of the million Jew under rocket fire, and fighting enemies whose goal is to conquer our Land.

Not only am I and you mother with you. Our whole nation is with you. The Torah is with you. Avraham and Yitzhak and Yaakov are with you. The G-d of Israel is with you. Uproot the evil, my son. Go with a clean heart and a clear conscience. For G-d’s honor. For the honor of Israel. For the sake of the world.

Hazak V’Amatz,

Abba

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/letter-to-our-son-after-shabbat/2012/11/18/

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