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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Torat Eretz Yisrael’

Chofetz Chaim – Join the Army and Go on Aliyah!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen, from Radin, better as the Chofetz Chaim, composed the unparalleled halachic work, the “Mishna Berura,” the definitive compendium of practical Jewish law. In addition, his writings on good deeds and kindness, “Ahavat Chesed,” and his treatise on evil speech, “Shmirat HaLashon,” show his great piety and saintliness. He is known never to have spoken unfairly about anyone.

In spite of the fact that the Chofetz Chaim was vehemently opposed to the non-religious spirit of the secular Zionists, he encouraged the aliyah of God-fearing Jews. He saw the surge of mass aliyah from Russia as “the footsteps of the Mashiach,” and the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles which precedes the Mashiach’s coming. “If we had the capability,” he wrote to his son, “it would be appropriate to buy land and make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael” (Letters of the Chofetz Chaim to His Son, Reb Aryeh Leb HaCohen, pgs. 43-44.)

He even approved of Jews enlisting in the gentile armies of Europe, indicating that it would be good training and preparation for our own Jewish army. He told them: “In a short time the Mashiach will come, and we will have a State, and a State needs an army. Will you wait until then to learn how to be soldiers? Now you have the opportunity to learn how to fight. This is very important to us. The Master of the World is arranging this opportunity for practice to prepare you for service in our own Jewish army” (See, “Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch7; L’Netivot Yisrael, by Tzvi Yehuda Rabbi Kook, 2:6; Mishna Berura, Shabbat, 329:7: sub-section 17.)

The following story is brought down by the revered scholar Rabbi Dichovsky, in his comentary, “Neot Desha,” on the Talmud. In the introduction, he recounts his visit to the Chofetz Chaim to ask him a question about moving to Israel at a time of clear and present danger, when Arabs were waging pogroms in the Holy Land. We quote his account verbatim:

“I saw it proper to record a statement made to me by the most pious of all of the kohanim, the Rabbi of all Israel, the glory of the generation, the holy of all Israel, may he be blessed in memory, in the matter of aliyah. I asked him about this question, and the following are the details of our encounter.

“It was the beginning of the year, 1933. There was a group of Torah scholars who had organized themselves to go together to Israel to learn Torah. I too was amongst them, but I had many doubts, because I knew that many of the great gedolim (Torah scholars) of Israel were opposed. The heads of my yeshiva were especially opposed to the idea that yeshiva students would go to Eretz Yisrael, even for the sake of studying Torah. They said that the proper conditions had not as yet been established in order to facilitate Torah study with the proper diligence in the Holy Land, to the extent that we are able to study Torah in the yeshivot in the Diaspora. Therefore, I said in my heart, that I must not ask my rabbis in this matter, for obviously their answer will be no.

“Like Rabbi Zera, who ran away from his teacher, Rav Yehuda, when he wanted to make aliyah to Israel (Tractate Ketubot, 110B,) I decided to go and ask the counsel of the righteous tzaddik of our generation, our revered master, and to receive his blessing before I departed. Therefore, just before the Day of Atonement, I journeyed to the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim in the town of Radin, where I stayed in the shadow of this great, righteous individual. This was, as is known, the last Yom Kippur of this special tzaddik, for at the end of the year, in the month of Elul, he was taken to the yeshiva Above, may his merit be a shield to us and all Israel.

“In spite of his great physical weakness, a Heavenly Providence was with me, and I merited to see him the day after Yom Kippur. I told him my situation, and that I had a good chance of making aliyah to Israel as a Torah student, only I had lingering doubts if I would be able to learn Torah with the same diligence with which I was learning now. Immediately, he answered, in his famous sweetness of speech, that there was no room at all for my wariness. Why in the world would I not be able to learn Torah there with absolute diligence, he said? Just the opposite would seem to be true, for the Land of Israel, without question, was more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah. He recited the verse, ‘The gold of the Land is good,’ on which the Midrash says, ‘This gold are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.’

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?

Jerusalem in the Twilight Zone

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I came on aliyah in May, toward the end of Iyar, just in time for Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, the same Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, of blessed memory, who co-founded the Volunteers for Israel/Sarel project, also began the joyous flag-waving parade through the streets of Jerusalem to the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim. While Yom HaAtzmaut was widely celebrated throughout the country, Jerusalem Day, the day marking our re-conquest of the Old City and the Kotel hadn’t yet become the gala, inspiring event that it is today. After the Six-Day War, under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva would hold a festive dinner with speeches from government leaders and leading Rabbis. After midnight, students would join the Rosh Yeshiva in a joyous march to the Kotel. With each passing year, students would gather from other yeshivot around the country for the festive procession. Seeking to turn the march into a national event which would express the Nation’s eternal attachment to its Holy City, and proclaim to the world that Yerushalayim would never be divided again, Rabbi Hazani, who was studying at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, organized another parade for the following day. Plastering the billboards of the country with posters, he handed out hundreds of blue-and-white Israeli flags and had the crowds follow a lively band from Emancipation Park across from the United States consulate to the Kotel. Every year the crowds increased, swelling to fifty thousand and more. Women entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, while men and families walked along the walls to the Shechem Gate, where they paraded through the narrow main street leading through the Old Jewish Quarter, who’s name had been changed to the “Moslem Quarter” after the pogroms of 1929, when Arabs had slaughtered dozens of resident Jews and chased the Jewish population out from the Old City. How wonderful it is on Jerusalem Day to see Arabs cowering in their doorways and windows as the Jews swarm through all the gates our eternal Holy City!

That first year, being a greenhorn in Israel, the happy parade blew me away, walking side-by-side with so many proud Jews into the Old City, along the alleyways of the Moslem Quarter. When we arrived at the Kotel Plaza, Rabbi Hazani grabbed my hand and pulled me up onto the bandstand where a band led the joyous flag waving and dancing. Introducing me to the huge crowd as the director of Volunteers for Israel in America, who had just come on aliyah, he had me read out a Psalm in English for the foreign press. Talk about an aliyah! I felt 100 feet tall, as if I had suddenly become a giant Jew in my connection to Jerusalem and Clal Yisrael! That year, and every year since at the incredibly festive gathering at the Kotel, the joy is supernatural, above time and space, a spiritual high like no other, illuminated by the Divine Presence which still shines forth from the stones of the Kotel, and by the great light of Redemption that fills the air over the Old City as tens of thousands of Jews from all corners of the world pay tribute to God for His transcendental kindness in bringing us back to our beloved Holy City in fulfillment of prophecies of old.

I couldn’t imagine that there could be anything like it until the following week and the arrival of Shavuot. After the evening holiday meal at the home of Rabbi Hazani, I learned with Rabbi David Samson, the English-speaking hevruta he had arranged for me at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. In the wee hours of the morning, all of the students set off for the Kotel. As we walked along Jaffa Road toward the Old City, more Jews appeared from every direction, thousands of them, young and old, men, women, and children, Haredim, Hasidim, Religious Zionists with knitted kippot, even secular Jews. It was amazing! By the time dawn arrived, the Kotel Plaza was full!

Here I was, just out of New York, not knowing Hebrew, not knowing what the Torah was really about, surrounded by tens of thousands of ecstatic davening Jews, with the choruses of “Amen, yihe shamai rabbahs” ringing in my ears like the blasts of the shofar on Mount Sinai, standing beside Rabbi Hazani and a sea of Moses-like beards. What can I tell you? New York and Hollywood were blown out of my brain, like a dream that never happened, just like the Psalm says: “When the Lord brings back the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream.” I felt like I had been Star-Trekked into another time and planet – into another galaxy and totally different reality, into a living, vibrant, electrifying Judaism I had never experienced before.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/jerusalem-in-the-twilight-zone/2012/05/20/

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