70 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

Israel's Task

Rav Kook-Jlem

Let's see how well you know our great leaders, of blessed memory. Who said the following quote?

The unique strength of the Jewish people is not for self-centered nationalism, for military conquests and national aggrandizement. The eternal nature of Israel must be understood within the context of their special mission, to promulgate God's Name in the world.

Here's a hint - the same tzaddik also said this quote:

I did reveal the fundamental failure of the Zionists’ entire enterprise, namely the fact that they do not place at the top of their list of priorities the sanctity of God and His great Name, which is the power that enables Israel to survive.

1. Rebbe Yoel of Satmer

2. The Lubavitcher Rebbe

3. Rav Avraham Yitchak HaCohen Kook

4. The Chazon Ish

5. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld

Not a single one of my national religious friends got the above quiz right. Most answered #1, #4, or #5...

If you answered #3, you're right. Rubbing your eyes? So many things have been done and said in Rav Kook's name. But Rav Kook, like all our other spiritual luminaries, saw our task first and foremost as "light unto the nations." What's more, in light of the above, I don't think that Rav Kook zatza"l would have agreed to the Nationality Law, which, "aims to codify Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people" - the Torah already does that! Then again, do you think for a moment that Rav Kook would have tolerated pride parades in Jerusalem or female instructors in IDF combat units? No and no! Back to the textbooks, brothers and sisters.

After I wrote the above post, Hashem reminded me that today is the third of Elul, the yahrtzeit of Rav Kook, marking his passing 83 years ago. Please light a candle for HaRav Avraham Yitzchak ben Shlomo Zalman HaCohen. Rav Kook's love for Eretz Yisroel and for every single Jew knew no bounds. May his saintly and blessed memory intercede in our behalf, amen! 


Battle for Air Supremacy: IAF F-16s vs. Hamas Kites

Wheat Field Israel Fire Gaza
It's so absurd, so surreal, so astonishing and so pitiful that it makes you laugh; that is, unless you're a Jewish Israeli, for if you are, you've gotta cry...

The world's most daring, most highly-sophisticated and most combat-proven Air Force - Israel's - cannot guarantee the security of our skies, as the fresh new fires in the south of Israel attest. The Air Force can't stop the incendiary kites that Hamas teenagers are setting free in the breezes blowing off the Mediterranean. The David's Sling and Iron Dome missile defense systems - the best in the world - are powerless against the Hamas kiddie kites, as thousands of burn acres of fields and forests, painstaking grown in the Western Negev desert, bear witness to (above image).

Elections are coming soon in Israel. The Government knows that it better return security to the south, or they'll lose a chunk of votes to the opposition. So where the IDF has failed, they've been grovelling behind the scenes asking the Egyptians to mediate a deal which is complete capitulation to Hamas. The Hamas kids have succeeded where terrorist rocket barrages have not.

Neither the Government nor the IDF gets the message. Nobody in the religious parties bothered to explain it to them. Sitting in the upholstered seats that are ever so comfortable, they continue to drink coffee around the Government's mahogany table and didn't say a world about the defilement of Jerusalem or Hashem's Torah that we protested last week. The Government of Israel thinks that its Nationality Law makes it kosher, but that's no more kosher than a kosher-style hot dog that they sell in Mets' Stadium. Hashem sends the incendiary kites and balloons as a wake-up call for the Government to realize that it's surreal, supernatural and absurd for the IDF and IAF to be rendered so ineffective by terrorist kiddies. So what do they do? The Government et al try to circumvent Hashem and cave in to Hamas. That won't work. It never did and never will.

This coming Shabbat is the beginning of the teshuva-month of Elul. It's time for national teshuva. Government capitulation to terror as a means of trying to circumvent Hashem, as so painfully proven by the disastrous Disengagement of 2005, is always a mistake. May Hashem help and torpedo the surrender to evil, from within and from without.

What do we learn from this? Hedonism, self-interest and self-indulgence are incompatible with self-assessment. And it doesn't matter whether the hedonist has a kippa on his head or not; the only difference between the religious hedonist and the secular one is whether or not there's a kosher certificate on the wall of the fancy resort where they're spending the weekend. Meanwhile, the firefighters in the south of Israel are spending their weekends fighting fires in fields and trying to save what's left to save in southern Israel's fields, forests and farms.

"My people don't open their eyes" (Isaiah 1:3). We need emuna more than ever.


Misplaced Pride

Lost Ship
One of the proudest Jews I ever met was Menachem Begin, our Prime Minister from 1977 to 1983. Life was different in Israel then. I would frequently and freely visit friends in Gaza City, Jazi and Ibrahim, whose family owned an ice-cream factory. My Druze friend Suleiman from Daliat el Carmel and I would often go hiking together. My bosom buddy was Naif from the Arab village of Tira, east of Kfar Saba. In my reserve unit, a very close comrade and one of the best medics in our unit was Ronnie, who was gay; nobody made a big deal about it and he didn't flaunt it. As long as you did your duty the best way possible, nobody cared. Ronnie, by the way, got along great with our battalion rabbi, Captain Yoni from Bnei Brak, who was all love and brotherhood without trying to push any agenda on anyone. He was there if you needed him.

How different things have become. Menachem Begin was a proud Jew but his pride was not at the expense of any minorities. In fact, because he didn't feel like a 2nd-rate human, and because of his lack of a Jewish-inferiority complex, Begin was courageous enough to engineer a peace treaty with Egypt that has lasted to and through this day. Menachem Begin was the one who uplifted Sephardi Jews from their second-rate status under the elitist secular Ashkenazi left.

In biblical Hebrew, an "uplifted heart" means arrogance, the negative type of pride. The Torah warns, "Lest your heart be uplifted, and you forget Hashem" (Deuteronomy 8:14). In other words, as soon as a person is arrogant in any way, he or she forgets Hashem. As such the Gemara says in the Name of Hashem (Tractate Arachin 16b), "The person with the uplifted heart and I cannot dwell in the same universe." Wherever there's arrogance, Hashem is not there...

Is all pride arrogance? Of course, not. When the Tanach describes King Yehoshafat, who strengthened himself in emuna, scorned the ways of his errant father King Asa and returned to the ways of his fifth-generation great grandfather King David, it says, "And he uplifted his heart in the ways of Hashem" (Chronicles II, 17:6). In Judaism, "kosher pride" is the pride we have in observing Hashem's commandments. All other pride, as the Gemara and Midrash say, is like stealing the King's robe, for all pride belongs to Hashem.

Now we can understand how without the values of Torah, the Government of Israel and its institutions have become a lost ship with lost pride. How so? Rather than taking pride in serving Hashem, the government is taking pride in going against Hashem. The IDF has lost its mind and lost its way, as subservient to the government. Why are religious combat soldiers, whose emuna is their strongest weapon, forced to listen to transgender lectures? Then, the IDF wonders why it's losing deterrence, and that incendiary balloons are now reaching Beer Sheva. They don't get it. IDF values have so eroded that service personnel have been freely uploading top secrets to social media. In my day, our post cards were censored. Where's internal security in the IDF? The same place that modesty is - out the window. In this day of warped values and mixed gender units that the Torah also warns against (see Deuteronomy 23:15), there's no discipline and no loyalty. The Divine Presence cannot be in such a place; I say this with extreme pain - it's my country and it's the army I gave almost three decades of service to...

Last week, we had a gala Sefer Torah inauguration parade through the streets of our neighborhood (See post below). No one would dream of flaunting our lifestyle by having the parade down at Ashdod's bikini beach. 

So a person chooses a gay or transgender lifestyle, that's his or her business, just like it is if he eats BLT sandwiches. Do what you want behind closed doors. Ultimately, whether people want to believe it or not, we are all totally accountable for everything we do. But why flaunt a lifestyle that the Torah calls an abomination through the streets of Jerusalem? Why must our children be exposed to this public debauchery debacle? No wonder it's called the Pride Parade, because it is only possible because the organizers and the government that allows it have forgotten Hashem.

Another sad indication of the government's spiritual amnesia is the needless Nationality Law. We don't don't need the Government's definition of the Land of Israel - the Torah does that already, and we don't need the Government's help. The silly law has angered and alienated minorities and gives the secular courts the power to define and overrule Torah. Once again, this is case of sorely misplaced pride that both threatens to further uproot Torah and destroy relations with our Druze and Arab citizens.

In case I haven't made myself crystal clear, I vehemently protest the Pride Parade planned for this coming Thursday in our holy city of Jerusalem. And, I vehemently protest any erosion of minority rights in Israel.

Without the Torah, which keeps our country anchored an on course, the government becomes shipwrecked, not washed up on an island, but in the middle of an arid wilderness. Please Hashem, we need Moshiach now! 


Unity and The Right Way to Give

No-strings Giving

The closer we get to Moshiach, the more we are behooved to give of ourselves, in every way possible. The Zohar teaches that giving is holiness, while taking is the dark side.

With what's going on in the world and the tension on our borders, not a single Jew in the world has the right to relax now. Learn, pray, spread emuna, do a mitzva or whatever you can in behalf of our people everywhere, in Israel and abroad.

We can't go back to the intramural hatred mode, where I'll only donate to my own cronies and I won't speak to anyone who is associated with a different group. That "golut" garbage has to go - now.

Being 'religious" also doesn't cut the mustard any more. We must be givers - with all our hearts and with all our souls - to anyone in need. Even to those who are on opposite sides of our ideological fence. The result is wonderful - a no hate, unified nation despite our disagreements.

What is real giving? When I donate blood, I don't ask who it's going to. I'm happy that anyone in Israel in need of B+ (my blood-type), will get it. I have no idea whether the person is religious or not, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Polish or Ethiopian, male or female. I don't know whether he observes Shabbat and Kashruth or not. I do know that whoever gets the blood is badly in need of it and it might even save his or her life. I use this as a model for how all my giving should be...

There are whole groups in Israel with all types of weird ideologies, some of which the Torah calls abominations. We can disagree with the ideology, but we must love the person, each of us respecting one another as well as each other's individual rights and free choice, and be willing to give them our blood. I would put people in jail for cursing and rock-throwing, no matter what the reason.

Rather than being angry at them, have pity on the spiritually poor people who haven't yet learned that there's Hashem in the world and don't feel Him in their lives.

Few people will listen to me. But the few who do will turn the scales in our favor, hopefully, G-d willing. Now that Tisha B'Av is over, let's hope that from now on, things take off toward the full redemption of our people and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days, amen! 

One of the guaranteed best ways of giving is to help people get closer to their Father in Heaven; we do that by spreading emuna. Donate to Emuna Outreach!


Sunday: The Three Weeks Begin Today

Holy Temple Jerusalem
Since the 17th of Tammuz was yesterday on Shabbat, and we don't fast on Shabbat, today - Sunday the 18th of Tammuz -marks the beginning of the “Three Weeks” (Bein HaMetzarim), a period of mourning marking the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem. During the “Three Weeks”, it is customary to spend extra time studying Torah and in personal prayer, to give extra charity and not to hold joyous celebrations, such as weddings, or wear new clothes. We also don't listen to or play musical instruments during this period.

The first Holy Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and the 70 shemitta (Sabbatical year) cycles that were not observed, both heinous transgressions in Judaism. The punishment - 70 years of exile.

The second Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless intramural hate, seemingly a much lesser transgression than idolatry and desecration of Sabbatical years. Yet, 2000 years have gone by and we're still in exile. When will we ever learn? Hashem despises arrogance because it leads to hate; when one person or group thinks that they're better than anyone else, that's sufficient arrogance to perpetuate the exile. The result? Another Three Weeks of lamentations.

Hashem doesn't need the lamentations of those who allow themselves the luxury of condemning, hating, snobbing and/or boycotting other Jews. Thank G-d my beloved rabbi and teacher Rav Shalom Arush is a beacon of unconditional love and demands the same of his students.

Loving another Jew doesn't mean that you necessarily agree with his practices or philosophy in life. Loving the other person is a simple commandment of Torah that Hashem unconditionally requires of all of us, to respect all others and to treat them in the same manner that we would like to be treated.

Just remember - our sages in Tikkun Chatzot (Midnight Lamentations) say that every generation who fails to rebuild the Holy Temple is as if it were the generation that destroyed it. Categorically, intramural hatred is not only perpetuating the exile, but is causing Hashem to use drastic measures to wake us up and to prod us to act like brothers toward each other. Let's start being stringent about our unconditional love for each other, so that the notorious Three Weeks will turn into Three Weeks of joy and redemption, amen!


The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Abortion and Moshiach

RebbeThis post is in loving memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed and saintly memory, whose 24th yahrtzeit is tomorrow
on Shabbat, 3 Tammuz. The Rebbe was instrumental in bringing me close to observant Judaism way back in the beginning of my search, in the early 1980's. I even had the privilege of spending Shabbat with him, exactly 31 years ago, on Shabbat Korach, 5747 (1987). I owe him an eternal debt

The Rebbe loved life, loved everyone, and loved every mitzva of the Torah. With this in mind, he was vehemently against abortion.

There's a well-known story of a childless young couple who came to the Rebbe for a blessing. Several months later, the woman became pregnant. When she was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, a fire broke out in her home. The woman, who was alone at home, inhaled smoke and fainted from the lack of oxygen. The rescue squad and firefighters carried her out of the burning house in a state of clinical death. The doctors resuscitated her for hours before she was out of danger. Then the haed physician decided that the woman's unborn child had to be aborted, because it was certainly lifeless, and even if it does live, it won't be more than a vegetable after such prolonged deprivation of oxygen. The doctor asked the husband to sign a release form but the husband refused. He sent an urgent telegram to the Rebbe, saying what the doctors wanted to do.

The Rebbe replied as follows: "Do not agree to an abortion; get a second opin­ion." The couple followed his advice, but the second doctor was equally adamant and admonished the husband for not agreeing to the abortion. "Forget about the baby; do you want to lose your wife too? The abortion must be performed im­mediately."

The husband sent another urgent telegram; the Rebbe's answer remained the same: "No abortion under any circumstances. With Hashem's help, everything will be fine." Eventually, the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and later to another healthy child.

Wow, that's the Rebbe...

Why was the Rebbe so against abortion? The Gemara emphatically tells us that abortion delays the coming of Moshiach. Here's how:

The Talmud in tractate Yevamos (pg. 63b) says, "[Moshiach] Ben David won't arrive until all the souls are depleted from the body."

Rashi, our 11th Century sage from Ashkenaz (Germany-France) and the most important Talmudic commentator of all times, explains this very cryptic passage. "Body," says Rashi, "is the name of a partition that separates the Shechina (Divine presence) from the angels, which serves as the warehouse for all the souls that were created during the six days of creation, and that are destined to be given to bodies that will subsequently be created."

The above Talmudic passage teaches us that all the souls must assume bodily forms on earth before Moshiach can come. Even though unborn babies all possess divine souls (neshoma, since the unborn learn the entire Torah - oral, written, and esoteric - from an angel while in the mother's womb), the entire spiritual/soul complex that includes nefesh, ruach, and neshoma [basic vitality, spirit, and divine soul] all come together in the body momentarily before the baby is born (for further reference see Talmud in tractate Nida, pg. 30b; Tanya, first chapter; Eleph Hamagen, commentary on Mateh Efraim, intro. to laws of Rosh Hashonna; Sha'ar Hagilgulim, Seder knisas haneshoma). So, when for some reason the baby is not born, then the soul cannot leave "Body" (or 'Guf' in the original Hebrew), the heavenly warehouse for unborn souls. Until Guf is empty, Moshiach is delayed in arriving.

In light of the above Talmudic teachings, any person who performs, supports, assists, or encourages abortions is delaying the arrival of Moshiach with his or her own two hands.

I often wondered why the Talmud is so severe in its condemnation of doctors, when it says (tractate Kiddushin 82a), "the best of doctors are destined to Gehennom (purgatory)." When considering that in Israel alone, doctors perform over 20,000 abortions a year, then it's easy to understand why Moshiach is not yet being allowed to reveal himself. No, one does not receive a prize for contributing to the delay of Moshiach. Our sages in their infinite wisdom could see far into the future; that's why they said what they did about doctors.

So, if you'd like to lend a helping hand in bringing Moshiach as fast as possible, do what you can to fight against abortion in every way possible. I pray for your health, but if you ever need a doctor, I strongly suggest that you choose a physician who's opposed to abortion. A good physician recognizes the sanctity of human life.


Like a Rock in Turbulent Waters: The Nahal Tzafit Tragedy

Wadi Flood 26.4.18
Israel this morning is in shock. In one fell swoop of raging flood waters, 10 young people lost their lives yesterday. They were 18 year-olds from the "Bnei Tzion" premilitary academy in Tel Aviv, killed after being swept away in torrential floods (above image) yesterday afternoon during a hike in Nahal Tzafit, a river wadi in the Arava region east of the Dead Sea that's dry most of the year. 

To put things into proportion, and to understand the magnitude of this tragedy, ten fatalities is a number equivalent to the average fatalities of two whole years of rocket attacks from Gaza!

This is a message from Hashem that no one can ignore. What does it mean? 

You can walk in a wadi - a dry riverbed - on a clear day with a blue sky enjoying the desert's breathtaking beauty. Meanwhile, six miles away up in the mountains, strange unseasonal clouds gather and dump their furious downpour. In the space of ten minutes, an inch of rain falls (25mm), half the annual precipitation in the desert. All of a sudden, the waters - fast, mighty and overpowering, become a raging flood with the power to wash a semi-trailer away as if it were a Playmobile toy. The young people who lost their lives yesterday were hit with such a flash flood. They didn't have a chance of survival.

What's Hashem's message here? What does it mean when ten people get washed away like "A rock in turbulent waters" (Nehemia 9:11)? One Israeli meteorologist said that the flood waters in Nahal Tzafit were so powerful that they were washing 3-ton boulders away.

Thinking about this, I finally understood what King David prayed for all the time in a passage that is part of the Tikkun Klali:  "For this, let every devout person pray to You at a time when misfortune befalls, that the flooding, mighty waters not overtake him" (Psalm 32:6). Wow - today's news from the Heavenly newsroom, or not?

What does it mean? 

Nahal Tzafit - one of the meaning of tzafit in Hebrew is, "Did you observe?" Did you open your eyes? Did you search for the meaning?

Try this:

You're going along with your life, hunky dory. You're fine - you go to synagogue, you eat kosher and you give charity. But all of a sudden, a flood of social pressure overtakes you. People tell you that you have to be on a Whatsapp group or on Facebook. You gotta make the Instagram scene. Before you know it, you (and your children) are washed away by the anti-emuna flood of gossip and evil speech. The woman is no longer baking challas and the men is no longer opening a Gemara. Their noses are in their smartphones. Their kids, with their own smartphones, lock themselves in the bathroom or bedroom and are texting on Shabbat.

Yes, this flood of epikorsis - social media heresy - is  washing away the unsuspecting Jewish People. I know that many readers will have a fit about this, but sorry, but you know it's true.

For the last five days already, the Israel Meteorological Service has been warning on hourly radio broadcasts to stay away from Negev river wadis because of the chance of flooding. And the flooding came...

For the last five years, every one of our spiritual leaders - Sephardi, Lithuanian and Chassidic - have been warning of the dangers of the social media flood of heresy, telling people to stay away. And that flooding came raging too.

Is anyone listening?

If King David - King of Israel and Hashem's anointed - had the need to beg Hashem to protect him from "the flooding, mighty waters", which our sages interpret as the major sins of lashon hara, heresy, debauchery and bloodshed, what can we say? Can we nonchalantly stroll down the dry river beds of seemingly innocent social media, then get hit with a flood of lashon hara, heresy, debauchery and bloodshed, all of which washes everything away in its path?

The social media flood is a greater threat than Hamas and Hezbolla, but few people will take this to heart. For the one person who will, and decides to return to the spiritual high ground of prayer, Torah learning and challah baking, then this post was worth it. May are efforts in spiritual strengthening bring gratitude to the cherished souls who were washed away in yesterday's flood, amen! Shabbat Shalom, and may we hear good tidings,