This week's Emuna News Roundup talks about the connection between Yom Kippur and the continuation of rapid-succession natural disasters around the world, the double threat of North Korea and Iran, terror in Israel and an ethics lesson from professional sports:
67 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"
Our sages tell us that the most difficult job that the Satan ever had to do was to bring all the calamities upon Job, yet keep him alive. The Midrash says that Hashem told the evil angel, "Break the barrel but don't spill the wine" (Yalkut Shimoni, Job, 2:893), a task that was even challenging for an archangel to do. Yet, despite setbacks here and there, Job weathered his excruciating tribulations with faith and was subsequently rewarded with even greater abundance than he enjoyed before he was tested.
Don't ever forget that the Satan, or any other entity in the spiritual or material realm, can do nothing without Divine sanction. Everything comes from Hashem, no matter who or what the messenger is.
So many people - the vast majority - and even the so-called "observant", have been beside themselves in attempting to separate between the recent one-after-the-other natural disasters and between Hashem, Heaven forbid. They don't want to face the fact that the disasters come directly from Hashem to stimulate us to do teshuva; what's more, they're angry at me for saying so. But even though they consider themselves "observant", the holy Rishon (13th CE sage) and prime student of the Ramban, Rabbenu Bachiya, said in his classic "Kad Hakemach" (see entry "Hashgacha") that anyone who denies Hashem's personal Divine Providence over everything is a heretic.
My mission, as is our goal here at Lazer Beams and with everything we do in Breslev Israel and Emuna Outreach, is to spread emuna. We don't debate with heretics, missionaries or any others with non-emuna goals. Nor are we democratic or politically correct. We are aligned with Torah alone, via the Shulchan Aruch Code of Jewish Law and our poskim of today, the great tzaddikim and particularly Rebbe Nachman of Breslev osb"m and our esteemed teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a, the tzaddik that Hashem has chosen to spread emuna to millions of people around the globe, both Jews and non-Jews. We don't force anyone to come here and to read our essays or listen to our shiurim. Nor do we try to force our opinions on anyone, as opposed to the massive pressure of the non-emuna media. Yet, we are the compassionate, for we're the ones who want to end the calamities, not perpetuate them as the "business-as-usual" folks do.
Don't take my word for it: see what the holy Rebbe Yonatan Eibshitz says in his classic book of his famous teachings, Yaarot Dvash (Forests of Honey) 1:10: "If one views misfortune as an accident rather than as a Divine warning to repent, they will continue to suffer." Consequently, the greatest cruelty on earth is denying that Hashem is using the natural disasters to wake us up, especially now, a mere week before Rosh Hashanah! Why? Such an attitude only brings on more tribulations and heartache.
When a powerful earthquake hit Japan in 1923 that destroyed Tokyo and Yokohama while killing over 100,000 people, news of the disaster reached The Chofetz Chaim. Despite the fact that he was in Radin, Russia, he himself fasted and urged all Jews to repent.
We pray that the 6.3 million Floridians who have long to return home, are able to soon. We pray that the homeless from the hurricanes of the Caribbean and the earthquakes of Mexico rebuild their homes and their lives. We pray that the folks of California, Oregon and Washington breathe clean air again with no smoke. We pray that no child on earth should ever hear the wail of missile-red-alert sirens. Yet, if we want those prayers to be answered, we have to do teshuva - each of us, whatever he or she can, to get closer to Hashem. Ignoring Hashem's wake-up calls will only trigger more fires, floods and war. Haven't we had enough?
Every human must feel responsible for the world, for he or she is literally capable to put an end to suffering. Let us all respond to Hashem in loving teshuva. Look at Hashem's love: who else could bring such record-breaking disasters yet with so few fatalities? This is Ezekiel's prophecy to the letter (Ezekiel 18:32), who says in the Name of Hashem, "I do not want the death of the dead, but that they shall return to Me and live." So once again, Hashem has ordered the Satans of disaster to to break the barrel (homes and infrastructure) but preserve the wine (human life). He loves us and He wants the best for us. Let's return to Him and call His Name. There's no time to waste.
With all the turmoil in the world, I sat down with my esteemed and beloved teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush (image above, when he was speaking in LA and I was translating for him), may Hashem bless him with good health and length of days, to hear the clear voice of Da'at Torah, the proper Torah outlook and perspective on current events. Here's what he says about the top-trending news:
US and North Korea: "As Moshiach gets closer, Hashem is beautifying the world more and more. We see this with our own eyes. Hashem is building the world and beautifying the world. As far as the leaders of both countries who threaten each other back and forth, Hashem is laughing at them. They can go ahead and push buttons, but the buttons won't work."
Iran and Hizbulla's threats against Israel: "If the USA's and North Korea's buttons won't work, then neither will Iran's or Hezbulla's."
Terror in Spain and in the rest of Europe: "We deeply mourn the victims of the terror attacks and send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. The terrorists come in the name of their evil, dark-side beliefs. The only way to fight them is with emuna, with true faith. This is the message for all of us, to strengthen our emuna to the extent that the light obliterates the darkness."
Charlottesville and racism: "Hashem loves all His children, irregardless of their color or race. To hate a person because of color is to hate the Creator Who created that person. Therefore, all the racists, no matter what religion they may profess, are far away from the Creator. To be a rascist, one must be a heretic, arrogant and totally devoid of emuna. The proof of equality among all men is that we are all obligated by the mitzva of emuna, to believe in Hashem. This is the same for non-Jew and Jew, for black, white or any other color."
Gog and Magog: "Both Rebbe Nachman and the Chafetz Chaim said that Gog and Magog would be a spiritual war, but a terrible one. The Evil Inclination has never been stronger in history, and by way of technology and the mass of online abomination, it is spiritually murdering people and tearing them from Hashem, Heaven forbid. Gog and Magog are the chatrooms, the texting, the screens and social media that render people zombies, unable to think, communicate or read. It's destroying families. People walk in the streets and dangerously drive their cars while their eyes are glued to their screens. They're addicted to texting and email, checking their smartphones every 30 seconds. This is Gog and Magog. The only way to fight this war is to get the screens out of our lives and to return to emuna, Torah and prayer. Few people will heed me, even in the religious world, because they're so badly addicted to the venom of their smartphones. I feel so sorry for them and the excuses they make to keep them. I pray that Hashem will have mercy on them."
Moshiach: "He'll conquer the world with his prayers, without firing a single shot."
EMP: "Don't worry about it. If Hashem wants someone to have lights in their home, they'll have lights."
Politicians and International Leaders: "Only Hashem decides, and the fate of the world is in His hands alone."
Surviving this Generation: "Strengthen yourself and your family in emuna. If you want the best protection of the best insurance policy in the universe, help spread emuna. That's what we're all here to do and that would really beautify the world."
- Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are under an assortment of investigations.
- Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu have changed their opinions radically, especially in the matter of Jerusalem and settlements in all areas of the Land of Israel. Despite earlier statements to the contrary, building is virtually frozen in those parts of the Land of Israel beyond the 1967 border, which Israel recaptured from Jordan in the Six-Day War. Not only that, but building in Jerusalem's post-1967 neighborhoods is frozen too, an unfortunate phenomenon that has caused the housing prices all over Israel - especially in the religious communities - to skyrocket.
- Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, who previously enjoyed good relations with Putin and Russia, have both had the red bear turn from friend to foe. With America, it's a dramatic worsening of relations and a new Cold War. With Israel, Russia has now placed combat forces on our Northern border.
- Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are suffering from aggravation from present and/or former close staffers.
There's more to say, but the above suffices.
What's behind all this?
The Torah tells us in this week's portion Ekev that the Land of Israel is under Hashem's personal supervision (see Deuteronomy 11:12), for she is the Land of Hashem's love (Malachi 3:12). What's more, Jerusalem is called "Hashem's city" and the Temple Mount "Hashem's sanctuary" (Tractate Berachot 44a). Hashem takes special care and interest for that which He loves so dearly.
Mr. Trump should ask himself two questions:
- Who put him in office despite the tremendous odds against him? and,
- Why, after his initial popularity, are the tables turning completely against him?
Mr. Netanyahu would be well-advised to ask himself the same questions. Elul is almost here and it's time for soul-searching.
Emuna answers to the above questions are simple. The entire world, like it or not, revolves around Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. The Almighty put both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu in office to be loyal trustees of His beloved Land of Israel and His holy city of Jerusalem. When they fail to be trustworthy trustees of this treasured trust and even hinder the ingathering of the exiles by obstructing construction and development in all areas of the Holy Land, then they pay a dear price. This explains what we're seeing in current events today.
As you always hear on Emuna News, there is no such thing as coincidence - world events are Divinely orchestrated. This week is exactly 12 years since the Israeli Government, then headed by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmart, destroyed Jewish settlement in Gush Katif (Jewish Gaza) and parts of Northern Samaria, unilaterally giving the land away in the fiasco known as the Disengagement. All the politicians who engineered this debacle were severely punished from Above. Sharon, after a terrible stroke, spent 8 years in a coma before he died. Olmart went to prison for a series of offenses. King Solomon says, "There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9); in other words, history is repeating itself. I feel sorry for people without emuna, including both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu; if they only knew what was happening to them, they could rectify their wrongdoing.
It's not too late for both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu to repent and to make good on their original promises to promote the building of Jerusalem and Greater Israel. Will they? I don't think so. Both are choosing paths of political acrobatics and expedience. They should be aware though that acrobats sometimes suffer dangerous falls. Between emuna and acrobatics, they'd be much better off by choosing emuna. So would we all. Blessings for a lovely new week!
The Three Weeks are over and Tisha B'Av is past, but my soul still cries and my eyes are far from dry. Last night at the Kotel, the Western Wall remnant of our Holy Temple, you could literally smell the fresh-burnt ashes of the fire that destroyed our Holy Temple 1,947 years ago to the day...
Writing about this subject - the public contamination of Jerusalem - is like cleaning a cowshed, not exactly the activity one would choose to do in August, especially in the heat of Israel. Yet, Halacha (Jewish Law) states that "he who has the power to object, yet fails to object, is caught up in the crime" (Shulchan Aruch, Yora Deah 147:1). Hashem sends surprising messengers. I hadn't planned on writing about today's Impurade in Jerusalem, but last night, an Israeli-Arab professor from Hebrew University asked me by way of a mutual friend, Dr. Nissan Yacubov, may Hashem bless him, why the rabbis of Jerusalem aren't coming out in full force against the abomination parade in Jerusalem, which is not only condoned by the Israeli Government but financed in a large measure by the Jerusalem Municipality.
"This is the reason that Allah has entrusted Al Quds ("the holy" in Arabic, the nickname for Jerusalem and the Temple Mount) in our hands. The Quran is very specific in its prohibition against homosexuality, as is the Torah. Such a repulsive display of abomination could never happen in East Jerusalem. Yet on the Jewish side of town, not a single voice of objection is heard. Why?"
I sent an answer to the esteemed professor, "I am in no way spokesman for any rabbinical group. But, my guess is that they don't want our children to know that such a thing exists, so they remain silent." I felt embarrassed by my explanation. Here, the Muslim professor, an intellect by every sense of the word and by no means a firebrand from the streets, had no problem in standing up for his religion's standard of ethics. So what in the world are we ashamed of?
The Torah forbids quite a few things, many of which defy human logic for the Torah is God-given. One may not murder or steal; he or she must also refrain from eating pork, shrimp, and milk mixed with meat. Homosexuality as well is not only forbidden, but condemned as an "abomination".
Every human has the right of free choice, as long as they don't impinge on the rights of others. Behind closed doors, let people do as they please, even if it includes eating ham-and-cheese sandwiches with one's same-sex partner. Yet, flaunting one's flagrant violation of Torah in public, on the streets of our Holy City, not only crosses every red line of ethics and morality but impinges on the rights of those who don't want to expose their children to such abomination. The parade participants have no right to flaunt their brazen trampling of Torah Law in public, especially in the Holy Land, and all the more so in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
It is definitely not politically correct to speak up against the Impurade, who wave their counterfeit flag of tolerance. But, Torah and the lie of political correctness, known as chanupa in Torah, don't go together. So davka, now in particular, we cry out in protest to today's planned public parade of debauchery and abomination. We vehemently protest the public display that honors the transgression of Torah and in the strongest possible terms denounce the Government's condoning and support of it. This is not democracy, but suicide.
The Land of Israel is not at all tolerant. The Torah warns in stiffest terms, "For the inhabitants of the Land who were before you committed all these abominations, and the Land became contaminated. Let not the Land disgorge you for having contaminated it, as it disgorged the nation that was before you" (Leviticus 18:27-28).
The Torah protests the contamination of Jerusalem's streets, the Land of Israel protests, Jerusalem itself protests, and we too join in the protest. If we want true sovereignty in our Holy Land and in our Holy City, we must do what we can to preserve their sanctity. Today, Jerusalem weeps, and so do we.
Years ago when I was a farmer, I had a Labrador Retriever, the best of the best. He was gentle with my children, who were small at the time, but fierce with intruders. He understood my body language and he'd react accurately on the cue of a mere gesture. In fact, whenever he ran in front of my tractor as was his habit, and we'd reach a crossroads, he'd look over his shoulder to see where I wanted him to go. This experience helped me understand the meaning of the Gemara in Tractate Sotah 49b where it describes the generation of Moshiach. Among other things, all which are materializing before our very eyes, the Gemara says, "The face of the generation is like the face of a dog." Don't be upset, dog lovers, this is not a disparagement of our canine companions. It simply means that before Moshiach comes, there won't be leaders who lead. Like my Labrador Retriever, they'll look over their shoulders and go where they think people want them to go. This is an amazingly accurate description of Israel's and most of the world's leaders today.
One cannot understand current events in Israel today without understanding the above-cited Gemara passage. It shows how the travesty of injustice in the Elor Azariya case and the capitulation of the Israeli Government in the Temple Mount security fiasco are similar symptoms of the same disease, what we can term"Dog-Faced Leadership". How?
Elor Azariya couldn't possibly have received a fair trial when tons of inadmissible and prejudicial material had been published all over the media before the trial began. The military judges all knew that if they ruled contrary to the way the wind blows in the offices of the Minister of Defense, the Commander in Chief and their own commanders, their futures would be doomed. Even in the appeal that was overturned yesterday, Defense Counsel Sheftel tore apart the prosecution showing dozens of inconsistencies in their case. He also showed a film of the terrorist on the Temple Mount who played dead and got up shooting, which the tribunal deemed "inadmissible." As such, Elor Azariya was tried in a populist, politically correct liberal-press-pleasing military court that looked over its shoulder rather than looking in the book of true justice. Like Jimmy the Greek says in Las Vegas, "the game was thrown." If Elijah the Prophet would have testified in Lior's behalf, it wouldn't have helped.
That's not all. At first, the Israeli Prime Minister was adamant that the metal detectors would remain on the Temple Mount after the murder of two Israeli policemen by Muslim terrorists there. But, as soon as he looked over his shoulder, he saw the frowns on Washington's face and capitulated. For a few words of praise from the White House, the Israeli Government compromised the security of Jerusalem and made Israel a laughing stock in the Arab World, destroying any remaining semblance of deterrence or credibility.
All the above makes me happy. Why?
The Gemara in Tractate Makkot 24b tells how after the destruction of our Holy Temple, which we commemorate tonight and tomorrow on Tisha B'Av, the great sages Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria and Rabbi Joshua saw a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies. They rent their garments and cried. Yet, Rebbe Akiva, who accompanied them, laughed. They asked him why he was laughing. He answered, "This is Uriah's prophecy, that Zion shall be plowed into a field - it has been fulfilled. Now I know that Zachariah's prophecy - that Zion will be rebuilt - will be fulfilled also."
By the same token, the Gemara says that in the generation that Moshiach comes, the face of the generation's leaders will be like the face of a dog. If this is happening, then Moshiach must be ever so close. Blessings for an easy fast.
Yesterday, Shmuel Salomon arose from his seven-day shiva mourning period to enter his 8-day old son, Ari Yosef, into the brit, the holy covenant of Abraham. This is the exact mainifestation of Ecclesiastes 3:4, "A time for eulogizing and a time for dancing." Often, especially in our lives here in the Land of Emuna, joy is juxtaposed with sorrow, both in the extreme.
Shmuel Salomon was sitting shiva for his martyred father, brother and sister who were brutally murdered last Shabbat evening at their Shabbat table. Not only were they murdered on Shabbat but murdered in the midst of performing several lofty mitzvoth - observing the Shabbat, celebrating the Shabbat, and celebrating the arrival of Shmuel's newborn son. I've had many people ask me probing questions this week, such as, "How could Hashem take away such righteous people?" Dozens of eulogies praised how each martyred member of the Salomon family was so special. Chaya, 46, was chosen as the most outstanding teacher in Lod. Elad, 36, was sweeter than honey, the type of person that seemed to lack any inclination for evil or cruelty. The father Yosef, 70, was a tzaddik who loved Hashem, His Torah, his fellow human and his holy homeland. And, as one email asked, "How could Hashem take these righteous souls in such a horrid manner?"
With emuna, we don't circumvent difficult questions. Here's my answer, and like everything else, it's the product of what I've learned from the "Minister of Emuna", my esteemed and holy teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a:
Each individual is here in the physical world on a mission. His life in this world is temporary; it begins and ends according to the task he must perform. When a person dies, even if the cause of death is seemingly apparent, it is the result of Divine decree – exacting to the tiniest detail. One person comes to earth for a seventy year tour of duty while another person is on a twenty year mission. A soul can sometimes fulfill its correction on earth in a mere five years within the body of a child. The considerations and Divine calculations are endless and mind-boggling, where everything is taken into consideration - past lives, credits, debts and many more.
Some souls come down to earth for a very specific soul correction; as soon as they complete it, there is no longer reason for them to remain here so they hurry back to their rightful place in Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden", the World to Come). Usually, after these souls die, those who knew them say how much those souls were so special and righteous who never did anything wrong. So, don't be surprised when you see martyrs who were the best imaginable people of the highest caliber. The reason they left this earth when they did was simply because they accomplished the mission that Hashem sent the here to perform.
The very fact that these righteous, often young people who didn't seem to have an evil inclination die before their time is apparently up is a giveaway that shows that they came here for a very special purpose. The holy Ariza"l (the father of Kabbala whose yahrtzeit is today, the 5th of Av) says that the evil inclination puts the most difficult obstacles in the way of the very mission that a person must perform on this earth. When a person has many different evil inclinations, it's an indication that he or she has much to correct in this world. But, those special people, especially the young ones who never did anything wrong, came here for a narrow specific purpose. They complete it and they depart.
What we do know is that Hashem does everything for the best. When logic kicks out, emuna - complete faith - kicks in. Have a lovely Shabbat and a wonderful weekend. May we all hear good tidings from each other, amen!
Don't forget to see our mini-lesson on this week's Torah portion in the post directly below.