10 January 2019

"No concessions!"

5 Shevat 5779
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Bo

Parashat Bo – No concessions! - Rabbi Meir Kahane

G-d's name cannot be sanctified through concession or compromise. The essence of Kiddush Hashem is complete trust in G-d, without the least fear of mortal man. The moment a person is ready to concede, when crowning G-d Supreme King would require total submission by the non-Jew [in this case, Pharaoh], his concession robs G-d of complete sovereignty. And if his concession stems from any kind of fear, his sin is sevenfold.

After nine Plagues which brought wicked Pharaoh and his land to the brink of collapse, that evildoer finally broke down: “Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, 'Go – serve the L-rd, only your flocks and herds stay behind. Let your little ones also go with you'”(Ex. 10:24)

Should this not have been a source of great joy? Could Moses not agree? Israel had been slaves and foreigners for 210 years. Now the violent despot had capitulated, opening the prison gates. With the light of freedom shining on them, could it be that due to this one minor condition, “only your flocks and herds stay behind”, Moses would remain stubborn? Must freedom and tranquility be postponed for the sake of flocks and cattle? If this small concession is the price for going out from servitude to redemption, why not pay it? Yet Moses responded: “You yourself must give us sacrifices and burnt-offerings that we may sacrifice unto the L-rd our G-d. Our cattle also shall go with us. There shall not be a hoof be left behind.” (Ex. 10:25-26). G-d's main purpose in redeeming Israel from Egypt was much more profound than just to redeem them from slavery. G-d wished to prove to Pharaoh, his kingdom and his world, all of whom arrogantly proclaim, “I do not know the L-rd” (Ex. 5:2), that there indeed exists a G-d in Israel, Whose kingdom rules over all, that indeed , all life is in His hands. The point of the Exodus was for G-d's name to be magnified and exalted. Kiddush Hashem! The Torah teaches us that when Kiddush Hashem is at stake, there are no concessions or compromises. In our own modest times, who is wise enough to grasp this?

Another halachic principle applying to Kiddush and Chilul Hashem is this: Kiddush Hashem must be performed triumphantly and shamelessly. Kiddush Hashem on a national level cannot possibly take place in secret. The very idea of sanctifying G-d's name is something that must be done before nations. When it is performed in secret out of fear, it turns into Chilul Hashem and is better off not being done at all. After Moses rejected Pharaoh's compromise, Egypt was struck by the terrible tenth Plague, the smiting of the firstborn. “There was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (Ex. 12:30). In panic, in the middle of the night, Pharaoh totally capitulated and called to Moses, “Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both you and the Children of Israel...Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said” (Ibid., 31-32). 

Pharaoh wished Moses to leave right then, in the middle of the night! It was now clear that the oppressive foe had totally capitulated. This was unconditional victory. The men, women, children, sheep and cattle – all would leave. Ostensibly, Moses should have agreed and right then and there marched the myriads of Israel to freedom. Yet G-d's thinking is different from our own: “G-d said to Moses, 'Shall you take My children out at night? You shall not! Take them out openly, at midday!” (Shemot Rabbah, 18:10). Moses said to Pharaoh, “Are we thieves that we should leave by night? We shall leave triumphantly, for all of Egypt to see!” (Tanchuma, Bo, 7). Similarly, we find in Mechilta (Bo, Mesechta DePischa, 13): Moses said to him,'We have been warned to leave only publicly:”None of you shall exit the door of his house until morning”'(Ex. 12:22).

This principle is so important that R. Akiva rules (Pesachim 120b) that the Korban Pesach, the offering brought the day before Pesach – symbol of the redemption – may be eaten until morning, when Israel “made haste” (Ex. 12:11), to recall that the true redemption was precisely then, out in the open. This goes without saying, because Kiddush Hashem demands “openness”, without slyness or stealth. Compromise, secrecy and stealth are the complete opposite of Kiddush Hashem, whose whole purpose is to demonstrate to the world that “There is no wisdom nor counsel nor understanding against the L-rd” (Prov. 21:30). Our sages said (Sifri, Ha'azinu, 337): Because the Egyptians were saying ...”If we see them, we will not let them go”, G-d said, “ I shall take them out at midday, and let whoever has the power to protest it do so!”It also says, “on the day after the Pesach sacrifice, the Israelites left triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3, Onkelos)

Should your evil impulse whisper that by virtue of Torah study and mitzvah performance we will be able to ignore the Chilul Hashem that daily visits the G-d of Israel and His land, be aware that it is not so.

Our times constitute the beginning of the redemption and the footsteps of the Messiah. G-d, in His kindness, in preparation for speedy redemption, presently demands of us Kiddush Hashem of the sort based in faith and trust in Him. Yet we, our children and our elders have sunk in the mire of exile, and have raised up on a miserable banner the fear and degradation of “It is forbidden to provoke the nations”. This theme, whose sorrowful conception and birth are in the exile, constitute a humiliating affront to our people, and worse, a profanation of the great name of the Supreme King.Israel's defeat is, so to speak, G-d's defeat as well. Israel's fear of the non-Jew proves G-d's “weakness” and inability to vanquish His people's enemies. Thus, lack of bitachon [trust in G-d] on the part of the nation [of Israel] is a sin that cannot be atoned for.

As Rashi wrote (Ezek. 39:7), “Israel's lowliness is a Chilul Hashem, for men say that Israel are the L-rd's people, yet He cannot save them” (see Ezek. 36:20) Whenever a Jew is harmed, let alone murdered, whenever the Jewish people and the Land of Israel are cursed and reviled [...] this constitutes a terrible, unatonable Chilul Hashem. Every attempt, and certainly every act of abandoning parts of the Land of Israel to the nations is likewise a shocking Chilul Hashem. Yet since the issue is open, caustic and deliberate Chilul Hashem [...] and there is no government and no army and no governmental body – these being obligated by the Torah to go out and protest the profanation- or that such bodies do exist but they are unwilling to fulfill their obligation, then it is certainly the individual's duty [...] to blot out, devotedly and with protest, the Chilul Hashem.

03 January 2019

"Does Redemption Have to be Violent?"

27 Tevet 5779
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Va'era

Parashat Va'eira – Does Redemption have to be violent? - Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

But I shall harden Pharaoh's heart and I shall multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh will not heed you and I shall put My hand upon Egypt; and I shall take out My legions - My people, the Children of Israel - from the land of Egypt with great judgments. And Egypt shall know that I am Hashem when I stretch out My hand over Egypt; (Ex. 7:3-5)

Throughout the episode of the Plagues and the Exodus, the concept of yad chazakah (“mighty hand”) recurs consistently. The explanation is that without proof of G-d's power, there is no way in which the Gentiles will understand the reality of His existence in the world. Nowhere in all the prophetic writings does G-d ever suggest that He will prove His existence to the nations in any way other than through His and His nation's strength. And since the purpose of the Exodus was that “Egypt shall know that I am Hashem”, He had to demonstrate His power.

[However], if the purpose of the plagues was to force Pharaoh, and Egypt, to know Hashem, then why did G-d “harden Pharaoh's heart”? Had He not done so, then perhaps Pharaoh would already have freed the Israelites after the Plague of blood. 

Certainly, after the Plague of hail when he already confessed, “Hashem is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones” (Exodus 9:27), Pharaoh would have released the Israelites, had G-d not hardened (i.e. strengthened) his heart – as the Torah testifies. The Sforno (on Exodus 7:3) provides a clear answer to this. He explains that Pharaoh probably would have released the Israelites far sooner – but this would have been done out of fear of the Plagues, rather than unconditional acceptance of G-d and His might. That is to say, he would have attributed the Plagues to Moses' unique witchcraft, or a thousand and one other factors – and would have released the Israelites purely in order to spare himself the terror of these dreaded Plagues. Had this happened, the entire purpose of the Plagues would have been lost. G-d therefore strengthened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not release the Israelites merely out of fear of the Plagues. The Plagues' progression forced Pharaoh into ever-deepening realization that there could be no cause for these Plagues other than Hashem, the G-d of Israel – as Moses had said right from the start.

Rav Binyamin Ze'ev's father, Rabbi Meir Kahane, writes similarly on this in “The Jewish Idea”: Likewise, regarding the hail, it says (Ex. 9:14) “This time I am prepared to send all My plagues against your very heart. They will strike your officials and your people, so that you will know that there is none like Me in all the world.” [...] That is, they were to bring their livestock inside because of the hail. Indeed, “those of Pharaoh's subjects who feared G-d's word made their slaves and livestock flee indoors”(Ex.9:20) This was the first time G-d gave the Egyptians the chance to save themselves from a Plague. Why did He do so? Were they to heed G-d, it would constitute acknowledgment that indeed the L-rd is G-d and that He, alone, controls the laws of nature. This, in turn, would be the beginning of the collapse of his nation's abominable idolatry. The purpose of the plagues in Egypt was to sanctify G-d's name and to prove to the world that indeed Hashem is G-d, Omnipotent Creator of all. Pharaoh had shown G-d contempt by saying (Ex. 5:12), “Who is Hashem that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go? I know not Hashem.” Through the degradation and punishment of the idolatry of Egypt, Pharaoh was humiliated. Therefore, G-d warned the Egyptians that He was bringing the hail and that the princes and deities of Egypt would be unable to prevent it. The Egyptians would be saved only if they abandoned their faith in their abominations and subjected themselves to G-d through belief in Him, expressed by making their servants and flocks flee into the houses. Through this, their faith in idolatry would be destroyed and G-d's name sanctified, the whole purpose of the Plagues.

“With a mighty hand”. G-d had to direct His strength against the Jews, too in order to bring them out, for they did not want to leave. As Chazal [our sages of blessed memory] say, four-fifths of the Israelites died in the Plague of darkness. But even those who did eventually leave, did so unwillingly: G-d said, “For with a mighty hand shall he [Pharaoh] send them away, and with a mighty hand shall he expel them from his land.” Chazal's commentary on the verse, “They did not listen to Moses, due to anguish of spirit and hard labor” (Ex. 6:9), is truly astounding: Is there any man who receives good tidings and does not rejoice?...But they found it hard to abandon idol worship. (Mechilta, Pis'cha 5, end of first paragraph) That is, they were willing to remain in the dungeon of slavery and oppression, in order not to accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven – that yoke which liberates man from the shackles of animalism, freeing him from bondage to those passions that dominate him. And when the children of Israel complained in the wilderness: ”We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free” (Num. 11:5), Rashi says there: “Free from the commandments”. The truth is that the Jews were never ready to leave exile of their own free will, and when they were able to assimilate, they did. But all these attempts were to no avail. On the contrary – precisely when the Jews tried to be accepted by Gentile society by blurring their unique, separate identity, the hatred towards them only increased. Such was the case in Egypt, as the Psalmist said: ”He turned their [the Egyptians'] hearts to hate His people, to conspire against His servants. (Psalms 105:25). So too has it been throughout the generations. And even those who do eventually leave, do so only out of necessity. Slavery, pogroms and holocausts force some of them to realize, albeit grudgingly, that there is nothing for them there – and then they ascend to the Land of Israel, as witnessed in our generation. Chazal identified this mind-set in the following words: “Among the nations you will not know peace and you will not find rest for your feet” (Deut. 28:65) – had Israel found peace, they would not have returned. (Genesis Rabbah 33:6) That is to say, if the Jews will not return to the Land of Israel willingly, then G-d will inflict such troubles on them, that they will be forced to return. And in our days, in spite of all that has happened, most Jews have not learned the lesson.

“And Hashem our G-d brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Deut 6:21). Since G-d secretly weeps over the lost pride of Israel, He therefore yearns to redeem them both from the actual place, as well as from the mentality of exile. Had Pharaoh given them better economic conditions, eased their enslavement slightly, flashed an occasional smile at them or the merest nod of encouragement – then they would have felt a debt of gratitude to him. Out of respect for him, they would willfully have submitted themselves to slavery, and all future generations would have effaced themselves at the mere mention of Pharaoh's name. The physical and spiritual enslavement would have been worse – our forefathers would never had left the exile of their own free will, and the exile mentality would never have left them.” (Mishna Yeshara of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane's grandfather, Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Kahane).

Israel's redemption is not merely the story of one more people's national liberation. Israel's Exodus from Egypt ushered in a new era – a divine nation was established, as well as a purpose for the world. The mission of this liberated nation is Kiddush Hashem, and the erasing of the heresy of chillul Hashem, of [Pharaoh's words] I do not know HashemTherefore, had Hashem Himself not brought our forefathers out of Egypt with this intention, then even had a good king freed them, it would have been meaningless, because it would not have led to the establishment of that divine nation, and the fulfillment of its glorious destiny.

The Exodus had to be implemented, directly and unequivocally, by G-d and not through any agent, because the battle here is a paradigm of all subsequent history, the basis for Israel's faith throughout their generations – the knowledge of Hashem, versus “I do not know Hashem”. It is concerning this struggle that G-d promises, “I will execute judgement against all the gods of Egypt.”

This is a religious war: the G-d of Israel versus the gods of the nations [and, one has to add, against Israel's trust in the nations!] Just as Israel was redeemed from Egypt without having to turn to any outside party or human ally (which was precisely what the Egyptians originally feared : “If war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country”[Ex. 1:10]), so must we understand that in our generation, too, G-d is Israel's sole Redeemer – not Lord Arthur Balfour, not the United Nations, not the U.S.A.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The Haggadah of the Jewish Idea" and "The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane; HY"D " and from "The Jewish Idea" of Rav Meir Kahane  (Source)


01 January 2019

Torah and Shabbat Belong Exclusively to the Jews

24 Tevet 5779

HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave His most precious gifts to the Jewish People...
...And the Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in six days Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

You did not give it, Hashem, our God, to the nations of the lands, nor did You make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshipers of graven idols. And in its contentment the uncircumcised shall not abide - for to Israel, Your people, have You given it in love, to the seed of Jacob, whom You have chosen.... 

(Excerpted from the Amidah of the Shabbat Service)

31 December 2018

The Prime Minister Who Cried "Wolf"

23 Tevet 5779

You could see it coming and the Times has called it well...
In an interview with the pro-settler NRG news site just a day before the 2015 parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to the Israeli right.

Asked whether he would renew Jewish construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank if reelected, the premier dodged. “The question is not about additional building. There is a real threat now that a leftist government will join the international community and do what they want,” he said, arguing that the last time a left-wing party led the coalition, roughly two decades earlier, former prime minister Ehud Barak was “willing to give up everything.”

Netanyahu waited until a day before the elections to release such flares directed at settler voters. They were said to have been part of a last-minute fear-mongering campaign that polls subsequently indicated helped pull as many as four seats from the national-religious Jewish Home party to the prime minister’s Likud, boosting his faction to a solid 30-24 seat victory over the center-left Zionist Union.

Last Wednesday, just two days after the 2019 elections were announced, Netanyahu showed that he was not planning to waste any time, and opened his meeting with settler leaders with a nearly identical warning to the one he gave four years before.

“In the upcoming election campaign, we will see an attempt by the left to oust us from power,” the prime minister told West Bank settlement council chairmen at his Jerusalem office.

“It’s a battle over our homes,” he continued. “The fate of the state and the settlement enterprise are not to be taken for granted… Because later on, under a leftist government, everything will be reversed immediately.”
I really can't imagine any knowledgeable person falling for this political trick, but then there are a lot of uninformed people out there. If you know any of them, please remind them of the following as presented in a 2009 BBC article...
Right-wing withdrawals

To begin with, there was Menachem Begin, the first right-wing Israeli prime minister.

Thirty years ago, he concluded a peace treaty with Egypt, which involved Israel withdrawing from the Sinai peninsula - a huge area Israel had conquered in the 1967 war.

In the nineties, in his first tenure as prime minister, Mr Netanyahu agreed to hand over parts of the West Bank, and much of Hebron, to Palestinian control.

...Four years ago, Ariel Sharon took Israeli settlers out of Gaza.

Neither of these withdrawals brought a peace deal closer.

Indeed, both men won power, in part, precisely because they positioned themselves as rejecting the Oslo accords of the early nineties.

And the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Labour prime minister who signed those accords, robbed history of discovering whether significant territorial concessions would have followed.

What we do know is that the withdrawals ordered by Mr Netanyahu and Mr Sharon were reviled by those on the hard right.

And, according to Silvan Shalom, deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the last Likud government, they exploded the myth of the left as the only partners of peace.

"History shows us that the leftists never withdrew from an inch of any territory," he says,....

..."Historically, only leaders from the so-called right have made territorial concessions. So paradoxically - although for me it's not a paradox, because no leader of the left will dare to do it - those who are pro-concessions to the Arabs should vote Netanyahu."
And why have elections been called just now? Of course, to prepare the way for the worst concessions ever agreed to in Israeli history - "The Deal of the Century." Having just come off of new elections, whoever leads the government will have carte blanche for agreeing to anything.
...And as Tom Segev, one of Israel's foremost historians, points out, should the Americans be keen to push a peace deal..., Mr Netanyahu might be receptive.

"Netanyahu is a man who thinks America, he grew up in America," says Mr Segev.
Some people are catching on to this trick. Some younger settlement leaders are not so easily manipulated, but their influence is being seen as limited, that they...
...represent a fringe group of settlers that will eventually return to [Netanyahu's] limited embrace when they realize that at the end of the day, he is the only thing preventing the rise of a left-wing, settlement-evacuating prime minister.
How many times can Netanyahu cry "wolf" and get away with it?

In truth, it is only HKB"H who is the only thing standing between us and disaster.  That's why, when it comes to elections, our only choice is to support the most righteous, God-fearing, Torah-observant person to lead us and leave all other calculations to HKB"H.

May He have mercy on us and bring us at long last to the rule of our righteous redeemer.