"Egypt" Loses Its Power Over Israel on the 15th of Nissan

"...and on the 15th of Nisan they will in the future be redeemed from subjugation to exile.” (Tanhuma, Bo 9)

31 January 2019

"Slave of God or Slave of Man?"

26 Shevat 5779
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Mishpatim

Parashat Mishpatim – Slave of G-d or slave of man? - Rabbi Meir Kahane

“But if the bondsman shall say, “I love my master, my wife and my children - I shall not go free;” then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.” (Ex. 21:5-6)

The Jew is commanded to ascend via humility and lowliness and to break down his own egotism. He is obligated to liberate himself from his enslavement to himself and to be a free man vis-a-vis everyone but G-d. To be a slave to mortal man or to oneself is a profound sin. If the slave of a Jew does not wish to go free [after six years], his ear is pierced with an awl, and our sages explain (Kiddushin 22b):

How is the ear different from all other parts of the body? G-d said, “If one's ear heard Me say on Mount Sinai (Lev. 25:55), 'The Children of Israel are slaves to Me', slaves to Me, not slaves to slaves, and he still went and acquired a master for himself, that ear must be pierced.” R. Shimon ben Rebbe's exposition on this verse was like a gem: How are the door and the doorpost different from all other parts of the house? G-d said, “They were witnesses in Egypt when I passed over the lintel and the two doorposts, saying, 'The children of Israel are my slaves', and not slaves to slaves, and I took them out of bondage. And this person went and acquired a master for himself? Let his ear be pierced in their presence.

A man of flesh and blood should not take another human being as his master, neither should he be a slave to himself. He is G-d's slave. The Torah commanded us to keep laws and statutes which conceptually serve as a constant reminder of how abominable is conceit and how essential humility. In actual fact, the first commandment given to Israel when they ceased their bondage to mortal man was one intended to imbue them with humility; namely, the commandment to burn one's chametz [bread and other forms of leaven] before Pesach (Ex. 12:19; 13:7). Chametz, with its yeast which causes dough to expand, is a symbol of conceit which inflates a person's ego, enslaving and destroying him. The person enslaved by his pride and lust, the arrogant man who rebels against his task here on earth, rebels against the purpose of his and the world's having been created. He rebels against his Creator. By contrast, someone who suppresses his evil impulse, overcoming his pride and lust, fulfills his task in the world.

This is man's whole purpose, the reason for his having been formed: to know G-d, cling to His attributes and fulfill His commandments. Within this very process, itself, comes self-effacement, subjugation of the evil impulse and a declaration: “The L-rd is G-d and there is no other – surely not myself – besides Him.” Therefore, precisely during our season of freedom and national pride, when we celebrate liberation from the arrogant Egyptians and when exaltation would have been befitting and proper, G-d commanded base humility so Israel would remember that vis-a-vis G-d, they would always remain slaves, serving Him forever. As our sages said (Sifri, Shelach 115):

When G-d redeemed the seed of His beloved Abraham, He redeemed them not as sons but as slaves. Whenever He made a decree and they rejected it, He would say, “You are My slaves”. When they went out to the desert, He began to decree a few severe commandments and a few lighter ones... and Israel began to rebel. He said to them, “You are My slaves. I redeemed you on condition that I be able to decree and have you obey.”

Now, instead of being slaves of G-d, a title which is no disgrace, but the greatest praise a person can receive, we have become slaves of slaves. Observe what our sages said (Sifri, Vezot HaBerachah, 357): “Slave of the L-rd” (Deut. 34:5): The Torah is not defaming Moses but praising him. We find that the first prophets were called slaves, as it says, “For the L-rd G-d does nothing without revealing His counsel unto His slaves the prophets (Amos 3:7)

[Similarly we find in Rabbi Kahane's “Peirush haMaccabee” on Shemot, Chapter 2, regarding the Kohen:] The Kohen is the one who serves and obeys, like a slave before his master. The Torah says: And Malchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; and he was a Kohen of G-d, the Most High [which the Targum Onkelos renders: “and he served before G-d Most High”]. And he [Malchizedek] blessed him [Abram] saying: Blessed be Abram to G-d, the Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Genesis 14:18-19). Here we see that a Kohen of G-d is the person who begins with the understanding that Hashem is indeed the Possessor of heaven and earth – space, time, everything. And what exactly does the word koneh (“possessor”) really mean? – He is the Owner and the Master, because He has acquired everything by having created everything (as Rashi puts it: By having made them, He acquired them as His own). And this Kohen is a slave of G-d, and he is called by His Master’s Name because what the slave acquires his master acquires, because the slave is no more than his master’s hand. The Kohen in Israel is the one who has been sanctified to serve G-d in His Holy Temple, and only someone like that is worthy of placing Hashem’s Name on the nation, as the Torah says: And they [the Kohanim] will place My Name on the Children of Israel, and I will bless them (Numbers 6:27). The Torah also says: And you [Moses], draw close to yourself Aaron your brother and his sons with him, from among the Children of Israel, to minister to Me (Exodus 28:1). ...Aaron and the Kohanim were chosen to minister to Me, to be the slaves who would serve and obey Hashem in ministering to Him. They have been acquired as slaves to G-d the Most High, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth, and every day they testify to His omnipotence, and that He is Hashem, L-rd of Legions.

A slave of G-d is obligated to accept the yoke of his Master in heaven. He is lowly and belittles himself out of fear and reverence for his Master, the L-rd, and he esteems and praises Him as much as he can, as great, mighty and awesome. Precisely of all these reasons, precisely due to his fear of G-d, his fear of flesh and blood falls away. Any slave of G-d will never be a slave to a slave, i.e., to flesh and blood. Whoever truly stands in fear and trembling before the exclusive power and might of G-d will never fear mortal man, who comes from dust and returns to dust. Such is the fear of G-d: Whoever stands in fear and trembling before G-d's majesty, astonished at His power and might, greatness and omnipotence, is at once seized with fear and reverence for his Maker and King; yet at the same time, all fear of flesh and blood leaves him, for of what importance is man?

Woe to us that, due to the curse of the exile, we have violated G-d's terrible prohibition which states, “The children of Israel are My slaves. They are My slaves because I brought them out of Egypt. I am the L-rd your G-d” (Lev. 25:55). Due to our fear of the nations, we have become slaves to them of our own doing. We, thus, deserve the punishment of the slave whose ear is pierced: “He shall then serve his master forever” (Ex. 21:6).

Whoever takes a flesh-and-blood master because he fears him and relies on him and leans on his strength and kindness, denies the existence of G-d, the Supreme Master. Not only does he do this, but he profanes G-d's name (Torat Kohanim, Behar, 9): “The children of Israel are My slaves... I am the L-rd your G-d” This teaches that whenever Israel go into slavery here on earth, Scripture treats it as if G-d is going into slavery as well.” The simple meaning of this is that G-d took Israel out of Egyptian bondage to sanctify His name by showing the nations His power and might. Hence, when Israel once more become enslaved, where is G-d's power and where is His might? There is no greater Chillul Hashem than this. It is as though G-d is being enslaved by the nations, so to speak. Now if it is so when a nation attacks Israel and enslaves them, what can we possibly say when a Jew fearfully enslaves himself to the non-Jew? Could any Chillul Hashem be greater? We must don sackcloth and ashes!

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 on 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, constitutes a humiliating affront to our people, and worse, a profanation of the great name of the Supreme King. If it suited the lowliness of the exile, when we were unwilling slaves to the nations, powerless to raise ourselves up to defend ourselves, how dare we bring that same disgraceful concept into the holy land, the land of G-d. While G-d has afforded us the greatest, most powerful miracles since the Hasmonean victories, we have remained that same exilic product, that same slave to the nations and slaves to slaves, with that same base spirit which led G-d to decree what He decreed against our ancestors in the desert.  (Source)


29 January 2019

When Mashiach Comes

23 Shevat 5779

The history of the last hundred years shows that when the situation for Jews in chutz la'aretz got bad, the situation for Jews in Eretz Yisrael got correspondingly worse, too. I used to think that was to preserve free will, and that does figure into it, I'm sure, but now, I think it's more complicated than that.

The secular Zionists always claimed that only in Eretz Yisrael could Jews find safety, but, as many Jews who live comfortably in chutz la'aretz like to remind us, that is, sadly, not the case. Not only are Jews in Eretz Yisrael not safer from bodily harm, they have also not escaped antisemitic acts of violence against their property.

Vandals throw Torah scrolls on floor in Jerusalem synagogue attack
Minister slams vandalism as an ‘outrageous anti-Semitic pogrom’

And there is the crux of the issue. Eretz Yisrael is not a place of safety to escape to. It is a place of kedushah that you embrace. It's a place where the soul can be elevated, regardless of what threatens the body. It's the sole place in the world where the Torah can properly be lived out in its fullness. And for these reasons, Jews should want to come here, even if it were the most dangerous place for Jews in the world. Because, after all, "safety" is just an illusion. When it's your time to leave this world, it doesn't matter where you are, the Malach HaMavet can find you anywhere.

By keeping the heat on here in Eretz Yisrael while the situation deteriorates in chutz La'aretz, Hashem is sending us a message. It's like He is saying, don't bother coming here if you are only seeking peace and safety for continuing your mundane existence. But, if you love Me enough to put everything on the line for a higher existence - one closer to My side - prove it by ignoring the threats. After all, I am the only protection you will ever need anywhere. My hand is not too weak and My arm is not too short - to save you.

When Mashiach comes, true peace and safety will be found all over the world.

28 January 2019

The West's War Against God

22 Shevat 5779

The Torah explains to us how the Creator made this world by making separations and distinctions and by setting boundaries. Eisav, particularly, has gone to war against the Creator by attempting to build bridges across those boundaries, by erasing all the lines of separation, and mixing everything into one indistinguishable mass.

For example, with electric wires encircling the globe, night has been turned into day so that commerce can proceed 24 hours without stop. (Bereishit 1:4,5) And anyone may choose "its" own gender. (Bereishit 1:27) Absolutely anything goes. Western mass media also operates 24 hours without stop, pushing their gospel of Oneness of Humanity: No borders, no differences. 

And who is their greatest enemy and their most despised stumbling block? The people who remain apart, who were "chosen" by the Creator to be a separate, holy people - Bnei Yisrael.

When we were redeemed from Egypt, we had to pass one simple, but terrifying test. We were required to take an action which set us completely apart from the rest of the world in a way that could potentially enrage them and put our very lives, and those of our loved ones as well, at risk. 

Our Sages have taught us that the final redemption will follow the pattern of the redemption from Egypt.

There can be no doubt that the final test of our loyalty to Hashem and our merit to be redeemed will involve some similar test which will set us firmly on the wrong side of the Eisavian West which so strongly influences and controls our present world.

Our constant refusal to integrate, to assimilate, and to unite with the enemies of Hashem is what will save us in the end and render us worthy of the ultimate redemption. May it be with mercy and soon!

25 January 2019

"Holiness and Mitzvot"

19 Shevat 5779
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Yitro

Parashat Yitro - Holiness and Mitzvot - Rabbi Meir Kahane

“You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
“Everything that Hashem has spoken, we shall do!” (Ex. 19:6, 19:8)

G-d is holy. He is the climax of kedusha, the well from which kedusha flows to the world. In the world He created, He fixed the extent of kedusha and separateness. He gave kedusha to Israel, as it says, “be holy people to Me “ (Ex. 22:30), “You must be holy” (Lev. 19:2), and, “Your camp must be holy” (Deut. 23:15). S'forno comments on this last verse, “From impurity and loathsomeness”. G-d decreed that Israel must sanctify themselves. He, therefore, further decreed separation from the nations and from the profane, because without it, kedusha is impossible, as it states explicitly, “You shall be holy to Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy, and I have separated you out from among the nations to be Mine” (Lev. 20:26). We also learn (Torat Kohanim, Shemini, 12), “Just as I am holy, so are you holy. Just as I am set apart, so must you be set apart.” Here we find kedusha defined: It means separating oneself from the abominations, impurity and bestiality of the world, and instead clinging to purity and spiritual loftiness, goodness and the yoke of Heaven, intent on ascending and becoming holier.

Kedusha is the foundation of the world, because kedusha is perfection and purity, without a trace of abomination, spiritual baseness, selfishness, or bestial lust. Kedusha involves preparation, readying oneself to become holy, to fill one's soul with kedusha, as was said, as was said at Sinai, “Go to the people and sanctify them” (Ex.19:10), and Rashi comments, “Ready them, so that they can prepare themselves”. Kedusha means being ready for holiness and purity to enter the heart and soul.

Our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim, 1): If you sanctify yourselves, I will credit you as having sanctified Me. If you do not sanctify yourselves, I will treat you as not having sanctified Me... Abba Shaul says, “Israel are the King's retinue, and they are required to emulate the King. In other words, Israel, as G-d's retinue, have the task of imitating Him, of being as similar to Him as it is possible for a man to be similar to G-d, and of coming close to Him. If they do so, then, so to speak, G-d as well, ascends spiritually and becomes holier. G-d decreed this upon Israel: "Remember and keep all My commandments and be holy to your G-d” (Num. 15:40). The Sifri comments (Shelach, 115), “This is the kedusha of all the mitzvot.” In other words, through all the mitzvot, Israel become holier; and this is their task, because it was for the sake of this that G-d took them out of Egypt.

Mitzvot open up for man the way to holiness. They refine his senses and his soul so that he differentiates between a sin and a mitzvah, between good and evil, between holiness and impurity. The more holy and pure he becomes, the more refined his senses become; and he begins to distinguish, naturally, between truth and falsehood. G-d imbued Israel with natural holiness that all other nations lack. Every mitzvah a Jew performs adds to his holiness, whereas every sin blunts and defiles the soul. Our sages said (Mechilta, Mishpatim, 20). “Every added mitzvah increases Israel's holiness.” Every mitzvah purifies and refines the soul, sanctifying and elevating man. The Torah's goal is to create a person who diminishes himself, who bridles his arrogance, breaking down and negating his ego, who suppresses his evil impulse and liberates himself from covetousness and haughtiness, which are the root of evil and impurity.

Breaking down one's passions is Israel's task. That is why kedusha was commanded so many times in the realms of life fraught with lust and desire; namely food and conjugal relations. G-d brought us out of Egypt only in order to be our G-d, so that we would accept His sovereignty, attributes and mitzvot, for these make us holy. Our sages further said (Torat Kohanim, Shemini, 12) “I am the L-rd, and I brought you out of Egypt”: I brought you out of Egypt on condition that you accept the yoke of mitzvot, for whoever acknowledges the yoke of mitzvot acknowledges the Exodus from Egypt, and whoever denies the former, denies the latter.

We learn a profound lesson here. There are two types of yoke. The first is the yoke of Heaven; the second is the yoke of mitzvot. Many claim that they accept the yoke of G-d's sovereignty, proclaiming faith in the existence of a Higher Power and in His greatness and kindness, but that they reject the yoke of mitzvot. They claim that the Torah of Moses is not the word of G-d, and they, thus, cast doubt on the mitzvot. Here, out sages teach that these are nothing but hypocrites, for whoever rejects the yoke of mitzvot, as recorded in the Torah of Moses, written and oral, shows that he does not really believe in the Exodus from Egypt, G-d's existence, or His ability to have saved Israel from there.

For a person fulfilling the mitzvot to achieve the goal of negating his ego, thereby achieving spiritual ascent and growth, he must be observing them because G-d commanded them. If he is fulfilling them only or chiefly because he “agrees” with them, then he is not at all fulfilling G-d's command, but only submitting to his own whims. Not only does he fail to negate his ego, but quite the contrary, he strengthens it. Suppose then, that someone who denies that the Torah's commandments originated with G-d performs a mitzvah, such as honoring one's parents or giving charity, doing so not because it is a decree of the King, a Divine edict from Sinai, but because he finds it morally agreeable. His blessings are not blessings and his mitzvot are not mitzvot – but blasphemy. Thus, before a person accepts upon himself the yoke of the mitzvot, he has to know that they are commandments. That is, he should perform them by dint of G-d's being Supreme King of kings, not because of his own intellect of feelings. Such was our sages' intent when they said (Kiddushin 31a), “One who is commanded to act and does so is greater than one who is exempt yet does so.” Seemingly the opposite is the case. Should not the highest praise go to the person who, although exempt from doing a mitzvah still does so voluntarily?

Once again, our sages are teaching us that one who volunteers to do a mitzvah is not doing so because it is a mitzvah, or because of any Heavenly yoke. After all, he is exempt! Rather, it is his own decision to perform it, freely arrived at, hence he fulfills no mitzvah (see Tosafot on Kiddushin 31a).

The rule is this: a mitzvah is conceived with a man's accepting the yoke of Heaven and born when he fulfills it because he was commanded to. Therefore, man's first undertaking must be, “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is one” (Deut. 6:4). This constitutes a declaration of unconditional submission to and acceptance of G-d's sovereignty. Then and only then can a Jew accept upon himself the yoke of mitzvot found in the second paragraph of the Shema, having the clear knowledge that the mitzvot he fulfills are based on an acceptance of the yoke of Heaven.

21 January 2019

Going Out of Business Due to Geulah

15 Shevat 5779

Israel is without a sitting government. The US government is closed. The UK government is in disarray. The French are rioting in the streets. And the instability exists all over the world. Leaders are no longer as secure in their positions. Populations are restive. Antisemitism has risen to heights unseen in 70 years. This is the cracking of the foundations of the Old World. This cracking is what has released earthquakes and volcanoes, too. The end is inevitable and irreversible. The shaking due to the instability of the cracking foundation will increase and speed up until complete collapse occurs. This is the shedding of the klipot and from out of its dead remains, like the seedling sending up its green shoot from the rotted seed, the light and life of the messianic kingdom will burst forth.

A very happy T"U BiShevat!! On this, my 65th birthday, I bless all of us that we will yet witness the complete redemption and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash in our lifetime. Amen!

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)