Friday, July 19, 2019

Vengeance 1980

 Kahane on the Parsha
The desecration of the name of the L-rd is the very cardinal of sins. It strikes at the very existence and reality of the G-d of Israel. It is intolerable that it be allowed, and impossible that it not be erased.
When Pinchas beheld the open Chillul Hashem that took place at Shittim, he burned with zealousness over the desecration of G-d's Name. And he looked about to see who, burning with similar indignation, would leap to put a stop to it. At that moment, Pinchas said: "Is there no man here who will kill Zimri?...When he saw that all were silent, he arose himself from the Sanhedrin and killed Zimri" (SifriBalak 131)
Note: Pinchas was in the midst of Moses and all the elders of Israel. He waited for them to act, and they did not. And so he, not one of the elders, leaped to end the desecration and put a stop to the plague that was raging in the camp through G-d's wrath. And so, "Pinchas the son of Elazar saw..." (Numbers 25:7). The Tanna Shmuel said, "He saw [and remembered] the verse in Proverbs (21:30): 'There is neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the L-rd.' Any time that there exists Chillul Hashem, we don't give respect to the scholar" (Sanhedrin 82a). And Rashi explains, "Therefore, Pinchas did not wait to receive permission from Moses [who hesitated and was subsequently punished as a result, as stated in the Tanchuma] but acted on his own lest the elders, out of fear, not act according to the Law." And he killed the head of a tribe.
And when the angels sought to punish him for acting as he did, and without permission, the Almighty said, "Leave him alone. He is a zealot, the son of zealots; he turned away My wrath and is the son of those who turned away My wrath" [i.e., he comes from the tribe of Levi who turned away G-d's wrath from Israel by killing those who had bowed down to the Golden Calf] (ibid. 82b).
This was the response that the Almighty demanded from the people of Israel, from the leaders of Israel, from someone in Israel. And because Pinchas acted, of him is it said, "Who caused the Holy One Blessed Be He to turn away His wrath and not destroy all Israel? Pinchas" (TanchumaBalak 21).
And thus speaks the Law: "Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the Priest, turned away My wrath from the Children of Israel when he was zealous for My zealousness in their midst, so I did not consume Israel in My zealousness" (Numbers 25:11)
And thus says the Ibn Ezra: "For he was zealous just as his Maker, of who it is said: 'A G-d of jealousy' (Exodus 20:5). And had he not acted with zealousness, I, G-d, would have destroyed all of Israel."
And the Sforno: "He took My revenge before the eyes of all Israel, so that they were forgiven for not acting to protest the sinners."
And the Ramban: "He was worthy of great honor, for he killed a chief of Israel and the daughter of a gentile king and feared not, because he was zealous for his G-d."
And Rashi: "'When he was zealous for My zealousness,' meaning: when he avenged My vengeance, when he was angry for the wrath that I would have shown. Every expression 'zealous' means one who is anxious to avenge something."
Vengeance is the inability to abide the act of abomination and injustice. It is the need to erase from the land the free perpetration of an act of evil, done without punishment. It is the need to show that in the world of the Almighty one who pollutes and defiles the world by an act contrary to its precepts will be punished.
The Jewish Press, 1980
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Barbara Sandra Ginsberg

Friday, July 12, 2019

Seek No Allies - 1989

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Kahane on the Parasha
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parashat Balak
To be alone is the destiny of the Jew ever since it was decreed "Hen, am l'vadad yishkon," "Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone" (Numbers 23:9). But the word "hen," which is generally translated as a poetical "lo," is much more than that, since the Torah isn't primarily a book of poetry. So the Rabbis, noting that the Hebrew word "hen" is composed of the letters hei and nun, state:
"Take all the letters and you will find [that if one wishes to add two of them together to get the sum of 10] each letter has a partner, but hei [the number 5] and nun [the number 50] have no partners. [For example, the letter aleph (one) and tet (nine) add up to 10; bet (two) and chet (eight) add up to 10; gimel (three) and zayin (seven) add up to 10; daled (four) and vav (six) add up to 10. Only hei (five) has no partner [except for a second hei. Similarly the letter nun (50) has no partner other than another nun to get the sum of 100]" (Yalkut, Balak 23).
This remarkable Midrash emphasizes more than anything the halachic injunction of isolation. Not only must the Jew not be afraid of being isolated, he is commanded to choose isolation. THAT IS WHY ALL JEWS MUST LIVE IN ERETZ YISRAEL- SO AS TO BE ISOLATED FROM THE NATIONS AND THEIR CULTURES!!! In the words of the Rabbis: "separated from the nations of the world and their abominations" (Mechilta, Yitro, Bachodesh Hashlishi 2:3).
But there is another lesson to be learned from the requirement of isolation, and that is that the Jew is NOT ALLOWED to seek allies- that the very act of seeking allies is one of faithlessness to G-d. Thus, we find the prophet Isaiah condemning the Jews of his time for turning to Egypt for aid against the Assyrians who were threatening them: "Woe to the rebellious children, says the L-rd, who take counsel, but not from Me; and who prepare a plan, but not of My spirit, in order to add sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt but did not inquire of My Mouth, to seek strength in Pharaoh's stronghold and to take shelter in the shade of Egypt!" (Isaiah 30: 1-2).
And again: "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses; they trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither do they seek the L-rd" (Ibid. 31:1).
Consider the words of the prophet, and the context in which they were said. Assyria, the mightiest empire of its time, the empire that had vanquished nation after nation, is descending on Israel. Is it not normal to seek allies? What would religious Jews and rabbis say today about seeking help from the United States? Surely they would all cry out the need for "practicality." But the prophet does not. He condemns it.
And the great Biblical commentator, the Radak, explains: "It is not enough that they have sinned and erred, but they add the sin of asking besides me help from someone else without My permission? And this is a great rebellion of the servant against his master, as he places his trust in someone else besides him" (commentary on Isaiah 30:1).
The fear of man, of human flesh and blood, rather than trust in the Almighty, has ever been the cause of tragedy for the Jewish people! Let's consider the national tragedy that befell the Jewish people when its kingdom was split into two after the death of Solomon. Why did this occur? Because Solomon sinned by marrying Pharaoh's daughter who turned his heart from G-d, as it says (1 Kings 11:11), "And the L-rd said to Solomon, ' have not kept My covenant and My statues which I commanded upon you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.'"
But why such a harsh punishment for marrying Pharaoh's daughter? It hardly, at first glance, seems to fit the crime.
The Seder Olam writes that the original decree was only to last 36 years "in line with the 36 years that Solomon was married to Pharaoh's daughter...The Kingdom was due to have been restored in the reign of King Asa...but Asa ruined it by sending a bribe to the king of Aram [when he was attacked by Basha, King of Israel], not relying on the Almighty but on the king of Aram." The Radak cites the Seder Olam and writes similarly, "The decree was that the kingdom should be split for 36 years corresponding to the 36 years that Solomon was the son-in-law of Pharaoh."
Consider the odd language of the Radak: "the son-in-law of Pharaoh." Why not say: "the husband of Pharaoh's daughter"? Because the real sin was that Solomon married the woman in order to be the son-in-law of Pharaoh! Egypt was the most powerful nation of its time and Solomon hoped to neutralize her and make her an ally by marrying the monarch's daughter, a common method of diplomatic alliance throughout history. Solomon feared man, not G-d, and sought through this marriage to guarantee his kingdom. Therefore, the Almighty punished him with the perfect and most fitting punishment: the splitting of his kingdom.
And that is the reason for the following remarkable statement in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 21b): "When Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter, Gabriel came down and struck a reed in the sea which gathered about it a sand-bank upon which was built the great city of Rome." The point made by the Rabbis is clear. On the day Solomon showed fear of man rather than faith in G-d and made an alliance with Pharaoh to save his kingdom, the ultimate destruction of the Kingdom- Rome- was born. What a remarkable underlining of the foolishness and sin of trusting in humans when all flesh is in the hands of G-d! What a remarkable example of how history is created and guided by G-d!
"Lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone." L'vadad! Alone! THAT IS THE JEWISH WAY!
The Jewish Press, 1989
Kahane on the Parsha can be purchased at
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Cuckoo's Nest -1984

The Magazine of the Authentic Jewish Idea
Spring 5744 – 1984

[Names change, situation is the same]bg      

“Though thou poundest a fool in a mortar with pestle…yet will his foolishness not depart from him.” Proverbs 27).
It has surely become a cuckoo’s nest, one huge madhouse.  There is certainly no other explanation for it.  Lebanon and all the insanity of the Begin-Sharon-Lukid policy collapses; the United States deserts Israel without a by-your- leave; Reagan entertains Mubarak and Hussein in the White House (and one can imagine what was privately plotted there); soldiers inside Lebanon are killed and wounded without a response from Moshe Arens while soldiers outside refuse to serve there; the economic index goes up by 14% in ONE MONTH (an annual rate of over 400%); Egypt laughs at Camp David and moves openly back into the Arab fold; three rockets fall on Metulla as “Peace in the Galilee” becomes more of a naked joke; leftists and liberals march in the streets demanding suicide and they gain more and more support in the wake of a paralyzed, tired, frightened government; Arabs grow bolder or simply GROW inside Israel and the territories; and a terrible drought grips the country; in the neighborhoods and moshavim and development towns social unrest grows as crime shoots upward.
And in response:
The city of Petach Tikvah votes to allow legal mass Sabbath desecration with places of entertainment opened wide; the Haifa Theater produces a play, The Messiah, in which words of desecration and abomination are directed against G-d; a group of parents organizes to fight the yeshivot because their children have become baalei tshuva; Yossi Sarid, the Labor M.K. writes an article in Shmuel Shnitzer’s major newspaper, Maariv, to declare his disgust for the Biblical story of Abraham and the sacrifice; the head of the League Against Religious Coercion declares, in Al Hamishmar, that there must be an uprising against the religious including “hangings from lampposts” since without this “things will not go”; Knesset members vow that the law that would make the definition of a Jew one based on halacha, will never pass; and in the Brenner school, a student, member of the Noar HaOved (working youth), burns a Bible in a regular test of “who believes in G-d?

One would imagine that seeing the country disintegrating before their eyes, the Jews of Israel would pause to consider the possibility of Divine anger and punishment.  One would fancy that – seeing shear tragedy and horror loom before them and the utter bankruptcy of both Left and Right, dove and hawk, the socialist and secular nationalist,  - Jews would ponder the reality of secular failure and at least the feasibility of the events that are unfolding being part of Divine retribution for our sins.  One would logically hope for at least contemplation of the need to examine our ways and premises of life, our overview and philosophy of existence.

But no, “though thou poundest a fool in a mortar with pestle…yet will his foolishness not depart from him.”  We remain the children of our fathers, the people, stiff-necked and with uncircumcised heart.  What a pity! What a tragedy! How we will – all of us – pay for the blindness of the fools in the mortar.

I listen to the speeches of the braying secular asses: Shamir, Arens, yes, Sharon and Rafael Eytan, of the dead Tehiya of Geula Cohen and Yuval Ne’eman – of all of the experts and ministers and politicians and, G-d help us.

LEADERS. I listen and wait for the one little word that will show that they understand something.  I hear nothing; they understand precisely that.  I wait for the one little world and so does the world.  It never comes.  And because of that, in its place, will come the awesome horrors upon a people who even the pounding of the pestle cannot help.  I wait for the one little word. G-d. And so does HE.  But the word never comes and no one calls Him. And so, He will not come and help until the awful time has passed.

And in the meantime, Peres and Shamir and Rabin and Arens and Tehiya and Mafdal and the intellectuals and experts and leaders will continue to run about madly in the cuckoo’s nest.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Gedolim Are Not Infallible

Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane- Parshat Shelach

GEDOLIM ARE NOT INFALLIBLEWe never cease to be amazed when Parshat Shelach is read, exposing as it does the true colors of the nation's leaders. The very same people who were to lead the Jewish people into the Promised Land suddenly scorn it. They brazenly turn their backs on the Holy Land promised to them by G-d and, to our amazement, are even prepared to find a substitute for it.
How could these Jewish leaders make such a total about-face? How could they ignore the destiny of the Jewish people? How could they reject the very land for which G-d redeemed them from Egypt?

We will address these questions momentarily but first, the fact that such great leaders (see Rashi on Numbers 13:1) spurned heaven's plans for the Jewish people teaches us that we must ALWAYS examine the positions of our leaders -- no matter how righteous they may be. We must NOT be robots, blindly trusting that our leaders or 'gedolim' will "take care of everything" while we rest easy. Even the most reliable leader can, at one point or another, betray himself and his ideology as a result of normal human weakness. The Talmud (Berachot 29a) relates that even though Yochanan served as Kohen Gadol for 80 years, he embraced heresy at the end of his life.

We must be especially wary of leaders who lead us around by the nose from one corner to the next. We must break off the shackles of such leadership and not hesitate to defy it. Particularly in this orphaned generation, in which a gadol isn't so 'gadol', and a leader isn't much of a leader, it is OBLIGATORY to go to all these heads of the people and ask them the difficult questions that need to be asked. And if they have no answers, let us recognize this fact and start searching for the honest truth the hard way.

Why did the spies betray their destiny? The Rabbis offer several reasons, but they all boil down to one factor: lack of faith. After all, how can grasshoppers stand up to giants? Yes, the G-d of history who created heaven and earth made them a promise, but they didn't believe He was capable of making good on it. Without question, the leaders of that generation piously read the 13 principles of faith and gave shiurim in yeshivot on trusting in G-d. But when it came down to "practicalities," when they had to practice what they had been preaching every day, when their faith was put to the test -- "Who is stronger: G-d or Sichon and Og?" -- they selected Sichon and Og.

As the Israeli government hands over the Land of Israel to the Arabs piece by piece, it is CRUCIAL that we study Parshat Shelach carefully. For the sin of the spies -- "and they despised the holy land" -- is repeating itself in grand fashion in our time. And once again, the basic problem is LACK OF FAITH!

But our sin is worse than that of the spies. After all, unlike the spies, we are already IN the Land of Israel. We have already conquered it through great wonders and miracles. We don't need to muster such tremendous faith when G-d has already made HIs providence over this land crystal clear in Israel's wars. Trusting Him should not be that difficult for us. And yet, we insist on groveling to the Assads and Arafats of this world, continuing to perceive ourselves as grasshoppers instead of giants.
May G-d give us the faith and mesirut nefesh to save ourselves from awesome punishment.
Darka Shel Torah, 1993

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