Parshas Toldos-Rav Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshivah, Kerem B’Yavneh

In an essay in the book “Orot” about the disputes on opinions and faith, Rav Kook explains his approach to the issues of fanaticism and tolerance. On one hand there is fanaticism, which believes that its approach and its religion are absolute and immutable truth, and which denies that any other movement has any truth to it at all.

As opposed to this, there is a more tolerant viewpoint which believes that all of the movements have some basis of truth, and that by gathering together the items of truth in all the different movements we will be able to achieve absolute truth and there will be peace in the world.

Rav Kook claims that both of these approaches are erroneous. We, in Judaism, do not merely have part of the truth, which would mean that we are in need of additional information from an external source to complete our knowledge.

Moron Rosh Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Moron Rosh Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, HaRav Mordechai Greenberg

At the same time, we do not subscribe to the infectious fanaticism which claims that we exclusively possess absolute truth and there is nothing left to learn from others.

“It is a bad sign for a party if it thinks that it alone is in possession of a living source of all wisdom and honesty – and that everything else is empty and void of any meaning.” [Igrot Re’iyah volume 1, page 17].

Here is the correct way of looking at things: Judaism does indeed include everything, but it does not deny that others also have parts of this whole. Even more than this, the power of every movement and every ideology stems from its specific point of truth. If it did not have at least one absolute truth it would not exist at all.

The sages taught us that “falsehood cannot continue to exist.” [Shabbat 104a]. Falsehood has no way to stand up. All the letters of “sheker” stand on a single leg, as opposed to truth, “emet,” all of whose letters stand on a solid base of two legs.

The main Beis Medrash of Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh
The main Beis Medrash of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh

It is therefore important to reveal the elements of truth in every movement in order to know how to struggle against the movement. Only something that is totally false must be eradicated from the world. But if it has at least one element of truth there must not be any attempt to destroy it, because if you do so you are fighting against truth, and any such action is doomed to failure.

And for this reason Rav Kook felt that it was wrong to struggle against secular Zionism in a bitter fight to the end, as others did, since it is based on some true ideas.

Some people said: If they move to Eretz Yisrael we will not do so. If they speak Hebrew, we will speak Yiddish.

Rav Kook disagreed with these ideas. He insisted that the issues supported by Zionism are words of Torah which also obligate us. Therefore we must show our appreciation for the positive elements of truth in their approach and only afterwards argue against the falsehoods.

Rav Kook gave similar advice to parents in Russia whose children were caught up in the Communist movement. He said we should tell them that we appreciate their demands for social justice, because this is based on the Torah and on Judaism, and that there is no need to move away from Judaism in order to embrace the concept of socialism.

This can also help us understand Rav Kook’s analysis with respect to Eisav:

“Let me tell you my opinion regarding foreign beliefs. The light of Yisrael should not try to destroy them, just as we do not intend to cause general destruction of the world and of all its nations, but rather to mend their ways and raise them up

The words of the GRA are enlightening: ‘I had hatred for Eisav’ [Malachi 1:3]. The hatred was for the things that had been added on. But the main thing, his head, was buried together with the great people of the world.’”

Even Eisav had a point of truth which was put to rest near the Patriarchs.

Vaera, on the run from HK

[from Rav Greenberg, Rosh Yeshivah KBY]

The sages taught us at the end of the Tractate of Ketuvot that “anybody who lives outside of the land is like one who does not have a G-d.” The Baal Hahafla’ah writes that the use of the phrase “is like one” is problematic, because it seems to imply that one who lives abroad has a G-d and merely appears as if he does not have one, while one who lives in the land does not have a G-d but only appears to have one?!

The answer is that we are talking about two different people, a righteous one who lives abroad and an evil one who lives in the land. “The one who lives abroad, even though he studies Torah and performs mitzvot, is like one who does not have a G-d, since he is lacking the mitzva of living in the land, and outside of the land he is under the control of the government and the signs in the Zodiac. But the one who lives in Eretz Yisrael, even if the only mitzva that he has is that of living in the land, appears as if he does have a G-d, since his life is directly under the guidance of the Holy One, Blessed by He.”

Parshas Balak and Moshiach

The following is from Rav Motti Greenberg, one of the Roshei Yeshivah at Kerem B’Yavne.

The name of this week’s Torah portion, Balak, is remarkable. What merit did such a cruel man, who wanted to destroy Yisrael, have – such that an entire Torah portion was named for him?

In today’s article we will delve somewhat into mystic issues, namely, the light of the Mashiach. It is written in the Zohar that the soul of the Mashiach can be found in a palace called “Ken Tzipor” – the nest of a bird – and the mitzva of sending away a mother bird from a nest can be understood in terms of the Mashiach. And in his commentary on the portion of Metzora, the Or Hachaim Hakadosh writes that the two birds involved in the ceremony of purifying an impure person are related to the two instances of Mashiach, Ben Yosef and Ben David. He writes, “Thus, we see that Mashiach can be compared to a bird.”

This week’s Torah portion involves Balak, son of Tzipor – a bird. “Due to the merit of the forty-two sacrifices that Balak brought, he was privileged to have King Shlomo as his offspring … Rabbi Yossie Ben Choni said, Ruth was the daughter of Eglon, the son of Balak.” [Sota 47a]. Thus, the soul of the Mashiach, symbolized by a bird, exists in Balak, and he is the one who is attempting to block him being revealed. Bilam says to him, “Listen to me, son of Tzipor” [Bamidbar 23:18] – but this can also be read as, “one who has a son named Tzipor.” And this phrase, “beno tzipor,” has a numerical value of 434, which is also the value of “Mashiach Ben David.” Balak fears the nation “because it is many” [22:2]. The word “rav” is an acronym for the names, Ruth and Boaz. According to calculations by the Chatam Sofer, Boaz married Ruth on the eve of the seventeenth of Tammuz, and he died the next day. As a result of that night, Oved, father of Yishai the father of David, was born. It is written, “And Balak Ben Tzipor was the King of Moav at that time” [22:4]. The numerical value of “ba’eit” – at that time – is 472, which is the value of the phrase “the seventeenth of Tammuz.”

There are 85 verses in the Book of Ruth. Balak sent messengers to Bilam “at Petor” [22:5]. The word used, “petorah,” can be rearranged into “po tor,” where the first word (which means “here”) has the value 85, and the second word is a dove – that is, a bird. And the letters of tor can be rearranged into the name Ruth.

Why is it necessary for the Mashiach to appear through an evil person such as Balak? Knowledgeable people have discussed this question many times in the past. The soul of the Mashiach spends its time hiding in places where it would never be expected to be found, in order that the accusers will not be able to interfere with the process of his development. That is why the very spark of the Mashiach makes its first appearance in Sedom, in the incident of Lot and his daughters. As is written, “I found my servant David” [Tehillim 89:21]. The sages teach us, Where did He find David? It was in Sedom, as is written, “his two daughters who were there” [Bereishit 19:15] (Yevamot 77a). And then, in the affair of Yehuda and Tamar, on the main highway, which involved relations with a daughter-in-law, and in the way that Boaz and Ruth met in the harvest field. And then the story of David and Batsheva took place.

Rabbi Yosef Karo, in his book “Magid Meisharim,” where mystic secrets were revealed to him by heaven, writes that because of these events the Mashiach has the power to overcome the evil powers, which would never think that he will be revealed through bastards and ugly acts of evil.

The same is true of modern times. “The people who were chosen for this mission are of this type (not yet religious), and all of this is part of the wonders of the One who is Perfectly Wise” [“Eim Habanim Semaicha” page 125].

And that explains why the mentioning of the Mashiach takes place specifically in this Torah portion. The Rambam writes, “This also appears in the passage of Bilam, and there he prophesies about two appearances of the Mashiach. ‘I will see him but not now’ [Bamidbar 24:17] – this refers to David. ‘I will view him but not soon’ [ibid] – this is Mashiach, the King.” [Hilchot Melachim 11:1].