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.

Chabad Principal Rabbi Smukler attends and dances at Yom Ha’aztmaut service

The yearly prayer event which coincides with Ma’ariv is something I have attended for more years than I care to share. I do not recall but I believe I was unable to attend last year. In some years I was lecturing at the time, but I have attended almost every year.

I learned in a Hesder Yeshivah of note; the first Hesder Yeshiva in Israel. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht had the written and personal approval of the Chazon Ish. We dressed in our better finery and had a special dinner celebration of thanks. I lost my two Israeli room mates to War. I think about them often: Chovav Landau and Ze’ev Roitman HY’D. Chovav Landau’s wife was pregnant with their only child at the time. They were both in their fourth year of the five year program when I met them. I was closer to Ze’ev than Chovav. Ze’ev had lost his father to Yellow Fever, because a Doctor in Rechovot, had not changed needles after injecting an Arab patient. I felt his tragedy acutely. They both had machine guns locked in our room, and both perished when their tank was hit during the first Lebanon war.

The text of Ma’ariv in our Yeshiva was not the one adopted by the Kibbutz HaDati Movement (there was one next door) nor was it the text of newly published Koren Yom Haatzmaut Machzor. It was standard  Ma’ariv.

The Yeshivah formally followed the ruling that full hallel be said in the morning but without a blessing. There was no Tachanun.  This was not a statement of ‘less’ religious zionism. Rather, it represented delicate rulings related to liturgy and halacha.

As I recall, Ma’ariv had no additions. There was no Shofar etc I’m happy to be corrected. I do not know what current practice is followed. The Yeshivah did not affiliate with Bnei Akiva formally because of a concern for mixed gender functions. In my day Bnei Akiva in Jerusalem was gender separated.

Halachically, what one says before Ma’ariv and after the concluding Aleinu prayer is of lesser importance. When said in a Shule proper, there is also halachic  import.

That being said, I was to learn, later in life that the famed Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, otherwise known warmly as ‘the Rav’ was implacably opposed to additions to liturgy. This extended to the Holocaust and Kinos. He famously stormed out of RIETS when some ignored his ruling on Yom Haatzmaut.

Chabad’s Yeshivah and Beth Rivka Schools follow their choice. Chabad make no liturgical change and do say Tachanun. Whilst certainly not religious Zionist, they are not noted for the extreme anti Zionist rulings of the Adass Israel Congregation where Tachanun is especially said on Yom Ha’atzmaut even in the presence of a Bris Milah lest someone conclude that Adass saw any religious importance  in the State of Israel’s Independence Day.

For decades, Chabad’s boys school principal would not attend the Chabad dominated Rabbinical Council of Victoria’s gazetted service at Mizrachi. Thee council is, I believe dominated by Chabad Rabbis. This is not surprising in Melbourne where the survival and resurgence of Judaism is due in major part to Chabad.

I have been opposed to the service only being held at Mizrachi as I do not consider Mizrachi to be the ‘owner’ of this style of service. I am certain, that, for example, Caulfield Shule would gladly offer their Synagogue.

Chabad now has only one Principal: the controversial Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler.

It was then interesting for me to note Rabbi Smukler’s  front row appearance at Mizrachi last night, including his dancing circomvolution around the Bima. I concede that this may not have constituted halachic dancing (during Sefiras Haomer). He didn’t clap like Rabbi Cowen of Mizrachi’s Elsternwick Shule (Rabbi Cowen is considered a Chabad Chassid) nor did he sit on the Mizrachi wall like Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, who spoke as President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (and who is also a Chabad Chasid) and R Leor Broh (also a Chabad Chasid) of Mizrachi’s Beit Haroeh Shule (populated by once young marrieds, now grandfathers :-).

To be complete, unlike a general Yom Tov or a Chabad Yom Tov such as Yud Tes Kislev, I didn’t notice any Chabad Rabbi in attendance wearing their longer black Kappote).

We live in very interesting times.

May the State of Israel metamorphose into the Eretz Yisrael of our redemption, speedily, in our days, with the continued grace of God.

Parshas Shelach

from Rav Motti Greenberg, Rosh Yeshivah, Kerem B’Yavneh

“We cannot rise up against the nation because it is stronger than us… And the whole nation that we saw there are very big.” [Bamidbar 13:32]. Rashi explains this to mean that the people were tall and large. However, the SHELAH brings a surprising interpretation: that the people had good traits. (This is also brought by the Kli Yakar.) However, why should the scouts want to praise the moral traits of the Canaanites, to tell us that they behave in a righteous and proper way? Evidently this is meant to imply that “the sin of the Emorites is not complete” [Bereishit 15:16], and it will be difficult for Bnei Yisrael to conquer them and take the land. And that is why the scouts added, “We were in our eyes like grasshoppers” [Bamidbar 13:33]. Not as Rashi explains, that the scouts felt as small as grasshoppers, rather that they felt the opposite of those “people with good traits,” for they were honest and good while we were like locusts and grasshoppers which come and steal away the produce of honest owners of the fields. As is written in the Talmud, “If one steals a field which is then ravaged by locusts” [Bava Kama 11 6b] he can give it back to the original owner (see the Talmud and Rashi’s commentary). Thus, the claim of the scouts was that the current residents were behaving in a proper way, and that Bnei Yisrael had come to steal their land (does this sound familiar to our ears?).

 

This claim can be countered by the words of Rabbi Yitzchak quoted by Rashi in the beginning of Bereishit. “Why did the Torah begin with Bereishit? The answer is because of the verse, ‘He told the nation about the power of His deeds, to give them the heritage of the other nations’ [Tehillim 111:6]. If the nations claim that you are robbers in that you conquered the lands of the Seven Nations, you can reply: The entire land belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He, He created it and gives it to whomever He sees fit. When He wanted to He gave it to them, and when He wants to He takes it from them and gives it to us.”

 

At first glance, this reply is hard to understand and even sounds unjust. Every robber can use this claim, to say that the Master of the World took possession of an object and gave it to him. If this is so, how can any sense of order be maintained?

 

The answer to the above question is that the claim of Divine intervention is only valid when it is absolutely clear that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is the one who took the land from them and gave it to us. When it can be seen that we who are small and weak, a nation which was just freed from slavery, who conquered “a great and mighty people, children of giants” [Devarim 9:2], it is clear that we are not robbers, and that the Master of the World took the land from them and gave it to us. As Rachav said to the scouts sent by Yehoshua, “We have heard that G-d dried out the waters of the Red Sea before you… And what you did to the two kings of the Emorites… And we heard this and our hearts melted… For your G-d is the G-d of heaven above and of the earth below.” [Yehoshua 1:10-12].

 

In our generation too, it is impossible to deny that the hand of G-d has wrought all that has taken place. On one hand Jews were led to slaughter, but a magnificent nation was established right after the tragic events. Rabbi Amital wrote that if the world would have been destroyed and later on studied by historians in the distant future they would certainly have come to the conclusion that many hundreds of years passed between the two events, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.

 

A hundred years ago, when Theodor Herzl asked for help from the Pope to return to Eretz Yisrael, he replied that he could not agree to our return to the land because this was against the Xristian religion. If only we could uncover the eyes of that Pope and show him that when his successor visited our land a few months ago he placed a bouquet of flowers on Herzl’s grave – almost as if to say: You were right and we were wrong.

The Cloud of Torah and Geulah (Redemption)

The following Dvar Torah is from the current Rosh Yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh, Rav Motti Greenberg. Back in the day’s when I was at KBY, Rav Motti was a Ram and senior member of the Kollel. I remember that he never sat up top near my Rosh Yeshivah Rav Goldvicht ז’ל because Rav Goldvicht insisted that those who sat on the מזרח wall near him, had to wear the clothing of a Talmid Chacham (which included a hat). Rav Motti felt that either a hat had passed its used-by-date as a Levush (piece of clothing) or that he wasn’t sufficiently a Talmid Chacham. The rumour was that the former was the main reason. I recall that in those days he wore a suit on Shabbos but always had an open neck (without a tie) and the collar was folded out over the outside of his suit lapel. When I met him a few years ago after many years, that’s exactly how he remained. Rav Motti was and remains infused with the Torah of Rav Kook ז’ל. Rav Goldvicht was a different type of man, having come through Etz Chaim, R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer ז’ל (who was his Mesader Kiddushin) R’ Aryeh Levin ז’ל and the Chazon Ish. Rav Goldvicht was rumoured to be a Boyaner Chassid, and whereas Rav Motti is always quoting Rav Kook, Rav Goldvicht was always quoting the Sfas Emes and Rav Tzadok HaCohen ז’ל. Anyway, enough of my reminiscing (great song by LRB, by the way, for those who know …)

Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ז’ל

One source used by Rav Motti is the Sefer מעיני הישועה by the famous, R’ Ya’akov Moshe Charlap ז’ל, who was a famous Talmid/Chasid of Rav Kook. Charlap is a actually an abbreviation in Hebrew of חייא ראש לגולי פולין in memory of Rav Chiya from Poland, who was the head of the Polish and Portugese Communities in exile. Rav Charlap’s grandson is Rav Zevulun Charlap, who is one of the current Roshei Yeshivah at YU, and who occasionally mentioned trips to Israel when he was a boy to visit his Zeyda.

Anyway, the Dvar Torah is beautiful and I hope you enjoy it.

לזכר נשמת אבי מורי הריני כפרת משכבו ר’ שאול זעליג בן ר’ יהודה הכהן בלבין

The title “the cloud of torah and redemption” was the name of an article that Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook published a year before he passed away. He based his essay on the verse (Shmos 19:9) in this week’s Torah portion of Yisro

And Hashem said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people hear when I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.” And Moses relayed the words of the people to Hashem. ט. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָּא אֵלֶיךָ בְּעַב הֶעָנָן בַּעֲבוּר יִשְׁמַע הָעָם בְּדַבְּרִי עִמָּךְ וְגַם בְּךָ יַאֲמִינוּ לְעוֹלָם וַיַּגֵּד משֶׁה אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָעָם אֶל יְהוָֹה

The Rambam feels that the momentous events at Sinai and not the grandiose miracles that took place are the foundation of our faith (Hilchot Yesodai HaTorah 8). One question that we can ask is why it was necessary for this glorious revelation to appear in a cloud, from within a fog, and not as a clear vision.

Rav Kook’s answer is that Divine light is different from the physical light with which we are familiar. When we want physical light to do something we increase its intensity. The brighter the light the less darkness remains. But this is not true for Divine light. It is so powerful that the only way it can be seen is for its intensity to be decreased. Only then can the human eye perceive it.

“The weak eye of a human being and his limited and shaky intellect is not capable of looking at the awesome shine of the Divine light. Therefore humanity in its confusion flees from G-d, as a bat flees from the sun… The only way for the Divine light to become visible is for it to be diminished in a known way. Covering the light, decreasing it, and hiding it – t hese are the ways to reveal it.”

And just as the Divine revelation at the time of the giving of the Torah was through a thick cloud, so is the revelation of Hashem through history.

One of the phenomena through which the Divine light appears is linked to the light of the Mashiach. This light will be revealed to the world through darkness and from hiding. The first spark of Mashiach appeared in Sedom.

“‘I found my servant David’ [Tehilim 89:21]. מָצָאתִי דָּוִד עַבְדִּי בְּשֶׁמֶן קָדְשִׁי 

Where did I find him? In Sedom.” [Bereishis Rabba Lech Lecha]. As is written [Bereishis 19:15],

“your two daughters who are here” . וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתֶיךָ הַנִּמְצָאֹת

Mashiach begins to take shape in the darkness of Sedom, through an act of illicit sex. David says [Tehilim 69:9],

“I was a stranger to my brothers”, מוּזָר הָיִיתִי לְאֶחָי 

created in an illegitimate act! This process continues with the events of Yehuda and Tamar, in the immodest meeting between Boaz and Ruth, and in the story of David and Batsheva.

This same effect was seen in the building of the Second Temple, which was founded with the help of Koresh, who also had a hidden spark of the Mashiach [Yeshayahu 45:1,4]

“This is what G-d says to his Mashiach Koresh… I will call out to you by name, I give you a nickname but you do not know Me.”


כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה לִמְשִׁיחוֹ לְכוֹרֶשׁ…  וָאֶקְרָא לְךָ בִּשְׁמֶךָ אֲכַנְּךָ וְלֹא יְדַעְתָּנִי

Rav Kook notes that the same principle applies in modern times, when the leaders of the movement include “some people who do not know their worth with respect to the role within the exalted guided process. They have been called out by name, but they do not know who is calling them.”

“Just as the light of Mashiach appears in ugly envelopes, now that the footsteps of Mashiach are beginning to appear it is necessary for the same thing to happen… People like this have been chosen for the process, and everything is part of the wonders of the One who is Perfectly Wise.” [Eim Habanim Semeicha, from Rav Teichtal]. As it says in Yeshayahu 51:16

And I placed My words into your mouth, and with the shadow of My hand I covered you, to plant the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion [that] you are My people.


טז. וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ וּבְצֵל יָדִי כִּסִּיתִיךָ לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי אָתָּה

Rav Charlap in Mayanei Hayeshua, page 103: “Because of the awesome power of its bright light, it states in Shir Hashirim 2:6

His left hand was under my head, and his right hand would embrace me. שְׂמֹאלוֹ תַּחַת לְרֹאשִׁי וִימִינוֹ תְּחַבְּקֵנִי

 and this is the shadow, as it states in Yeshayahu 51:16

And I placed My words into your mouth, and with the shadow of My hand I covered you, to plant the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion [that] you are My people.

טז. וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ וּבְצֵל יָדִי כִּסִּיתִיךָ לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי אָתָּה