By: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Over the past year, I have had the privilege of preparing a collection of lessons on matters of emunah (faith) and love and reverence of Hashem, which my father and mentor, Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed shlita, gave in Yeshivat Beit El. The work of collecting and editing them was done by Rabbi Moshe Meir Aviner and Rabbi Elyashiv Kafka, and my part was in their final editing and polishing. The ideas stem from the Beit Midrash of Maran Rabbi Kook, with foundations from the teachings of mussar and chassidut, filled with love and reverence of Hashem, and a unique faith-based outlook for our generation. The book was published about two weeks ago in Hebrew. Here are a few segments.
Ha-kol le-Tova (Everything is for the Good)
In the first chapter on emunah, the matter of Yosef the Tzaddik is explained, specifically, that in all difficulties and trials he went through, he always saw the good side of things. Even in prison, not knowing if he would be released, he was happy with his lot – the modicum of food he received, and the few clothes on his back. He stood the test.
“Then Pharaoh had a dream, Yosef solved it, and thus, arrived at his designated role. Sometimes people think: ‘Had I been in a certain place, I could have done wonderful and great things’; ‘if I had a certain job, I could put my powers into action – but what can I to do? I am not in that place, nor do I have that job, and therefore, there is no way to express myself’. However, each person, in his place and level, should fulfill his spiritual and practical role in the best way possible. Then, with God’s help, he will ascend to a higher level. Up above in heaven, his “resume” is inscribed, and from there, managed and determined who will ascend to the next level. Everything is inscribed”(p. 34).
Disagreements Reinforce the Belief in Tradition
Some people mistakenly think that disagreements are a sign of division and weakness of the Masoret (Jewish tradition); however, upon deeper inspection “all disagreements in the Torah are grounded on a broad base, agreed upon by all the Sages; all agree with the general principles; all agree with the Written Torah … everyone accepts the tradition of Oral Torah. All of the deliberations are in the details, about the boundaries of each halakha, not in the intrinsic nature of its obligation. The multiplicity of opinions and methods, and the stubborn adherence of each group to continue in their path, the loyalty of each ethnic group and each community to its heritage, does not weaken faith in the Masoret, rather, strengthens emunah in the collective, in the fundamentals, in the general rules upon which all methods and all ethnic groups agree upon. Since the foundations are common to all, it can be said of all the methods: ‘elu ve’elu devrai Elokim Chaim’ (‘both these and those are the words of the Living God’) (Eruvin 13b), and ‘minei u’minei yitkales ila’ah’ (‘through me and through him, the One above will be exalted’) (Sotah 40a) [p. 50].
A Model for an Ideal Life
“We are required to create the new spirit … until a living example is formed of a public that lives a supreme and good life, that all will say: ‘ka’zeh re’eh u’kadeish’ (i.e., they accept it without doubt)… we must create a society that is very devoted to the service of Hashem, which elevates them. They should be very happy in His Torah, and not see it as a yoke; rather, as a pleasure and joy, and in its study, labor with great diligence. A society whose prayers are devotional, and whose interpersonal relations are wonderful … similar to what our Sages said in Tractate Yoma (86a): “And you shall love the Lord your God,” make the name of Heaven beloved; read Torah, learn Mishna, and serve Torah scholars, and be pleasant with people in your business transactions. What do people say about such a person? Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah, woe to the people who have not studied Torah. Ploni (so-and-so), who taught him Torah, see how pleasant are his ways, how proper are his deeds. The verse states about him and others like him: “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified”. A person who sits and studies Torah, and behaves pleasantly with people, creates a good surrounding environment, and it is pleasant to be in his company – this is a Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of God). What we need now is to create that type of a society. There were always such individuals – now we need a society that lives a spiritual, ideal life” (pp. 117-119).
Aish Ha-Tamid (The Eternal Flame)
Regarding matters of loving Hashem in our generation: “The generation in which we live is in constant renewal, which is also reflected in technological and medical developments, and other areas… apart from the actual development leading to improvement of the world, we should learn from this that Ahavat Hashem (love of God) must constantly evolve. One must constantly advance in Ahavat Hashem, to increase love of Torah and mitzvoth. As we have learned from the verse: ‘There shall be a constant fire kept burning on the altar, without being extinguished’ (Leviticus 6: 6). This fire symbolizes the fire of devotion to the service of Hashem that should be an inner fire that burns constantly in the heart of man. There is a special prohibition not to extinguish the fire on the altar. Fire is something that is kindled and burns, and likewise, the soul of man should blaze in the service of Hashem, burning with desire to do the will of the Master of the Universe, and be firmly attached to Him”(p. 168).
The Characteristic Trait of Yitzchak and Our Wars
“The unique spiritual level that expresses his [Yitzchak’s] virtue is the Akedat Yitzchak (the Binding of Isaac) on the altar. Yitzchak was willing to sacrifice his life for Kiddush Hashem, for the will of Hashem. Ostensibly, such a form of service in which man is passive and does not initiate is secondary in importance, and unworthy of one of the forefathers. However, the question is: towards whom man humbles himself … someone who humbles himself towards the Master of the Universe becomes a conduit for receiving the light of Hashem, which indeed, infuses him.
“The same can be said of Am Yisrael. Sometimes the circumstances are of action, achievement, and progress of Am Yisrael. However, there are also situations of inactiveness, in which we are forced to do things we have not initiated. For example, the long war we are in against our enemies is not from our own initiative, but out of necessity. They compell war on us. We would prefer they don’t wage war on us, and consequently, we would not fight them. A state of inactiveness is a more divine state; when man is forced to do something, it means that the Master of the Universe is dictating a course, and this course is a Divine one (pg. 194).
The Influence of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook Due to His Reverence
“Moreinu ve’Rabbeinu (our teacher and rabbi), the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda ztz”l, raised many disciples, but not because he amassed several hours of appearances on television or radio. His articles in the press were few and not easy to read, and yet, he raised many disciples, from Kiryat Shmona and Ramat Ha-Golan in the north, to the Gaza Strip and Eilat in the south. Arutz Sheva’s broadcast ship was also named “Ha-Tzvi” after him. The secret of our Rabbi’s educational success was that he led his life not according to the rules accepted by people, but according to the rules of the Torah and the words of our Sages of blessed memory. Our Sages taught that “Any person who has the fear of Heaven, his words are heeded” (Berachot 6b), and this was the light that guided his path. Rabbeinu had a great deal of Yirat Shamayim (reverence for Hashem), and consequently, his words were heeded. Rabbeinu delved deeply into clarifying the words of our Sages, and taught that one who has Yirat Shamayim, is heeded – first and foremost, he “listens” to himself … self-discipline, which motivates one’s internal means of action, directs them to fulfill his inner-will, and his deep-rooted Yirat Shamayim is heeded. And in the same degree a person ‘heeds’ himself, his words and quality of discipline spreads to others, and causes them to listen to him (pg.201-202).
Dealing with the New Currents
“Out of an understanding of a faith-based perspective, which sees the hand of Hashem leading His world to complete goodness, I will explore a number of spiritual and physical struggles we are encountering, and learn how to deal and struggle with them – how to make them good. It is important to know that these new ‘winds’ contain future ideas, that upon their emergence in the world appear in an unripe form, with light and darkness combined… in its superficial appearance, it seems repulsive, marred, and lacking of content. However, this is how ideas are developed. When an uppermost idea descends into the real world, it begins to unfold in a complicated and complex way. This is also how the national awakening in Israel began…
In any encounter with differing opinions and aspirations, we must know that the essential goal of all these aspirations is to reveal the inner core of emunah and Torah … for this, we need to be virtuous … to see how the hand of Hashem leads everything, and to show the entire world that indeed, these aspirations are good. We need to ‘bypass the left, from the left‘ – from their idealistic sides. Our ambitions are greater. When we oppose them, they do not understand why we diminish and limit all their beautiful, new ideas. Indeed, we do not need to oppose their beautiful ideas, but illuminate them in the light of Torah and holiness.
We do not oppose the development of science, but sometimes religious people seem to oppose it because of the fear that science is liable to harm the path of Torah … The tikun (rectification) is to take the scientific development, and direct it to the kodesh (sacred) ”(p. 304).
“A contemporary strong current that has great influence is the ‘winds’ of feminism, which expresses a desire for equal rights for women, and their empowerment. Would Maran Rabbi Kook have gone to war against this entire movement? Definitely not! He would have said these ‘winds’ contain a lot of justice … many positive sides … every person must reveal his talents, every man and every woman, each person and his uniqueness – for men, their innate characteristic strengths, and for women, their innate characteristic strengths – and the more each sex perfects itself and reveals its talents, the entire world will be more complete. Rabbi Kook would have said this is a welcomed progression, but it must be cleansed of any deviation from damage caused to tzniyut (modesty) and tahara (purity). Rabbi Kook would have said that true feminism does not come to blur the differences between men and women … but rather, to deepen the uniqueness, to heighten the specialness and the differences, and thus, the world will be perfected and exalted (pg. 313).
The entire final section deals with the challenges of the generation, and ideological movements, such as the spirit of peace, democracy, allegations against the family and formerly religious. From a faith-based perspective, and in the spirit of Maran Rabbi Kook, one must look at their good side, to expand and grow, deepen and elevate our worldview, towards the Redemption.
(Israel National News)
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.