14 August 2022

Rabbi Weissman: Hashkafa is a Meshugas


This week's Torah class is available here. (last week)

Episode 50 of my Root and Branch Medical War Crimes series (which will now be called Amalek and Erev Rav to better reflect the bigger picture) is available here.  We were joined by James Richardson, a Chronic Illness Warrior and the Creator/Owner of @insight__fitness. He is the honoree for LA’s Finest for 2022 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  We discussed his inspirational battle with illness and suffering.  

After nearly a year of doing these programs weekly, they will now be scaled back to once a month, as it was originally. The Torah class will continue to be weekly.

Hashkafa is a Meshugas

The overwhelming majority of Jews who obsess about “hashkafa” have little more substance to it than the giddy prattling of seminary girls. Their hashkafa – if one can even call it that – is invariably rooted more in social considerations than careful study and deep personal reflection. They would be far better off obsessing over their middos and avodas Hashem, which should really be the baseline of any personal hashkafa.

It's notable that the very term hashkafa is a modern invention, particularly as it is applied today to reflect irreconcilable differences within Torah-observant Jewry. Who started it, anyway?

The actual Torah – both written and oral – emphasizes recognizing Hashem and keeping His laws, not subscribing to any particular hashkafa. Indeed, even before the Jewish nation really began with twelve distinct tribes, our patriarchs and matriarchs served Hashem in different ways, based on their unique personalities and circumstances.

What is the correct balance between learning Torah and working? How much education outside of strict Torah study is appropriate? How much involvement should a Jew have with the secular world? Nowadays Orthodox Jewry is divided into rival factions based primarily on their “answer” to these questions, then splintered into an endless array of rival factions based primarily on the style of head-covering and other minutiae. The hashkafa of most Jews consists of little more than their identification with a particular faction, which is based more on coincidence and convenience than scholarship and reflection.

Ah, but once Jews identify with a particular faction they will defend it to the death! Or, more accurately, they will rail against the other factions, shining a spotlight on their every wart and blemish with glee. They rarely look in the mirror, only out the window.

All of this is based not only on the lowest of character flaws, but on a fundamental fallacy. The proper answer to the “hashkafic” question above, and so many like them, is “it depends”, followed by a long discussion particular to the individual. There are general guidelines that are suitable for most people, but that's it.

The fact that we have so many different communities, shuls, and yeshivos all catering to a particular “hashkafa”, in which those who see things slightly differently would be rejected, is tragic on many levels. The yeshiva system is based not on raising healthy, fulfilled, G–D-fearing Jews – each in his own way – but on producing an archetype. This is also the standard on which children are accepted to educational institutions (unless the parents are wealthy, in which case different rules apply). Do they fit the mold? Are they moldable? Will they bring glory and funding to the school down the road?

Children learn very quickly that the most important thing is to conform and keep up a certain image. Their minds and souls might be destroyed in the process, but this is an acceptable growing pain so long as they are outwardly compliant with social, pseudo-religious, and quasi-religious norms.

The shidduch world operates on the same principles. Orthodox Jews who fit comfortably in a certain box can date and marry people in the same box. Orthodox Jews who don't fit comfortably in a box pretend that they do, “for shidduch purposes”. This is the basis on which most marriages are formed and families are created – keeping up appearances and following the script. (This surely has a lot to do with the burgeoning number of failed marriages, though the standard procedure is to blame external scapegoats, rather than take responsibility for our own communal failings.)

Orthodox Jews who don't fit into a box at all and don't want to are pretty much doomed, unless they marry a convert who hasn't yet learned to play the game. They would have a better chance of getting married if they stopped being observant (as many older singles do), and, perversely, they would be more likely to marry a Jew if they weren't Jewish.

Think about that and let it sink in.

I don't know when hashkafa first became “a thing”, but it's high time we started talking about whether this clannish, pseudo-religious identity system has brought us more harm than good. If you need to display your political and religious beliefs on the type of yarmulke or hat you wear, then perhaps there is something deeply wrong with you. If you even can display all that on a piece of fabric, how sophisticated can your beliefs really be?

If you need to take one look at a Jew and instantly know whether he is a friend or foe, one of yours or one of them, do you think Hashem is happy with you? Are you bringing Moshiach closer or keeping him away?

I'm not necessarily recommending that we go to the other extreme. It would be impractical to abandon all pretense of philosophical differences within the strict boundaries of the Torah and just lump everyone together.

But you know what? If we did that, even temporarily, we would be far better off.


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*   *   *

Israeli Immunologist Prof. Zvika Granot Destroys Pfizer "Study" on Children

Left unsaid is that all these children were experimented on like rats and now have to deal with the long term risks and unknowns of having been injected with this poison.

Nursing Home Abuse – Check on Your Family

This is happening in a Nursing Home for the Elderly and this woman is abusing this resident all the while someone is filming this on Twitter  

13 August 2022

Rabbi Weissman: More on Baltimore Bribe


Here is a report from America's Frontline Doctors on the Soros-backed injection campaign targeting Baltimore's Orthodox Jews:

Here is more leaked footage of Soros-backed operatives, who pose as trusted community leaders, conspiring to manipulate the Jews of Baltimore to take the accursed shots:

One of the operatives followed up on his earlier concern that bribing doctors and religious organizations to promote the shots, and reluctant individuals to take the shots, would cause a sense of distrust among the very people they were trying to manipulate.

In other words, the concern about bribing people to promote and to take injections of the accursed shots wasn't halachic/moral in nature, but that it might be an unwise strategy. This is how the"community leaders" who influence and manipulate the Jewish people talk about us among themselves.

The woman who was asked this question hemmed and hawed for a full 30 seconds. Finally she managed a fumbling, deer-in-headlights response : “there was no question that vaccines stalled, and when incentives started being offered, vaccination did pick i think just as a strategy I think it did in part what it was intended to do, you know, to improve vaccination. Now whether or not there's gonna be a cost for terms of the trust, I think that's an additional, I think that's an important issue.”

In plain English: It's more important to coerce more Jews to take the shots even if it means losing trust. Getting more needles in the arms of Orthodox Jews however possible is the most important thing. The only question is the best strategy to deploy in achieving this mission.

It should have been obvious all along that the Jewish organizations and community leaders pushing the shots are not people of integrity, but modern day mosrim and Judenrat. They have been collaborating with our greatest enemies in exchange for money and prestige, parlaying our natural trust in people “who look like us” to kosher up shots that no person in their right mind would ever take.

Their concern is not for your health and wellbeing – it never was – but whether or not they are getting enough value in return for the amount of trust their are forfeiting.

How much trust is worth sacrificing to get more Jews to take the accursed shots? Is the number of Jews we will get now worth the loss of trust, the increased risk of losing control over the trusting sheep?

That is the question that plagued the Soros-backed mosrim and Judenrat of Baltimore.

More is on the way.


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12 August 2022

“This is how we live! This is how we stay alive! . . . It is life, itself!


"But you who cleave to HaShem your G-d are alive, all of you, today!"

(Deuteronomy 4:4)

Av 15, 5782/August 12, 2022

In writing about Va'etchanan, a parasha that contains a recap of the Ten Commandments and the Sinai revelation, the Shema statement of G-d's oneness, Moshe's plea to HaShem to enter into the land of Canaan, any number of warnings against the dangers of idolatry, and no fewer soaring statements of faith in HaShem and His love for us, it is hard to decide upon what to focus. But the unambiguous statement, "But you who cleave to HaShem your G-d are alive, all of you, today" touches upon all of the above expressions of our unbreakable bond with HaShem our G-d, who is One.

Moshe tells the people "But you who cleave to HaShem your G-d are alive, all of you, today" in the context of his recounting of Israel's horrific lapse into the idolatrous worship of the Moabite god of Baal Peor, following the prophetic praises of Bilaam. The who bowed down before Peor were all killed. And those who kept faith with HaShem were are spared. But this simple statement of fact broadcasts an unmistakably universal message, especially when we hear the closing words, "all of you, today." Moshe is talking to us. We are all alive today by virtue of our attachment to HaShem, our faith in the One G-d, and our love for our Creator. HaShem is our breath and our heartbeat. People who have distanced themselves from HaShem, or have cut their ties to Him, are alive, but not fully so. We live and breathe but our lives are not lived to their fullest in the absence of a living relationship with G-d. We need to keep in touch! How we conduct our conversation with HaShem is our private business, and our relationship with G-d, if it is truly a living relationship, will change and grow each day, sometimes colder and sometimes warmer, depending on what is happening around us and how we see HaShem in our day to day lives. Sometimes we will feel like we are so close to HaShem we are practically touching His hand and sometimes we will feel that G-d is further away than ever. To "cleave to HaShem" is not static and we don't only cleave to Him in good times, but in bad times as well. We cleave to HaShem by asking Him questions whose answers we will never fully understand, and we cleave to HaShem by seeing the sublime beauty of a sunset and knowing that His hand crafted our world.

The danger of idolatry is not that we attach ourselves to meaningless things and misplace our faith in vanities. The danger of idolatry is that we disconnect ourselves from HaShem our source of life, and squander our faith in the work of our own hands and the misguided musings of our own imaginations.

"Beware, lest you forget the covenant of HaShem your G-d, which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image, the likeness of anything, which HaShem your G-d has forbidden you. For HaShem your G-d is a consuming fire, a zealous G-d." (ibid 4:23) When we drift so far from HaShem that we turn to idolatry, whether it be the gods of the market place, or the gods of social media, or whatever gods are in fashion, it does not go unnoticed. G-d has no tolerance for those who actively and wittingly choose to cut their ties. But G-d, being G-d, is always right here, ready to receive all who desire to rekindle their relationship.

When G-d first formed woman from man, He decreed that a man shall "cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh," (Genesis 2:24) employing the same word - to cleave - used by Moshe in his comfirmation that "you who cleave to HaShem your G-d are alive, all of you, today." We need one another no less than we need HaShem, and to truly love another is to love HaShem, for He is our common denominator. HaShem and the life He blessed us with is what we humans share. To cleave to one another is to cleave to HaShem - to be alive.

"It is not good that man is alone" (ibid 2:18) G-d determined and set out to fashion for man a helpmeet, a significant other, so that we can truly live. Cleaving to one another is a ‘gateway drug' toward cleaving to HaShem. The pursuit of idolatry, in all its forms, ancient, as well as contemporary, is the path to loneliness. We cut ourselves off, not just from G-d, but from our fellow man, and, ultimately, from ourselves. Pursuing G-d's wish that we not be alone brings Him into our lives. When we connect to one another G-d's Oneness becomes clear, His nearness becomes palpable.

"Hear, O Israel: HaShem is our G-d; HaShem is one. And you shall love HaShem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut. 6:4-5) This is how we live! This is how we stay alive! Cleaving to HaShem is not merely a way of life. It is life, itself!

Rabbi Miller on Gog U'Magog


For what reason do the Nevi’im tell us about the war of 

Gog U’Magog in the times before Moshiach comes?

What benefit do we have from this knowledge?

* * *

The Nevi’im want us to know that the forces of evil are very powerful

in this world and that they will never yield to us easily. And to let us know

that even when the time for the geulah comes, at that time these forces

are going to exert themselves to the utmost to prevent the geulah. 


Because the geulah is going to be the beginning of a period of great

happiness when everybody will recognize Hashem. And therefore, at that

time, our enemies will attempt their utmost to stop the geulah and this

true recognition of Hashem.

And the Nevi’im want us to know this, so that we should be aware,

that in this world – right now too – the yetzer hara is doing its best to stop

us. And we have to know that we have to fight back and that we are in this

world to resist.

Our success depends on our achievements in this area and we have

to make sure that we never desist, never weaken, in this area of avodas

Hashem, no matter how many foolish opponents we have and no matter

how strong they appear to be.

Rabbi Winston: VaEschanan – Shabbos Nachamu


THE REMARKABLE THING is how Parashas Massey and Sefer Bamidbar end reiterating the claim and the names of Bnos Tzelofchad. This is not in a local newspaper or even an international one we’re talking about. This is not in some bestselling novel. This is in the Torah, the eternal word of God, each and every one, including, apparently the individual names of each daughter of Tzelofchad. It was an incredible thing to be mentioned even once back in Parashas Pinchas, but it is mind boggling that it figured so prominently a second time at the end of an entire sefer

What makes it even more incredible is that Tzelofchad, their father, was killed by capital punishment in Parashas Shlach for breaking Shabbos. Someone who breaks Shabbos is considered to be like someone who rejects the entire Torah. That’s not exactly what we call great yichus—lineage. Yet through his daughters, he gained eternal prominence in the Torah, especially since the Torah does not mention his name back in Shlach. Had it not been for Rebi Akiva in the Gemora, we wouldn’t even know that Tzelofchad was the Shabbos wood gatherer.

We could just take it for granted, like many might do, treating the Torah as if it can print stories of interest. Or we can assume, as we should, that there is an important message in all of this that should not be taken for granted, but should be taken to heart.

Ever wonder why Tzelofchad broke Shabbos in the first place? Dasan and Aviram were one thing, but who was Tzelofchad that he broke Shabbos before two witnesses after being warned by the witnesses that he would be killed if he broke Shabbos? Was he out of his mind?

Fast forward to the time of the Gemora and read the following story: 

Our rabbis taught: It once happened that a breach occurred in the field of a pious man, and he decided to put a fence there when he recalled that it was Shabbos. He therefore  refrained and did not make the fence and a miracle occurred for him: a  tzelof tree  grew  there  from which he and his family were able to derive their entire livelihood. (Shabbos 150b)

Hmm. A tzelof tree? Why does that sound familiar? And why was that the chassid’s reward for not breaking Shabbos? And why is he called chassid in the first place? And finally, why mention that it fed his family too?


More About Me: The Ongoing Lifelong Search For Your Essential Self.

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IIT TURNS OUT that this particular chassid had a history, one that pre-dated his own life (Emek HaMelech, Sha’ar 13). In fact, it went all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu’s time, and Parashas Shlach. But in that life time he went by a different name: Tzelofchad, which means one tzelof. That was exactly what the chassid in the story received as his reward for thinking about breaking Shabbos, and refraining. 

But why? Tosfos adds missing information:

It seems that according to Rebi Shimon ben Elazar, who held of the opinion that Tzelofchad was the stick-gatherer, the incident of the stick-gathering was at the beginning of the 40 years right after the episode of the spies. The Midrash says that he acted for the sake of Heaven, because some had said that since they were decreed not to enter the land because of the spies, they were no longer obligated to keep the mitzvos. He therefore broke Shabbos to deliberately be guilty of the death penalty, so that others would be afraid to violate the Torah. (Tosfos, Bava Basra 119b, q.v. Afilu Ketanah Sh’b’hen)

In other words, Tzelofchad acted as if he wanted to break Shabbos just to break Shabbos, so he could be punished for doing so. He kept the truth to himself knowing that he did not have to be killed. He did what we call an aveirah lishmah, an altruistic sin, which God seemed willing to let him do. 

But clearly God did not forget Tzelofchad’s self-sacrifice for Torah. He sent him back into this world to reap the benefits of that self-sacrifice in a later lifetime as the chassid in the story. Then God created a similar predicament to allow Tzelofchad to keep Shabbos the right way as the chassid that he always was, and reward him for it. He was specifically given a tzelof tree so that he could finally be vindicated, and his act of self-sacrifice could finally be known. 

As every parent eventually finds out, children grow up either following in their parents’ ways, or rejecting them. The things they admire about us become the traits they want to adopt in their own lives. The things they do not like about what we do, they tend to run from as soon as possible. In some cases, they later learn to appreciate some things they didn’t like about us earlier in life, once they mature. 

If Tzelofchad was the kind of person the Midrash says he was, then he must have been one very special father as well. If he was the kind of self-sacrificing individual that we see he was, that quality must have gone over to his daughters too. What we see of them had to have been the direct result of who he was, because the “parnassah” of a parent feeds their family as well. In the Gemora’s story of the chassid that meant actual parnassah. In the story of Tzelofchad, that was their prominence in the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, which is publicized twice by the Torah. 

God even saw fit to end Sefer Bamidbar, THE journey book of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, from slavery to greatness, with these five women. It was an overt tribute to them, and a covert tribute to their father. And it was the perfect threshold to Sefer Devarim in which Moshe is going to instruct us about life in this world, then and throughout all of history.

CHILDREN OF PARENTS who go to jail usually keep a low profile, especially if the parent’s crime had been nationally publicized. Some might even change their last name to disassociate themselves from their parents. Though the Torah did not tell us who the stick-gatherer was, everyone at the time knew it was the girls’ father. 

And yet, not only did they not cower and hide because of it, they proudly kept their identity and connection to their father. They obviously knew what their father had done, and why he had done it. And it probably drove them to do what they did, something that tends to get overlooked, when listening to what the Torah has to say about Bnos Tzelofchad. 

Yes, the daughters of Tzelofchad had an intense love for Eretz Yisroel. But is that enough, just to love the land? Was it only their lack of love of the land that made God take the spies’ rejection so personally? Or, was it the love of what the land promises us, the ultimate relationship with God, that determined where the spies stood with respect to God, Torah, and Jewish history?

The same intense love for God that drove Tzelofchad to sacrifice his life for God and Torah was what drove his daughters to vie for a piece of the land that would make such an intense connection to God possible. There is some level of relationship with God you can’t have in the Diaspora, even if you belong there for the time being. Even the great Moshe Rabbeinu fought to enter the land and experience this, until his dying day. He pleaded with God, as the parsha begins, to experience that level of relationship.

Over the years I have had a few debates with people about whether making aliyah in our time is so important. They seem content with their relationship with God outside the land, and are unconcerned that God might feel otherwise. They might even quote this rabbi or that halachah to shore up their position. 

It’s strange, though. No one has ever had a relationship with God like Moshe Rabbeinu, at least since Moshe Rabbeinu. No one has ever been as close to God as Moshe himself, and yet, he felt lacking as long as he could not experience that level of relationship in Eretz Yisroel. And people on a far lesser level of relationship with God are content with their level of relationship in the Diaspora?

Actually, that is the reason why. The Leshem, when discussing the two yichudim of Shema Yisroel, etc. and Boruch Shem, etc. makes a comment in parenthesis that is far from being parenthetical. He says this: 

But if a person does not do these two yichudim, each one as is fitting for it, he causes from his side, that is, at the root of his soul and all that exists of the person in the world, a removal of His presence, may His Name be blessed, and the hiding of His face, God should save us. (Chelek HaBiurim, Sha’ar ACH”Ph, Ch. 5, Os 5)

In this statement is the reason why two people can look at the same world and see two very different versions of it. One person will see God everywhere in all that exists and all that occurs, and the other will see Him nowhere. To the first person, the second person will seem blind. To the second person, the first one will seem delusional. After all, how can you not see something that is there…unless it isn’t there?

The Leshem has answered that question, at least with respect to God. Now we’ll explain his explanation, b”H.

Ain Od Milvado, Part 13

THIS IS THE week of Ain Od Milvado, which is a yichud, a unification of God’s name. It’s in this week’s parsha. When you say that there is none other than God, you are saying the Shema and Boruch Shem in different words. 

If we only saw with our eyes, the question wouldn’t exist because the situation would never occur. Something would either be visible, or it wouldn’t be…for everyone. But we only look with our eyes. We see with our brains, and that is always a matter of intellectual interpretation which can be very subjective. 

I am often amazed at how I can look right at something and not see it. Sometimes it is because my mind is busy elsewhere at the moment and too busy to compute what I am looking at. Sometimes it is because I do not expect to find what I am looking for there, so my brain doesn’t expect to see it. I’ve walked away empty-handed only to later hear in my head, after my brain has delay-processed the information from my eyes, “Wait a second. Aren’t those the keys you are looking for?”

Let me give you another example. I have heard so many times over the years how ba’alei teshuvah, while secular, used to look at Jews who kept Shabbos as wasting their weekends, and really, their lives. They could not understand why anyone would want to spend Saturday in the dark when they could be having a blast like they were having…going to movies, or bars, or playing sports, or whatever non-Torah Jews do on their weekends. They couldn’t possibly imagine back then how they could ever enjoy Saturday as Shabbos, and never even considered finding out. 

But then for one reason or another, they found themselves on the other side. For some reason they would never have imagined years earlier, they ended up believing in Torah and following it. Part of their discovery was Shabbos, and after properly keeping it, they can’t imagine how they ever lived without it. The Saturdays of the past? A waste of good Shabbosos.

A lot has to do with a person’s assumptions. A person’s perception of reality is completely a function of their assumptions about it. If their assumptions are incorrect, then their perceptions will be as well. That’s why education is so important, especially from parent to child since that is the most influential relationship we’ll ever have. For Bar Kamtza, the Midrash says, that was  a bad thing, which is why his father Kamtza is also implicated in the Gemora for the destruction of the Temple (Gittin 55b). For the daughters of Tzelofchad, that was a good thing.

But the other component, the most important one, is our soul connection to God and objective truth. When we assume God is there, and that everything is a function of His will, then we perceive Him in reality. When we perceive God in reality, then He allows His presence to be felt by us by sending light through the root of our soul down to its counterpart in our bodies. Then we see and feel God in our life. Then we just don’t know there is none other than God, we feel that there is none other than God. 

If we accomplish nothing else other than this in life, dayainu. It’s what Tisha B’Av comes to teach us each year. Anyone can learn about God and know about Him. They may not, but they can. But only the fortunate few can actually feel the reality of Ain Od Milvado, and that is a whole different level of reality. It’s a whole different level of living. Nachamu.

Reb Neuberger: "There Is No FEAR of G-D In This Place"


Veschanan"There Is No Fear of G-d in This Place" 

Avraham Avinu says about the Philistines, “There is no fear of G-d in this place; they will kill me because of my wife.” (Beraishis 20:11) 

In 1936, Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l spoke in Berlin. He noted that the Philistines had an “advanced culture, technology art and high standard of living. Only one characteristic was lacking: fear of G-d.” 

That is why Avraham Avinu did not trust them. 

Listeners were offended. One rabbi later wrote that he had been “deeply hurt … [when the rabbi] from Eastern Europe [implied that] in [this] land of cultural enlightenment (modern Germany) people will kill indiscriminately…. But [the writer later admitted], the eye of the aged gaon and tzaddik saw further into the future than [our eyes.] 

“What he said came true!” (Biography of “Reb Elchonen,” Mesorah Publications)

We can see where the world is going only through the lens of Torah. 

Now that we are approaching Shabbos Nachamu, I believe it is time to speak in realistic terms about the possibility of Moshiach ben Dovid making his appearance soon. If we examine events at the end of Golus Mitzraim, we see that Moshe Rabbeinu appeared before the Geula in order to lead Am Yisroel out of the collapsing Egyptian culture and into the world of Torah. I would think that the same sequence would occur now. As the surrounding culture collapses and we approach the Geula, we need a trustworthy guide into the next phase of history, and Hashem has promised that He will not forsake “those who fear [Him] and give thought to His Name.” (Malachi 3:16)

We desire to believe that everything is normal. Certainly, there are problems – Corona has not gone away, war continues in Ukraine, inflation, crime, climate change, wildfires -- but we will somehow find a way to resolve everything, just as we always have. Life will go on. 

I’m not so sure. 

Recently, the heads of Russia, Iran and Turkey convened a summit. Can you imagine what they discussed? With terrible weapons in the hands of people who do not fear G-d -- not to mention China and North Korea -- how could anyone be safe in the world? 

And, this week, rockets flew from Gaza once again. 

But it’s not just war. When society has eroded to the point that immorality becomes legally embedded in the culture, then the entire structure begins to shake and tremble. What happens when the law itself becomes lawless? “G-d stands in the Divine Assembly; in the midst of judges He shall judge. For how long will you judge lawlessly and favor the presence of the wicked? …. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk in darkness; all foundations of the earth collapse….” (Tehillim 82)

“All foundations of the earth collapse.” Those are heavy words.

In the sixth year there will be “sounds,” and, in the seventh year “wars…. [and then] in the aftermath of the seventh [year] the son of David will come.” (Sanhedrin 97a) The Gemora seems to equate the seven years before Moshiach with the Shmittah cycle. 

We are now in the Seventh Year. 

What does it mean, in the sixth year there will be “sounds?” 

Listen …. 

“Like rivers they raised … their voices; like rivers they shall raise their destructiveness….” (Tehillim 93) Who is “they” who raise their voices? 

“They” refers to “powerful nations that swell with pride and work destruction…. Throughout history we have instances of powers bent upon world conquest, depriving … other peoples of their independence…. And the final phase of history … will end with the rise of one … world-conquering power which will swallow up all the other nations … But there is still One Who will be mightier than even this conqueror nation: Hashem Who alone is ‘mighty on high.’” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)

The voices of destructiveness are becoming louder each day, but their end is predicted: “when the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity….” (Tehillim 92)

When evil becomes prevalent, it is a sign of Redemption. 

“The son of Dovid will not come until the entire kingdom converts to heresy. Rava said (referring to tzara’as), “What is the verse? ‘All of it has turned white; it is pure.’” (Sanhedrin 97a) The Torah mandates that, when the entire body is infected with tzara’as, the Kohain declares him pure!

“Nachamu, nachamu … comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled … A voice calls in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way of Hashem; make a straight road in the plain, a highway for our G-d … the glory of Hashem shall be revealed and all flesh … shall see that the mouth of Hashem has spoken.’” (Haftaras Va’eschanan)

Why is “nachamu” repeated? It is possible to say that we have seen “nechama” before. We saw it, but our hopes were dashed. This time, Hashem will comfort us unto eternity with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh.

May we see it soon in our days. 

Roaring Rivers

Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman
(courtesy Mesorah Publications)

Mountain Path

Rockets over Israel

Ancient Egypt


Geula: Redemption

Golus Mitzraim: Exile in Egypt

Tehillim: Psalms

Tzara’as: A sickness mentioned in the Bible, manifested by skin eruptions

Rabbi Kahana: Parashat Va’et’chanan


Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Shabbat Nachamu, 15th of Menachem Av 5782


Moshe declared before the Jewish nation Devarim 4,5-8):

ה) ראה למדתי אתכם חקים ומשפטים כאשר צוני הא-להי לעשות כן בקרב הארץ אשר אתם באים שמה לרשתה:

ו) ושמרתם ועשיתם כי הוא חכמתכם ובינתכם לעיני העמים אשר ישמעון את כל החקים האלה ואמרו רק עם חכם ונבון הגוי הגדול הזה:

ז) כי מי גוי גדול אשר לו א-להים קרבים אליו כהא-להינו בכל קראנו אליו:

ח) ומי גוי גדול אשר לו חקים ומשפטים צדיקם ככל התורה הזאת אשר אנכי נתן לפניכם היום:


5 See! I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it.

6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding before the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

7 What other nation is so great as to have their God near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we call to Him?

8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this Torah I am setting before you today?

The goal was to create an unprecedented God-fearing society, so that even the idolatrous nations of the world would be influenced by the wisdom and intelligence of the Creator and the greatness of His chosen people, Am Yisrael. Today, however, the world is more impressed with the scientific findings of our Weizmann Institute and the discoveries of our Technion, than the way we uphold our Shabbat or the attention by which we choose our kosher food or the diligence we practice in the study of our Torah.

Many good Jews observe the Torah, yet we are not making any headway in breaking the klipa (shell) of anti-Semitism that girdles the majority of gentiles. Where did we go wrong? And obviously we did go wrong, because the verse states: “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”. Implying that if the nations are unimpressed with the Jewish people’s spiritual “wisdom and understanding,” there is clearly a fundamental failure in our Torah observance.

I suggest:

The incidents leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple are recorded in Tractate Gitin beginning with page 55b.

A Jew by the name of Bar Kamtza, who was close to the Roman aristocracy, was highly insulted when he was publicly requested to leave a wedding party. He took revenge on the Jewish community by convincing Caesar (or another highly placed Roman official) to send an animal to the Temple in order to see if the Kohanim would accept the offering. The Roman sent an animal with Bar Kamtza, who intentionally made a cut in its lip (or ear) to render the animal invalid to be a sacrifice for a Jew, but still valid for a gentile. So far so good!

However, a prominent Kohen by the name of Zechariah ben Avkulas used his position to reject the sacrifice on the grounds that non-learned Jews could conclude that it is permissible to sacrifice animals with physical blemishes, without discerning between blemishes of this type which are permitted for the sacrifice of a gentile but not for a Jew.

At the alternate suggestion that Bar Kamtza be killed so that he would not reveal to the Romans that the Kohanim rejected the sacrifice, Zechariah ben Avkulas again objected on the grounds that people might mistakenly conclude that one who causes a blemish in an animal intended for a sacrifice is liable for the death penalty.

Under the circumstances, Bar Kamtza was set free. He then informed the Roman that his sacrifice was rejected, which eventually ended in the Temple’s destruction.

This historical incident is preceded in the Gemara (ibid) with the verse from Proverbs 28,14, as a means of summarizing the actions of the people who brought the nation to tragedy.

אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד ומקשה לבו יפול ברעה:

Praised is the one who calculates the results of his actions, but whoever hardens his heart (obsessively) falls into evil.

Bar Kamtza was obsessive in his desire for revenge, but so too was the host of the wedding feast who embarrassed Bar Kamtza without considering the possible implications of his act, as well as the rabbis who were witness to this embarrassing ejection but did nothing to placate Kamtza.

But the severest criticism was saved for Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas who was so stubbornly fearful of violating the halacha that he became impervious to the potential disaster he was creating. Had he allowed sacrificing the animal which was halachically permitted (being the animal of a gentile), the Temple might not have been destroyed. But his intransigent obsession – lest some ignoramus misinterpret what was done in the Temple (what we call today a “chumra”) without calculating the possible religious, social, and national repercussions of his severities – brought about the destruction of the Temple.

The issue can be illustrated as follows: Halachot are like building stones of different sizes and colors and the rabbinic decisions about how and when to implement a particular halacha is the mortar which binds halachot together. A rabbi may not overturn a halacha, just as a laborer cannot change the color or size of the bricks. However, just as a laborer must choose which stone to use at a particular stage, a rabbi must use his knowledge and experience when applying a particular halacha and its supplementary severities (chumrot).

The Gemara (Sota 21b) uses the term “chasid shoteh” – a righteous fool, to describe one whose irrational, rigid and scrupulous failed misunderstanding of the halacha causes tragedy. As in the case of a drowning woman, where instead of saving her the chasid shoteh looks the other way lest he see her in an immodest situation.

The application of Torah today by certain influential chareidi leaders is aimed at an hermetically-sealed group. This group has no desire to emphasize the beauty and wisdom of Yiddishkeit as a way of life for a nation in this modern era, and by so doing has shown the wrong face of what we really are. The most devastating mistake of the chareidi sector is its refusal to recognize the hand of God in the establishment, survival and thriving of our holy Medina.

The weak link in their chain of thought and the mother of all mistakes is their premise that our return to Eretz Yisrael must be headed by great Torah scholars and not by secular Jews, like those who spearheaded the Zionist movement at the beginning of the last century.

There are two fallacies in this thinking.

One: If the return to Zion was so dear to their hearts, why was the ideal of a Jewish State not initiated by the religious leaders of the time? And why were there so few rabbis who established the “Mizrachi” organization which became part of the World Zionist organization? And why, even now after seeing the great miracles of HaShem, do they still withdraw into the ideological isolation of “Mashiach Now,” instead of becoming partners in the major institutions of the Medina, like the military and the workforce?

Two: In chapter 9 (parashat Aikev) Moshe recalls the devastating sins of the Jews in the desert perpetrated by the people standing in front of him and by their fathers, including the sin of the Golden Calf and the refusal to enter the Promised Land.

ו) וידעת כי לא בצדקתך האלהיך נתן לך את הארץ הטובה הזאת לרשתה כי עם קשה ערף אתה:

ז) זכר אל תשכח את אשר הקצפת את האלהיך במדבר למן היום אשר יצאת מארץ מצרים עד באכם עד המקום הזה ממרים הייתם עם ה’:


6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

7 Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord.


יג) ויאמר האלי לאמר ראיתי את העם הזה והנה עם קשה ערף הוא:

יד) הרף ממני ואשמידם ואמחה את שמם מתחת השמים ואעשה אותך לגוי עצום ורב ממנו:


13 And the Lord said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!

14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.”


יט) כי יגרתי מפני האף והחמה אשר קצף העליכם להשמיד אתכם וישמע האלי גם בפעם ההוא:


19 I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me.


כב) ובתבערה ובמסה ובקברת התאוה מקצפים הייתם את ה’:

כג) ובשלח האתכם מקדש ברנע לאמר עלו ורשו את הארץ אשר נתתי לכם ותמרו את פי האלהיכם ולא האמנתם לו ולא שמעתם בקלו:

כד) ממרים הייתם עם המיום דעתי אתכם:


22 You also made the Lord angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah.

23 And when the Lord sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, “Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.” But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You did not trust him or obey him.

24 You have been rebellious against the Lord ever since I have known you.

But with all this very disturbing behavior, HaShem still said to Moshe (10,11):

יא) ויאמר האלי קום לך למסע לפני העם ויבאו ויירשו את הארץ אשר נשבעתי לאבתם לתת להם: פ

11 “Go,” the Lord said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”

In no way can one compare the conduct of the so-called secular Zionists to the huge transgressions of the Jews in the desert. And, nevertheless, HaShem brought the generation of the desert into Eretz Yisrael in fulfillment of His promise to our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov.

And today we are living the greatest of miracles surpassing all human rationality – we have survived 2000 years of exile and the unspeakable Shoah, and even the secular in Eretz Yisrael adamantly demand to remain sons and daughters of the Jewish nation.

Many chareidi leaders have much to contemplate and much to change, and this week’s parasha is a good place to begin.

Unfortunately, a bitter joke I heard has become the bitter reality in many chareidi circles. The season of the archeological dig in search of remnants of the Second Temple period ended, and the head of the dig turned in his report. The only thing we found remaining from the period is the sin’at chinam (unwarranted hatred).



The Mishna in Tractate Ta’anit states: “There were no happier days (yamim tovim) than Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av.” In Tractate Ta’anit of the Jerusalem Talmud our sages state that the reason Yom Kippur is a yom tov is obvious, for on this day our sins are eradicated. However, they ask, what transpired on the 15th of Av to elevate it to the level of happiness of Yom Kippur?

And the Gemara explains that on this day Hoshea ben Ela, King of the Northern tribes of Israel, rescinded the edict prohibiting the Jews of the northern tribes to go up to Yerushalayim.

In order to fully appreciate what this meant, let’s return to 300 years prior to the time of Hoshea ben Ela. The arch-evil Yeravam ben Nevat incited the people of the northern tribes to secede from the union that had begun with King Shaul, followed by King David, King Shlomo and the then King Rechav’am, son of Shlomo Ha’melech.

In order to complete the secession, Yeravam began expounding the Torah in his own way, thereby creating the first reform movement; but the formal act of secession was accomplished by closing the roads to Yerushalayim.

He created two substitute spiritual centers — Bet El, and Dan in the north — knowing that as long as the connection to Yerushalayim existed, his break away nation would not endure.

Yeravam imposed a harsh prohibition on going to Yerushalayim and placed police along the entire border. This situation continued for over three hundred years, during which time the Jews of the north were severed from Yerushalayim and the Holy Temple.

Upon ascending the throne, Hoshea ben Ela withdrew the border guards and opened the way to Yerushalayim — and this happened on the 15th of Av.

Indeed, this was a day to parallel Yom Kippur, for now the Jews would be able to offer korbanot in the Mikdash and achieve atonement for their sins.

After this explanation in the Jerusalem Talmud, Rav Kahana asks: If Hoshea was such a great man, why then did HaShem permit Shalmanetzer, King of Assyria, to invade the northern tribes and exile all the Jews in Hoshea’s time?

The Talmud answers that Hoshea ben Ela opened the way to Yerushalayim — BUT NO ONE CAME!

Hoshea ben Ela was punished because he did not use his authority to prod and encourage the people to renew their covenant with the holy city.

And the Gemara explains that in the 300 years when pilgrimage to the Holy City was prohibited by the evil kings of Yisrael, the heavenly court could not accuse the people of the north of neglecting their responsibilities to Yerushalayim. However, when the government of Hoshea permitted the movement of people to the Holy City, there was no longer an excuse for not going. It was as if HaShem were saying, “You did not come to My house, so I will eject you from your houses.”

Hence, this day is most appropriate for the rabbis in today’s lands of the galu’yot to declare Rabbis’ Day, because they are continuing in the tradition of Hoshea ben Ela by not utilizing their authority and influence to encourage their congregations to leave the exile to return home.

When was the last time your rabbi stood at the pulpit and banged his fist on the lectern demanding that the congregation “go up to the Land, as I am about to do?”

Remember the mantra “He who does not make kiddush, HaShem will make for him Havdalah”. If you don’t understand what this means, ask your local rabbi.

Shabbat Shalom and have a happy 15th of Menachem Av,

Nachman Kahana

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