Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Shoftim: Tzedek, Chasidut and the Tzadik State of Israel

This week’s Torah reading, Parshat Shoftim, teaches “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof...Justice and Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land HaShem (the God of Israel) your God is giving you,” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

Whether as a judge, leader, or as an indiviual, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowicz of Peshischa (1766–1813), a Hasidic Rebbe, also known as the Yid Hakadosh (the Holy Jew), taught, you must pursue justice with justice. The means by which you seek to attain justice must be righteous also. Not like the godless principle of some, that the end justifies the means.

Let’s take a look at what one should do as an individual to live a righteous and saintly life, and then we’ll look at the structure of a saintly political state...

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal, 1707-1746), in his book Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just), chapter 19, describes what true Chasidut (Saintliness) is, “The true motivation which is found among the Pious, who have exerted themselves and strove to attain it, is for one to serve solely in order to magnify and increase the honor of the Master, blessed be He.”

How does one achieve this Kavanah – intention?

“This intent will come only after the love of HaShem has intensified within him, that he longs and lusts for the raising of His honor and is pained by any diminishing of it. For then he will perform the divine service for this purpose, so that at least, through himself, God’s honor will increase. He will lust that all others do the same. And he will be pained and grieve when they diminish His honor.”

The Ramchal continues, “This Saintly attitude was clarified by Elijah the Prophet, in Tanna Devei Eliyahu (Chapter 4): ‘Every wise person of Israel who has attained true Torah knowledge, and grieves over the honor of the Holy One, blessed be He, and over the honor of Israel all his days, who longs and feels pain for the honor of Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple), and for the swift sprouting of the Redemption, and the ingathering of the exiles, immediately merits Ruach Hakodesh (the Divine Spirit) within his words...’”

“Thus we learn that this is the ideal intent. For it is completely removed from all consideration of personal benefit, and is only for the honor of God and for the sanctification of His blessed Name, which is sanctified by His creations when they do His will.”

“A Chasid like this, besides the service which he does, in performing his Mitzvot (commandments) with the proper intent, will constantly feel real pain over the exile and the destruction [of Jerusalem and the Temple], because they cause a diminishing (so to speak), of the honor of the Blessed One. He will long for the Redemption, because then the honor of God will be exulted.”

“This is what the Tanna Devei Eliyahu we brought earlier meant: ‘And he longs and feels pain over the honor of Jerusalem. He prays always for the Redemption of Israel and the return of God’s honor.’”

“If one would say: ‘Who am I, and what importance am I, that I should pray on the exile and Jerusalem? Will the exiles be gathered in and the Salvation sprout because of my prayers?!’ “

“The answer to him, we learned in Sanhedrin 37a: Thus man was created alone, so that each person should say: ‘for my sake the world was created.’ Already it brings gratification to HaShem, that His children desire and pray for this. And even though their request may not be fulfilled, because the proper time has not yet come, or for some other reason, nevertheless, they have done their part and the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices in this.”

“Thus we learn from here, that we are obligated in this matter, and cannot exempt ourselves due to our lack of power. For on all such matters, we learned: ‘It is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but neither are you free to abstain from it,’” (Avot 2:16).

“It is impossible for the honor of HaShem to grow except through the Redemption of Israel and the growth of their honor, since in truth, one depends on the other, as the prophet said in Tanna Devei Eliyahu: ‘And he grieves over the honor of the Holy One, blessed be He, and over the honor of Israel.’”

“Thus we learn that there are two matters in this. One, that the intention behind every Mitzvah and act of divine service be to increase the honor of God, which comes from His creations’ giving pleasure to Him.”

“Two, that one feel pain for His honor, and longs that it grow through the magnification of Israel’s honor and their well being…To what is this analogous? To that of a father who loves no one more, than he, who sincerely loves his sons.”

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) said something similar in his book, Orot (Lights), “When Israel grows mighty, holiness grows stronger. Wherever the activity of Israel is alive, the light of the True God bursts into flames and shines bright,” (section, Orot Ha-Techiya, Lights of Renaissance, 69).

“This intention [for the honor of God and for the honor and Redemption of Israel] needs to be included in his divine service and also be an actual part of his prayers, namely, to pray on behalf of his generation, to atone for he who needs atonement, to bring to repentance he who needs to repent, and to plead in defense of his entire generation…”

It is proper for every Chasid to be motivated in his deeds, for the good of his entire generation, to bring merit to them...See then, that it is a duty incumbent on the Saintly to plead and exert themselves on behalf of their generation…These are the true shepherds of Israel, which the Holy One, blessed be He, greatly desired in, who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, seeking and striving for their peace and well-being in all matters,” (Mesillat Yesharim, chapter 19).

And what greater matter for self-sacrifice can there be, than to help bring about the full Redemption of all Israel?

In our generation, that HaShem is redeeming before our eyes, besides prayers and longings, it’s possible to do actual physical acts, for example make Aliyah (move to Israel), build up the Land, etc.

What can be done, like work to re-establish the Sanhedrin, and prepare everything, including all the materials, to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, should be done.

Parshat Shoftim provides the blueprint to build the Tzadik State of Israel at the time of Redemption.

What is a Tzadik State?

Just like the Torah sets out the structure, of how an individual Jew can best relate to his Creator (through the Mitzvot), and express his/or her personal example of Kedushah (holiness) in the world, it also does it for the Jewish People on the national level. This national structure sets up the framework for individual Jews and the nation as a whole, to reach their full potential.

“You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests [teachers] and a holy nation,” (Exodus 19:6).

The Torah shows the Jewish People the institutions needed, to build a holy society in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), that will then become a shining example for the nations, on how to express Tzidkut (righteousness) on the national level.

In the parsha, we encounter the Mitzvot to appoint a king, and the laws of war (Deut. 17:14-20, 20:1-20); to establish a Torah-based Legal System (Deut. 16:18) and recognize G-d’s prophets (Deut. 18:15); and issues dealing with the Priests and Levites (Deut. 18:1).

The Mitzvot, map out the ideal national structure for the Jewish people in their homeland. The parsha describes the central elements of full Jewish life in their own country. Jews today should be working towards bringing about: Malchut/Kingdom, Sanhedrin/Torah, Nevuah/Prophecy, and Kehunah/Temple.

When one is held back from actual deeds, the Ramchal teaches us, what our prayers and longings should be for. And, when the time of Redemption sprouts, as is the situation today, what Kavanah we should have, as we strive to build the Tzadik State of Israel.

As the prophet told Israel, “ a light unto the nations, that My salvation may come to the ends of the earth,” (Isaiah 49:6).

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.
(c) 2020/5780 Pasko

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Re’eh: God’s Chosen Place for the Temple in Jerusalem

Has anyone noticed the irony of what took place this past week. While on Thursday, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu both made televised announcements of a peace agreement, being called the Abraham Accord, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates; the Torah reading, Parshat Re’eh, on Shabbat, mentioned fifteen times about building the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, “...the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to establish His Name...”

Where’s the irony you ask, let’s take a closer look at what they actually said: “As set forth in the Vision for Peace, all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths,” (from the Joint Statement of the United States, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, posted on the website of the US Embassy in Israel and tweeted by Trump in announcing the accord).

The Temple Mount is meant to be exclusively under Jewish control, and the Jewish people are commanded in the Torah to build the Beit HaMikdash there (that includes even now), replacing the Dome of the Rock.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has referred to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount. Which means in practice, allowing the Muslims to continue to occupy and control the Jewish people’s most holy site in the world, and deny their religious rights.

Notice Trump said, “...Jerusalem’s other holy sites...” Making a distinction between the Muslims on the Temple Mount and...what? The Western Wall (of the Temple Mount complex) down below, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City?

Then during his announcement he said, “This deal will allow much greater access to Muslims from throughout the world to visit the many historic sites in Israel, which the Muslims want to see very badly and have wanted to see for many, many decades. And to peacefully pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is a very special place for them,” (from Trump’s White House announcement of the Abraham Accord).

“...Al-Aqsa mosque, which is a very special place for them.” Has Trump converted to Islam? Why is he so concerned for the Muslim thieve’s “rights” to be upheld?

He made no reference to how special the Temple Mount is to the Jews, how HaShem (the God of Israel) commanded the Jews to build His House, the Beit HaMikdash there, or even to equal prayer access for Jews on the Temple Mount. Something the Israeli government denies till this day.

  “A lot of the extremists have used these conflicts to recruit people and to say that the mosque is under attack and that Muslims don’t have access to the mosque. And now this will enable people to take flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi directly to Tel Aviv. Muslims will be welcomed in Israel, and this will create a better interfaith exchange,” (from Jared Kushner’s statement on the Abraham Accord).

What I hear is everyone rubber stamping the dominant position of the Muslim occupiers, on the Temple Mount, without concern for Jewish rights, to their own holy place. Kushner should be ashamed of himself.

Then Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke live to the Israeli people, and deceived them. He said, “...true peace, not a slogan, peace from strength, peace for peace...” (from Netanyahu’s Hebrew statement on the Abraham Accord).

In Hebrew “Shalom Tmurat Shalom – peace for peace,” is a slogan in part’s of the Israeli Right, used to differentiate between previous peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, and the peace process with the Palestinians, in which Israel always made concessions, and some mythical “peace” of the future, without any more concessions on the part of Israel.

But that’s simply not true. Netanyahu has implicitly accepted the possible outcome of Trump’s plan, a Palestinian State in parts of Judea and Samaria. Actually, quite a high cost, for “peace.”

Netanyahu continued, “This is the greatest advancement toward peace between Israel and the Arab world in the last 26 years and it marks the third formal peace between Israel and an Arab nation.”

26 is the numerical value of HaShem’s name in Hebrew, I think He’s “Winking,” sending a message about how we’re messing up again, and he’s watching... and this just after Tisha B'Av (that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples).

In fact, most of the major turning points in the "peace process" have been around Tisha B'Av or Rosh HaShanah.

Then after speaking in Hebrew, and fielding reporters questions, Netanyahu gave a summary statement in English and said, “And today, I am honored to announce a formal peace agreement with [the United States], the United Arab Emirates…” (from Netanyahu’s English statement on the Abraham Accord).

Netanyahu’s Freudian Slip, saying the United States, then correcting himself, and saying the United Arab Emirates, was later cleaned up, i.e. removed from the official transcript posted on the Prime Minister’s Office website.

I can understand his slip. The Americans have been calling the shots. Netanyahu’s happy he has peace with Trump, compared to the situation with Obama, and he’s happy to be doing Trump’s bidding, to help Trump out before the November presidential elections with a PR victory.

Yet in this week’s Torah reading, Re’eh, Moses tells the Jewish people fifteen times, how HaShem will direct them to the place He wants them to build the Beit HaMikdash, and there they shall serve Him.

“But only to the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to set His Name there; you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there,” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

“And it will be, that the place the Lord, your God, will choose in which to establish His Name there you shall bring all that I am commanding you: Your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the separation by your hand, and the choice of vows which you will vow to the Lord,” (Deuteronomy 12:11).

Rashi here states: “It will be, that the place [which the Lord your God will choose… there you shall bring all that I am commanding you]:[At that time,] build for yourselves the Temple in Jerusalem. And so [Scripture] states concerning David, ‘And it was, when the king sat in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies surrounding him, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, see now, I dwell in a house of cedars, but the Ark of God dwells within the curtain’” (II Sam. 7:1-2) [i.e., the temporary Mishkan].

“But only in the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes; there you shall offer up your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you,” (Deuteronomy 12:14).

“But you shall eat them before the Lord, your God, in the place the Lord, your God, will choose you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, and the Levite who is in your cities, and you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God, in all your endeavors,” (Deuteronomy 12:18).

“If the place the Lord, your God, chooses to put His Name there, will be distant from you, you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your cities, according to every desire of your soul,” (Deuteronomy 12:21).

“However, your holy offerings which you will have, and your vows, you shall carry, and come to the place that the Lord chooses,” (Deuteronomy 12:26).

“And you shall eat before the Lord, your God, in the place He chooses to establish His Name therein, the tithes of your grain, your wine, and your oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and of your sheep, so that you may learn to fear the Lord, your God, all the days. And if the way be too long for you, that you are unable to carry it, for the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to establish His Name therein, is too far from you, for the Lord, your God, will bless you. Then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and you shall go to the place the Lord, your God, will choose,” (Deuteronomy 14:23-25).

“You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, your God, [of the] flock, and [the Festival sacrifices of the] cattle, in the place which the Lord will choose to establish His Name therein,” (Deuteronomy 16:2).  

“Except at the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to establish His Name-there you shall slaughter the Passover offering in the afternoon, as the sun sets, at the appointed time that you went out of Egypt. And you shall roast [it] and eat [it] in the place which the Lord, your God, will choose, and you shall turn away in the morning and go to your dwellings,” (Deuteronomy 16:6-7).

“And you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God, -you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite who is within your cities, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are among you, in the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to establish His Name therein,” (Deuteronomy 16:11).

“Seven days you shall celebrate the Festival to the Lord, your God, in the place which the Lord shall choose, because the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your produce, and in all the work of your hands, and you will only be happy. Three times in the year, every one of your males shall appear before the Lord, your God, in the place He will choose: on the Festival of Matzoth and on the Festival of Weeks, and on the Festival of Sukkot, and he shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed,” (Deuteronomy 16:15-16).

The only other time the Hebrew word for chosen is used in Re’eh, is when Moses says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a treasured people for Him, out of all the nations that are upon the earth,” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

Rashi there, quoting the Sifrei states, “For you are a holy people: Your holiness stems from your forefathers, and, moreover, ‘the Lord has chosen you.’”

The Chosen People, are to build the Beit HaMikdash, the God of Israel’s Chosen House of Prayer, in the Chosen Place, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is no point to allow the historical scam of the Muslims to continue. See the Irony now?

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.
(c) 2020/5780 Pasko