All of Israel is One

“You shall not be a gossip monger among your people, you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is being shed – I am HaShem. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the children of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself – I am HaShem.” (VAYIKRA 19:16-18)

At first glance the Torah appears to be teaching a series of precepts designed to improve our character traits and perfect Israeli society. But the fact that these commandments are listed in such detail indicates that they reveal a central tenet of authentic Hebrew thought. In verse 18, we are commanded to love our fellow as we love ourselves. While a precept such as this might sound pleasant in theory, some might argue the impossibility of such a decree. In today’s prevalent culture – where the individual’s wants and needs are given central importance – it seems doubtful that modern man could really be expected to love another as he loves himself. Perhaps one could attempt to treat his fellow as if he loves him to that extent but to actually feel this love in one’s heart seems as though the Torah is demanding not only a behavioral adjustment but also a complete revolution in human nature. The commandment is followed by the statement “I amHaShem” – a declaration found throughout the Torah which often serves to emphasize the great importance of a particular mitzvah. In addition to reminding us that HaShem is all powerful and aware of a person’s true inner thoughts, the statement “I amHaShem” is akin to the Kadosh Barukh Hu signing a contract. Laws carrying great consequence often include this Divine signature in order to guarantee that HaShem will treat a person according to his behavior, especially in regards to the fulfillment of these precepts.

By utilizing the statement “I am HaShem” following these particular laws, the Torah prompts the question of how such incredible weight can be placed on mitzvot so ostensibly alien to human behavior. Rather than merely dictating conduct, these commandments serve as a direct challenge to what many mistakenly believe to be their nature, which can only be properly understood within the context of Israel’s true relationship to our Torah.

The Torah is not a rulebook meant to coerce human behavior but rather the written expression of HaShem’s Divine Ideal teaching us how to most successfully express our true inner selves. Our Sages teach (Yoma 28b) that “Our patriarch Avraham kept the entire Torah [even before the actual Torah was given to Israel in written form].”

Nefesh HaḤaim (1:21) expands on this idea by explaining how Israel’s patriarchs were able to perceive the positive impact of mitzvot on the metaphysical realm, therefore living Torah lives as an expression of their true inner selves. While most humans today are sufficiently healthy that our lungs breath and our hearts beat without external guidance or assistance, we are not yet healthy enough to live the mitzvot as a natural function. We still require the Torah’s written form in order to help us in successfully expressing our true selves.

Through a heightened awareness of Israel’s true inner essence, we can appreciate themitzvot quoted above as just a few of the many liberating precepts intended to elevate our overall perceptions of reality. The Jerusalem Talmud (ninth chapter of Nedarim), for example, offers an explanation concerning the Torah’s prohibition against vengeance. It describes a man slicing food with a knife. As he is cutting, the hand holding the knife slips and injures his other hand. The Talmud then asks if the wounded hand would rise up to take vengeance against the hand that cut it. This rhetorical question comes to teach that just as each hand is a piece of one whole body, so is each individual Jew one piece of Knesset Yisrael – the giant national Israeli soul that shines into this world through the earthly Jewish people. Therefore, one Hebrew taking revenge against his brother is no less absurd than a person’s left hand rising up against the right. The Hebrew Nation is not the sum total of every Jew but rather one colossal spirit that manifests itself in space and time through millions of bodies. While human beings each possess a personal soul, Israel shares one massive national soul – like a giant tree of which each Jew is an individual branch.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook teaches that the highest level of Ahavat Yisrael(love for Israel) a person can achieve results from obtaining the belief, knowledge and deep understanding of Israel’s true inner essence. It involves more than merely loving individual Jews for their positive personal traits. These traits may not always be discernable and are certainly not what makes Israel unique. The Segula of Israel is the collective national essence that precedes the individuals. It is the inner Divine light planted within the Hebrew soul and revealed in human history through the Jewish people. Rather than attempt to love each and every individual Jew, one can learn to recognize and love the source of Israel’s essence – the Segula – which then allows this love to flow out to every distinct piece of that national collective.

A man who loves his son does not simply love the sum total of each limb. He loves his child as a whole person and therefore loves every individual piece of that person. He can see each finger, leg and ear as an expression of that one soul he knows to be his son.Knesset Yisrael is similarly one giant spiritual organism revealed through individual Jews scattered in space and time. The highest level of Ahavat Yisrael is therefore a deep Torah wisdom that must be studied and not merely emotionally felt. The base of this wisdom stems from learning about, understanding and recognizing the Segula in order to comprehend Israel’s true inner unity.

The Torah does not merely instruct us to love each Jew as much as we love ourselves. It actually informs us that each Jew is inseparably connected because Israel is essentially one Divine entity. Despite the Hebrew soul appearing fragmented in our world, Jews have the ability to recognize the objective reality of our inner unity – a unity that transcends far beyond the confines of what our eyes perceive. Once a person fully recognizes this truth, he becomes able to feel and express the required love for each individual. And he automatically becomes incapable of spreading evil gossip about or holding grudges against his brothers. He becomes incapable of taking vengeance against a fellow Jew and becomes unable to passively stand by as blood is being shed.

When Israel is finally able to appreciate our inner oneness, we will be empowered by true love and a sense of collective responsibility. A mature understanding of this lofty ideal arouses the highest levels of Ahavat Yisrael and allows the Jewish people to reach our inner potential and achieve our national goal of bringing this world to Divine perfection.

ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE DAY: It is an Obligation to Liberate the Land of Israel

In order to appreciate the full significance of Israel’s Independence Day, one must clarify what the day is meant to commemorate, as well as what this connotes within the context of Jewish history and Torah Law. One of the major reasons for the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut is to rejoice in the restoration of Hebrew independence in the Land of Israel following a long and bitter exile of the majority of Jews from our soil. Yom HaAtzmaut celebrates the liberation of Eretz Yisrael from British rule and the reestablishment of Jewish political sovereignty over our country.

In his supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, the Ramban teaches that it is a Torah commandment in every generation that the Nation of Israel take control of and inhabit the entire Land of Israel.

“This (a war to liberate Eretz Yisrael) is what our Sages call milḥemet mitzvah (obligatory war). In the Talmud (Sotah 44b) Rava said, ‘Yehoshua’s war of liberation was an obligatory duty according to all opinions.’ And do not err and say that this precept is the commandment to vanquish the seven nations… this is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet we cannot leave the land in their control or in the control of any other nation in any generation… Behold, we are commanded with conquest in every generation… this is a positive commandment which applies for all time… And the proof that this is a commandment is this: ‘They were told to go up in the matter of the Spies: ‘Go up and conquer as HaShem, G-D of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear and do not be discouraged.’ And it further says: ‘And when HaShem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you.’ And when they did not go up, the Torah says: ‘And you rebelled against the Word of G-D, and you did not listen to this command.’” (Positive Commandment 4 of the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot)

The Ramban asserts that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah for Israel in every generation and that we are forbidden from allowing any part of our country to fall into – or remain under – gentile control. It is found in the Shulḥan Arukh that all of the arbitrators of Torah Law (Rishonimand Aḥronim) agree with the Ramban concerning this issue.

“All of the Poskim, both Rishonim and Aḥronim, decide the Law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban.” (Shulḥan Arukh, Even HaEzer section 75, Pitḥei Tshuva 6)

The Nation of Israel is eternally commanded to conquer and implement Jewish sovereignty over our country. Yom HaAtzmaut commemorates the fifth day of Iyar, 5708, when Israel fulfilled this mitzvah for the first time in nearly two thousand years by declaring Hebrew independence in portions of our homeland.

Aside from renewing the mitzvah of Hebrew sovereignty, there is another essential reason to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut. The Megillat Ta’anitteaches that it is a mitzvah to thank HaShem for the miracles He performs. This was the basis for sanctifying Ḥanukah and Purim. And like Ḥanukah, Yom HaAtzmaut commemorates the triumph of a small and ill equipped band of Jewish freedom fighters over one of the world’s most powerful empires.

The British had ruled the Land of Israel since World War I and had done everything in their power to prevent Jewish independence. While Israel’s political leadership grudgingly acquiesced to Britain’s imperialist designs, a courageous minority of revolutionaries launched a war of liberation that eventually succeeded in attaining independence. As Hebrew fighters displayed tenacious heroism in the face of nearly impossible odds, HaShem worked through these fighters to force the British Empire from Palestine. And it was on the fifth of Iyar – Yom HaAtzmaut – that the Union Jack was ultimately lowered from the Jewish homeland.

Throughout the period of our exile, scattered Jewish communities have had the authority to establish what is called a “Purim Katan” – a sacred day of thanksgiving meant to express gratitude to the Kadosh Barukh Hu for saving a community from danger. Since Yom HaAtzmaut is a day on which a miracle occurred for the entire Jewish people, it is a Torah precept to ordain a public festival for commemoration of HaShem’s kindness towards His people. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate declared that the nation recite Hallel on this day in order to remember the miracles performed on Israel’s behalf.

But if the commandment is really so obvious and clear, why would so many great scholars appear so unsure about – or often even vehemently opposed to – the State of Israel and the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut? The Gaon of Vilna answers this question in Kol HaTor (the Gaon’s teachings regarding the redemption process compiled by his student Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov).

“The Sin of the Spies… hovers over the Nation of Israel in every generation… How strong is the power of the Sitra Aḥra that it succeeds in hiding from the eyes of our holy fathers the dangers of the klipot; from the eyes of Avraham our father, the klipah of exile… and in the time of the Messiah, the Sitra Aḥra attacks the guardians of Torah with blinders… Many of the sinners in this great sin of, ‘They despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the Sin of the Spies, that they have been sucked into the Sin of the Spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproven by the giants of the world, the Rishonim and Aḥronim.” (Kol HaTorchapter 5)

The Torah debate over Yom HaAtzmaut is actually far more psychological than legal. Those who relate to Jewish history as having played out in ancient times, but being currently paused until the eventual arrival of a Messiah, generally restrict Jewish life to matters of “religion” often divorced from public life and national developments. But those who view themselves as participants in history and active characters in an incredible living story appreciate how current events – and even the actions we take – can have the power to impact and influence the Hebrew calendar.

The most amazing miracle of Yom HaAtzmaut is perhaps the foundation for all of the others. After so many centuries of persecution in exile, HaShem placed a new spirit of valor into our people. For the first time in modern history, a generation of Jewish heroes arose – willing to lay down their lives for the liberation of their homeland. And even more astonishing than this is the fact that the Kadosh Barukh Hu strengthened the hearts of Israel’s political leaders so that they would declare independence for the Nation of Israel despite being faced with overwhelming international pressure not to do so.

Yom HaAtzmaut is the most significant world event to take place in nearly two thousand years. It was on this day that HaShem returned the Children of Israel to the stage of history so that we may lead mankind towards a world of total blessing. It is the goal of Creation that the Divine Ideal be fully expressed through Israel bringing humanity to an awareness of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates all, sustains all, empowers all and loves all. The Maharal of Prague teaches in Netzaḥ Yisrael that in order for Am Yisrael to fulfill our historic mission, we must first unite as an independent nation on our soil. Only as a strong and healthy nation living a collective life of national kedusha can Israel reveal the greatness and unity of HaShem’s Ideal in every major and minor sphere of existence. Only through the vehicle of Jewish independence can we bring mankind towards a universal blessing through illuminating the world with the light of Torah.

The modern State of Israel – the foundation of HaShem’s Throne in this world – must be understood not only as His Divine handiwork but also as an early stage in the development of universal redemption – a process that unfolds through a series of historic events. While the current Jewish state has not yet reached the greatness for which it is destined, it must be recognized that the physical vessel once again exists in our world and will eventually grow to reveal its exalted inner potential. After so many centuries as a ghost walking through history, Israel again functions as a living nation on the world stage. The Jewish people has taken an enormous step forward by reestablishing Hebrew independence in portions of Eretz Yisrael. While the mere existence of a Jewish state was never the final goal of our ancient yearnings, it is certainly a powerful vehicle with which to now achieve Israel’s greater aspirations. The liberation of our people will continue to progress as new heroes arise to confront the challenges of our generation and advance Jewish history to the next stages of redemption.

“You Shall Be Holy”

“For I am HaShem your G-D – you are to sanctify yourselves and you shall be Kedoshim, for I am Kadosh; and you shall not contaminate yourselves through any teeming thing that creeps on the earth. For I am HaShem Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a G-D unto you; you shall be Kedoshim, for I am Kadosh.” (VAYIKRA 11:44-45)

Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin teaches in Tzidkat HaTzadik that kedusha (generally translated into English as “holiness”) connotes a total dedication to serving HaShem as a vehicle to reveal His Divine Ideal in this world. Just as G-D is Kadosh and His kedushais expressed through both His transcendence beyond Creation and His immanence within every aspect of Creation, so are Israel meant to be Kedoshim through our ability to fully separate from the limitations of our world while at the same time involve ourselves completely in every aspect of this world. All of the Torah’s mitzvot guide us to realize and actualize our inner kedusha through being both completely in and of this world while at the same time possessing the freedom to live beyond it. This kedushaempowers the Jewish people to pursue our mission of bringing humanity towards total perfection and the universal self-awareness of man’s relationship to HaShem as our inner Divine Source.

In order for Israel to express the kedusha necessary to achieve our national mission, we must exercise our will power and rise beyond the temptations to partake from forbidden foods, gaze upon impure sights or give unrestricted license to our physical lusts. HaShem created a world full of delicious foods, beautiful sights and outlets for our most basic natural desires, which are not merely permissible but even beneficial in helping us to advance towards higher levels of consciousness and fulfillment. Asserting our will power to control and properly direct our cravings – rather than allowing those cravings to dominate us – permits us to experience our own power and inner Divinity. The Hebrew Nation was delivered from Egyptian bondage in order to be consecrated to an eternal national sanctity. Since becoming a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (SHEMOT 19:6) was a key purpose for Israel’s liberation from slavery, the Jewish people must strive to live up to our mission in all spheres of life, both collective and individual. Exercising our will to uphold modest behavior and dietary regulations are central components to Israel’s collective ethos and rich national culture, which can best be described by the term kedusha.

Beyond our own national culture and identity, Israel brings a special sanctity to Creation that appeared to be lacking from the world in its previous state. The consecration of the Jewish people is not a man-made idea but rather a Divine historic occurrence. Israel is the uniquely created national unit meant to express the revelation of HaShem’s Oneness in this world – His emissary on earth destined to fulfill the purpose of Creation and bring about human history’s ultimate goal. Just as HaShem isKadosh, so must Israel be Kedoshim in all areas of life, ranging from marital relations and business dealings to agricultural work and warfare.

The Nation of Israel is commanded to emulate G-D and to walk in His ways. As a hallowed society that lives a national life of kedusha, Am Yisrael is to participate in and elevate every sphere of life in order to reveal the inner connection of all that exists to the Divine Ideal. It is Israel’s task to function as a nation that radiates kedusha to the entire world, bringing mankind to an everlasting peace and to a conscious awareness of HaShem’s Divine goodness.

Are You Ready for Freedom?

Between Israel’s slavery in Egypt and the final redemption in Jerusalem, the story of the Exodus continues throughout time. In every generation we find challenges and heroes in our unbroken struggle for complete liberation as we inch ever closer toward history’s ultimate goal.

The festival of Pesaḥ is the holiday of Israel’s initial emancipation, marking the birth of the Hebrew Nation and HaShem’s great love for us. It was on this day that the Kadosh Barukh Hu took Israel out from Egyptian slavery in order that we become His human representative in this world. We were brought from subjugation to freedom in order that we establish the civilization meant to express His Divine Ideal and bless humanity with the light of His Truth – a light that can only be illuminated through Israel experiencing complete independence in our historic homeland. It is therefore precisely on Pesaḥ – on the birthday of the Hebrew Nation – that we must educate ourselves to the true value of freedom.

Rashi teaches that the miracles of the Exodus began on the tenth of Nisan, a few days preceding the festival. It was on this date that Israel overcame our fears and psychologically freed ourselves from the chains of bondage. Each household prepared to slaughter a lamb, one of Egypt’s most prominent national deities, and displayed it defiantly for our oppressors to see. Although the Egyptians would naturally seek to punish their Hebrew slaves for such an offense, the Children of Israel remained miraculously unharmed. This was therefore the day on which the miracles of redemption truly began and when Hebrew courage was first demonstrated after so many years of persecution.

On Pesaḥ of 5707 (1947), the last year of British rule over our country, an importantseder took place in the Jerusalem Central Prison. A few days before their scheduled executions by the foreign regime, six young men were conducting the Pesaḥ seder with Rabbi Yaakov Goldman. They were Dov Gruner, Mordekhai Alkaḥi, Yeḥiel Drezner, Eliezer Kashani and Meir Feinstein from the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization) and Moshe Barazani from the Loḥamei Ḥerut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel). Dressed in their red death row jumpsuits, these boys were provided with haggadot and food so that they could sit together and celebrate the holiday of their people’s freedom for the last time.

The young men eventually arrived at the part of the haggadah which relates Rabbi Akiva and other Sages discussing the Exodus from Egypt all night in B’nei Brak. When dawn broke, their students came to inform them that it was time to say “Shema Yisrael.

The prisoners sitting around the table discussed where these rabbis might have been that they could not see the light of day in order to know the time. It is well known that these Sages had supported the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire and that Rabbi Akiva had even served as Bar Kokhba’s personal arms bearer. Acting as the spiritual leader of the insurrection, Rabbi Akiva had gone so far as to proclaim Bar Kokhba the Messiah. These rabbis must have been hiding in caves from where they were organizing the revolt against Rome. They were discussing the Exodus – the importance of freedom – all night long and when dawn broke, their students came to tell them that it was time for “Shema Yisrael” – time to sanctify G-D’s Name through liberating the Land of Israel from foreign rule.

Nearly two thousand years later, these six young men – freedom fighters captured and sentenced to death – were reading the story of the rabbis in B’nei Brak. Dov Gruner said to the others, “It is a shame that our political leaders do not learn what Rabbi Akiva said, that if the Egyptians had not received fifty makot (plagues/strikes) and another two hundred and fifty makot at the sea, they would never have granted the Hebrews their freedom. If Rabbi Akiva understood that in order to become free, there had to bemakot, then why is it so difficult for Israel to understand now that we must give makotto the British in order to win our freedom?”

[the_ad id=”4690″]

Dov Gruner – ready to be executed by the British administration – internalized the teachings of Rabbi Akiva, who had himself been brutally executed by Rome. Now, after nearly two thousand years of terrible degradation, the students of Rabbi Akiva had at long last arrived. The students that history had been waiting for had come to proclaim that dawn was finally braking. The students – all dressed in red and eating a prisonseder only days before their executions by a modern incarnation of Rome – had arrived to reestablish a sovereign Hebrew state – even if at the expense of their lives. These were men who walked in the path of Rabbi Akiva, knowing that it was their final Pesaḥseder before singing HaTikvah and mounting the British gallows. And without fear or regret, they questioned why the official Jewish leadership of their generation had not understood the eternal teachings of redemption.

Prior to his execution, Dov Gruner wrote a farewell letter to his commander, Menaḥem Begin:


From the bottom of my heart I thank you for the encouragement that you have given me during these fateful days. Be assured that whatever happens I shall not forget the principles of dignity, generosity and resolve. I shall know how to uphold my honor, the honor of a Jewish soldier and fighter.

“I could have written in high-sounding phrases something like the old Roman ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ (‘it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’). But words are cheap, and skeptics can say ‘after all, he had no choice.’ And they might even be right. Of course I want to live. Who doesn’t? But what pains me, now that the end is so near, is mainly the awareness that I have not succeeded in achieving enough. I too could have said ‘let the future take care of the future’ while enjoying life and being content with the job I was promised upon my demobilization. I could even have left the country altogether for a safer life in America. But this would not have satisfied me, neither as a Jew nor as a Zionist.

“There are many schools of thought as to how a Jew should choose his way of life. One way is that of the assimilationists who have renounced their Jewishness. There is also another way, the way of those who call themselves Zionists – the way of negotiation and compromise, as if the existence of a nation were but another transaction. They are not prepared to make any sacrifice and are therefore forced to make concessions and accept compromise. Perhaps this is a means of delaying the end but, in the final analysis, it leads to the ghetto. And let us not forget that in the ghetto of Warsaw alone there were five hundred thousand Jews.

“The only way that seems, to my mind, to be right, is the way of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the way of courage and daring without renouncing a single inch of our homeland. When political negations prove futile, one must be prepared to fight for our country and our freedom. Without them the very existence of our nation is jeopardized, so fight we must with all possible means. This is the only way left to our people in our hour of decision: to stand on our rights, to be ready to fight, even if for some of us this way leads to the gallows. For it is a law of history that only with blood shall a country be redeemed. I am writing this while awaiting the hangman. This is not a moment at which I can lie, and I swear that if I had to begin my life anew I would have chosen the same path, regardless of the consequences.

Your faithful soldier,


Dov Gruner embodied the teachings of Rabbi Akiva and understood the struggle for freedom in Eretz Yisrael as the highest and truest service to HaShem. After receiving Gruner’s letter, Menaḥem Begin wrote:

“Great is the courage in Israel at a time of destruction and in this time of resurrection. We will be proud of them all and in all of them we will recognize holiness. But in the ladder of Jewish heroism, there is one level that is supreme. And from that level arises those who are Harugei Malkhut (martyrs of the kingdom). They were fighters whose fighting was not passive. It was active. They were revolutionaries whose revolution was not without choice but initiated. They went to the gallows and their heroism was not once. It is eternal. From their bleeding hearts, a song of freedom was sung. The song that sang how there is no purpose in being slaves anymore and that freedom would win and justice would arrive. And now, G-D of Israel, I tell You: Because You have given Israel such children as these, I say ‘Yitgadal V’Yitkadash Sh’mei Rabbah.’”

Begin declares “Yitgadal V’Yitkadash Sh’mei Rabbah” – “May His Great Name be exalted and sanctified.” The evidence that G-D’s Name is exalted and sanctified is that Israel has sons who are prepared to give their lives – boys ready to sacrifice themselves on the alter of Israel’s freedom so that the next generation would see a Hebrew flag over Jerusalem.

[the_ad id=”4744″]

The legendary tzadik of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Levine, came to see Yeḥiel Drezner before he was taken to the gallows. When Drezner asked the pious sage for help with the confessional prayer before death, Rabbi Levine began to cry. He told the young fighter not to worry about death and that the confessional prayer is not necessary for martyrs.

And dawn broke. The British retreated from Eretz Yisrael shortly after the execution of these courageous boys. A Hebrew flag signifying renewed Jewish independence once again soared over portions of our homeland, initiating the first flowering of Israel’s redemption.

The Talmud (Brakhot 20a) asks why Israel experienced less open miracles in Talmudic times than in Biblical times. The Sages question if it might be because the Jewish people in Talmudic times were less immersed in the study of Torah. But the Talmud dismisses this and answers that it can be proven that there were Biblical generations that studied less Torah yet still experienced greater miracles. The Talmud continues by revealing that the difference is not due to a distinction in scholarship but rather to a distinction in self-sacrifice for the Hebrew mission. Israelis in Biblical times were more willing to give their lives for the sanctification of G-D’s Name. The Talmud therefore concludes that miracles are a result of courage and selfless devotion. When Israel is ready to meet HaShem half way, we are rewarded with assistance and great Divine kindness.

So dawn breaks not when Rabbi Akiva has students who merely study the Torah but rather when he has students who actually live the Torah and are willing to give their lives for the advancement of Jewish history. The young death row inmates understood what the haggadah means when it proclaims that next year the Jewish people will be free. In blood and fire Hebrew sovereignty fell and in blood and fire it would again rise. The haggadah is not simply a book that teaches us what took place once upon a time in Egypt. Nor is it merely an instruction manual for properly conducting the rituals of aseder. The haggadah in every generation is meant to teach Israel how to liberate our people and to understand the basic values of our freedom. The heroic martyrs of the pre-state Jewish underground were not simply fighters. They were educators – educators for a generation who did not yet understand the true meaning of freedom. And when the Jewish people will understand the true significance and value of Hebrew liberation, there will no longer be any necessity for such martyrs.

The lesson is clear. Freedom is a miracle and miracles require valor. History demands that Israel establish a kingdom that will manifest the Divine Ideal in all spheres of national life in order to liberate humanity from a world of systemic injustice and false dogmas. But in order to accomplish this lofty mission we must first psychologically free ourselves, as did our ancestors in Egypt on the tenth of Nisan. The sooner we believe in ourselves and in our ability to stand proud as a strong moral force among nations, the closer we will come to expressing the full grandeur of HaShem’s Ideal for this world and ushering in an era of total blessing for humankind.

The Temple in Jerusalem Will Bring a Higher Reality

VAYIKRA opens with an explanation of the various korbanot. And like many other Hebrew words and ideas, the concept of a korban loses its true meaning and essence when translated into the English language. While some might mistakenly translate the term korban as “sacrifice” the word actually comes from the Hebrew root karov (near), indicating that a better translation into English might be “that which brings near.”Korbanot brought to the Mishkan (and later to the Temple in Jerusalem) essentially serve the purpose of enhancing a person’s overall closeness to the Divine.

VAYIKRA’s fourth aliyah specifically features the korban shlamim, which Sforno explains as offerings voluntarily brought when one feels personally motivated to express gratitude to HaShem. This korban, brought from a sense of love and appreciation, is an expression of recognition for the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s constant generosity and eternal connection to the Children of Israel.

According to Rashi, the name shlamim is derived from the word Shalom, because theshlamim has the ability to increase peace in our world. Living in a generation without aMishkan or Temple makes it difficult to understand how bringing korbanot – a seemingly primitive act by Western standards – can actually have any meaningful impact on the universe. When judged by the wrong yardstick, mitzvot like the ritual slaughter of animals can appear insignificant or even barbaric. But while Western thought measures things according to the present reality as perceived through our limited senses, Israel’s Torah views life according to the standard of our reality’s deeper inner workings, as well as where we understand the world to be heading. Only by viewing reality through a pure Hebrew lens can one attain the necessary vision to appreciate how each korban serves to release Divine energies that flow into this world and uplift Creation to a higher plane of existence.

Torah concepts of mitzvot, especially those pertaining to the Temple in Jerusalem, come from a higher dimension of reality that our world is meant to exist on and will certainly reach as history progresses towards a more advanced state. The individual stages that bring about this higher goal can only be perceived when one achieves a broader view of the amazing reality mankind is currently approaching. In order for a person to appreciate the significance of an individual piece of any given puzzle, he must first have an idea of what the entire picture should look like. Only then can he realize the necessity and value of each piece – each phase of the process leading up to the complete picture.

Each korban brought to the Temple in Zion has a ripple effect that adds incredible blessing to the world – curing diseases, alleviating suffering and influencing random acts of kindness across the globe. Jerusalem’s chain reaction of Divine goodness demonstrates how all of existence is connected at the source.

Korban Aharon supports Rashi’s understanding of the shlamim by explaining that the peace expressed through its name is the harmony between the heavenly world of the spirit and the earthly material world. Bringing a korban shlamim to the Temple works to unite the spiritual and material facets of existence. Israel is meant to serve as a national bridge between the holy and seemingly mundane spheres of life. The Jewish people is meant to reveal kedusha in every aspect of this world in order to uplift existence to its highest potential. This Divine mission necessitates Israel attaining self-determination in Eretz Yisrael as only by existing as an independent nation in our homeland can we reach and elevate every facet of life to its highest ideal. And only through a Hebrew Kingdom in the Land of Israel can we bring mankind to the awareness of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates, sustains and empowers all with His love.

The Ramban offers a special explanation for the word shlamim, teaching that it is derived from the Hebrew word shleimut (completeness). He further explains that a person who brings this offering is not motivated by a need to atone for past sin, but rather by a sense of completeness and free-willed desire for universal perfection. He is not apologizing for any wrongdoing but expressing an idealistic drive to elevate the world. His service to HaShem stems from an active Torah that aspires to revolutionize human civilization and bring history to completion. Instead of living an individual “Judaism” of personal reward and punishment, he is involved with a macro-level Torah of cosmic proportions that harmoniously connects him to all of Creation.

Due to the terrible persecution our people suffered throughout nearly two thousand years of exile from our soil, many Jews have turned inward and developed a warped sense of our collective national mission. Some have come to genuinely believe that the goal of the Jewish people is to merely serve G-D quietly without distractions or the threat of outside aggression. The very concept of the korban shlamim clearly exposes the error of this perspective. The mission of the Hebrew Nation is to revolutionize the world, bringing it to perfection as determined by the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Israel is to serve as HaShem’s instrument in leading mankind to a lofty state of total blessing and everlasting peace incomprehensible to the leading thinkers of contemporary Western civilization.

Israel is to bring humankind to its highest state of universal perfection. If properly trained, we can learn to perceive the realization of this objective in our own generation through events bringing history closer to its ultimate goal. The redemption process is currently materializing with the rebirth of a sovereign Hebrew state in portions of our homeland, a still yet to be completed ingathering of our exiles and a spiritual revolution reacquainting many Jews with our Torah. After centuries of bitter oppression and exposure to external cultural influences, a decolonization of Jewish identity is taking place. Our generation has been Divinely chosen and blessed with the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the present stages of redemption – to recognize the miraculous developmental process unfolding and to facilitate the building of HaShem’s Divine Kingdom in our world.

Purim’s Lesson: Trust in G-d and Nothing Else

Throughout the entire Scroll of ESTHER, G-D’s Name does not appear even once. Upon a casual reading, it would seem that Haman, Aḥashverosh, Mordekhai and Esther are fully responsible for the incidents taking place. Intrigue, human jealousies and political machinations all account for the twists and turns within the Megillah as events of great significance to the Jewish people unfold.

After completing the Megillah, however, it becomes clear that the juxtaposition of all the coincidences is nothing short of miraculous, as HaShem’s authorship becomes visible through the thin veil of history. It is important to note that the story took place over a period spanning roughly ten years. Aḥashverosh’s party took place in 3395, Haman drew the lots in 3404 and Israel won our victory in 3405 (dates according toSeder HaDorot). Living through that period, one would probably not have noticed anything extraordinary taking place as everything was unfolding according to a natural progression of political events. There was nothing especially supernatural about the series of occurrences we retroactively understand to have been miraculous.

Our Sages teach in the Jerusalem Talmud (Brakhot 1:1) that the Purim story serves as a model for understanding the process of Israel’s ultimate redemption. Through the epic story of mankind, the Kadosh Barukh Hu weaves the goal of Creation. When making the effort to closely examine our own times from a more holistic perspective, we can see HaShem orchestrating the historic events – large and small – that have brought the Jewish people back to our borders and are bringing the world ever closer to perfection.

We celebrate Purim today with great joy because we are familiar with the story’s happy conclusion. But the Hebrews of ancient Persia – who actually lived through the events – must have been terrified at the threat of state-sanctioned annihilation. And Mordekhai, who the Jewish people now praise as a national hero, was actually much less appreciated in his own generation. A superficial reading of ESTHER can even lead one to attribute Mordekhai blame for placing his people in such a dire situation.

“All the king’s servants at the king’s gate would bow down and prostrate themselves before Haman, for so had the king commanded concerning him. But Mordekhai would not bow and would not prostrate himself.” (ESTHER 3:2)

The rabbinic leadership of Shushan at the time strongly condemned Mordekhai’s refusal to kneel before Haman. Comfortable with life on foreign soil, they feared Mordekhai might provoke Persian Jew-hatred and spoil their enjoyable Diaspora existence. But Mordekhai could not bow down to Haman, who had either engraved the image of an idol on his robes (Ibn Ezra) or attributed to himself the powers of a deity (Rashi). Because it is known that the Torah requires one to die rather than bow down to a false god, the condemnation of Mordekhai seems somewhat unjustified.

In Ohr Ḥadash, the Maharal of Prague clarifies the rabbinic position by explaining that Mordekhai went out of his way to appear before Haman in order to purposefully demonstrate that he would not kneel, thus creating an otherwise avoidable confrontation. The Sages record how the Jews of Persia reacted.

“They said to Mordekhai, ‘Know that you are putting us at the mercy of that evil man’s sword!’” (Agadat Esther 3:2; Megillah 12:2, commentary of the Radvaz)

“So the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordekhai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’ Finally, when they said this to him day after day and he did not heed them, they told Haman, to see whether Mordekhai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew.” (ESTHER 3:3-4)

A close reading of the Megillah reveals that Mordekhai’s refusal to kneel before Haman was not an isolated occurrence. Rather, he had gone out of his way several times in order to walk near the minister and publicly antagonize him. Because Mordekhai could have easily avoided the situation but instead engaged in actions that were deliberately confrontational, Shushan’s Jewish leaders seem justified in their condemnation.

Even when Mordekhai saw that “Haman was filled with wrath” (ESTHER 3:5), he continued to intentionally provoke the king’s viceroy. Based on his actions and the Talmud’s teaching (Pesaḥim 64b) that a person is forbidden from relying on miracles, one could easily argue that Mordekhai behaved irresponsibly with the lives of his people. The Maharal, however, defends Mordekhai’s behavior by asserting that challenging Israel’s enemies ultimately leads to the full manifestation of HaShem’s Ideal for this world.

The Midrash recounts that Mordekhai explained to Haman that the reason he would not bow was that he was born of kings from the tribe of Binyamin. Haman countered, “But Yaakov, Binyamin’s father, bowed before Esav, my ancestor.” Mordekhai answered him in turn, “Yes, but that was before Binyamin was born. He was born in Eretz Yisrael, and his soul, therefore, was an elevated soul. He would not bow down before others.” (Esther Rabbah 7:9)

Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Ḥarlop – a leading student of Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook – explains in the sixth volume of Mei Marom (based on teachings from the holyZohar) that subordination to gentile rulers is a form of idolatry. Israel must trust completely in the Kadosh Barukh Hu, who controls and directs all historic events. To fear foreign nations is to reject HaShem’s supremacy and a terrible desecration of His Divine Ideal.

The Talmud (Brakhot 7b) discusses whether appeasement or confrontation is the proper course of action when dealing with gentile antagonism towards Israel. While Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai – who himself resisted the Roman oppressors of his generation – teaches that it is acceptable to antagonize and provoke the wicked, the Talmud concludes that not everyone is capable of following this position. Only a person whose motivation is purely for the sake of heaven can allow himself to take such dangerous risks.

Mordekhai refused to humble himself before Haman, arguing that Hebrews must stand strong in the face of aggression. The rabbinic leadership of Shushan agreed with Mordekhai in principle but felt that in order to display such courage, the Jews had to first feel internally strong. Mordekhai rejected the notion that his people were weak and instead recognized Israel’s true inner potential. He argued that even if Jews first need to feel internal strength before being able to stand against Haman, that strength will never come while they remain on their knees. In fact, bowing to tyrants is precisely what leads people to mistakenly believe they lack the power to assert their rights. Haman was already seeking an excuse to destroy Israel and demands for submission could easily lead to further oppression. Appeasing evil, according to Mordekhai’s logic, would only succeed in encouraging further evil.

As HaShem’s chosen people and national expression in this world, Israel must realize our own inner strength. When the Persians came to destroy the Jews, Mordekhai led our people into battle and prevailed. The actual decree to annihilate Israel had not been rescinded and the Jews were required to take up arms against our enemies. At that point, Israel realized our true inner might by taking the initiative and killing 75,800 Persians without losing even a single Hebrew life. The message is clear for every generation. Israel must demonstrate confidence in ourselves and an iron determination to defy our oppressors. Mordekhai teaches that it is not through appeasement that one achieves peace but rather through the courage, self-assurance and unbreakableEmunah that empowers us to resist the malevolent plans of our antagonists.

“Everything in Creation belongs to Him”

“Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take to Me a portion, from every man whose heart will motivate him you shall take My portion.” (SHEMOT 25:2)

It is important to note that the above verse does not state “give Me a portion,” which would imply that property belongs to people who must now give from what is theirs to HaShem. The verse instead reads “take to Me a portion” meaning that Israel is to take from the Kadosh Barukh Hu what is in reality His and return it to Him as an offering. Man possesses no genuine ownership because everything that exists is the property of HaShem. He bestows it to man for use and even then only according to certain guidelines, the foremost condition being that His supreme ownership be acknowledged. This recognition is practiced in various ways, such as reciting brakhot on that from which one derives benefit, returning terumah and ma’aser to Kohanim and Levi’im, offering korbanot at the Temple in Jerusalem and giving tzedakah to those in need.

The Torah concept of tzedakah differs greatly from the gentile notion of charity. Western civilization views charity as a kindhearted act, as if the property truly belongs to the giver. If one wishes to donate portions of his wealth to the needy, he merits praise for his generosity. This view lies in direct contrast to the Torah concept of tzedakah, which is a Divine commandment based on tzedek (justice) and not on the generosity of a benevolent individual.

Despite significant differences between them, socially constructed economic systems and modes of production are generally based on the false perception that material goods actually belong to man. In this regard, there is little significant difference between conflicting ideologies that all falsely accept property as belonging to human beings.

Productive forces are gifts from HaShem. Not just the tools, materials and technologies used to produce goods but also forces such as human strength, creativity, intelligence and ingenuity. These are all bestowed upon man in order that we use them to construct an ideal world that will bring ultimate blessing to humankind.

Everything that exists is actually a unique expression of the timeless and boundless ultimate Reality we call HaShem. Everything in Creation belongs to Him and is given to man only in order that it attain full elevation in His service. Man is commanded to give in this world. Even one’s very life belongs to the Kadosh Barukh Hu and holds worth only to the extent that it is lived according to His Will. Therefore, whoever relates to property as if it is his own is on some level guilty of stealing from HaShem.

In the nineteenth chapter of Mesillat Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Ḥaim Lutzatto elaborates on this point through the familiar example of Kayin and Hevel.

“Hevel offered of the first-born of his sheep and of their fats, and Kayin offered of the worst of the fruits of the earth, as we are told by our Sages of blessed memory (Bereishit Rabbah 22:5). What was the outcome? (BEREISHIT 4:4-5), ‘And HaShem gave heed to Hevel and his gift, but to Kayin and his gift He gave no heed.’ And (MALAKHI 1:14), ‘Cursed is the deceiver who has in his flock a male, but pledges and sacrifices an abomination to G-D… for I am a great King.’”

Hevel understood himself and everything he owned to have originated from HaShem. By offering the best of what he had to give, Hevel declared that he personally possessed nothing as everything ultimately belongs to G-D. Kayin, by contrast, was only prepared to offer his leftovers, indicating that he had no obligations to anyone and only gave to HaShem as an act of generosity. Thus his name Kayin – from kaniti (I have acquired) – implied that everything he owned belonged solely to him. By viewing his offering as a charitable act, Kayin essentially related to the Kadosh Barukh Hu as a beggar.

Our time, talents, skills and possessions are all gifts from HaShem to be used in His service. When a Jew puts himself and his private interests above the aspirations and mission of the collective Hebrew Nation, he is in actuality relating to G-D as a beggar. When one places his own pleasure, career or even personal mitzvot above the needs ofClal Yisrael and the broader human collective, he is expressing a base egoism and stealing from HaShem. Even those who immerse themselves in the study of Torah day and night must be careful to keep in mind that doing G-D’s Will is our primary function and that He has tasked the Jewish people with a unique historic mission that transcends each person’s individual success or piety.

Like material possessions and the means of production, our very lives belong to HaShem. This accounts for the Torah’s sharp prohibition against suicide. One’s life is not his own to destroy. Nor is it his own to preserve at the expense of the Hebrew mission. The Torah commands us to lay down our lives rather than commit certain specified prohibitions. Most important, a Jew is required to give up his life for the sanctification of G-D’s Name (how His Divine Ideal is perceived) in this world. InHilkhot Melakhim 7:15, the Rambam states that it is actually forbidden to fear our enemies in times of war. He further teaches that any Hebrew fighter who displays fear on the battlefield and withholds his sword from blood is essentially considered guilty of slaying fellow Jews.

The notion of giving everything to HaShem illustrates the difference between the mentality of redemption and that of the exile. In Israel today, Jews from diverse backgrounds are willing to leave their families and offer everything to their people. They are ready to take responsibility for the future of Israel as they go up to battle with the knowledge they may never return. Infused with a holy valor, the soldiers of Israel are prepared to give all of themselves for the national good because there is an understanding – although not always conscious – that Israel is one and that every individual Jew is responsible for the security and wellbeing of the collective Hebrew Nation. This readiness to give selflessly is true Ahavat Yisrael – the willingness to take responsibility and if necessary forfeit everything not only to ensure a better future for the Jewish people but also to achieve Israel’s goal of bringing humanity to a future of unparalleled blessing in the awareness of HaShem as the infinite Whole that creates all, sustains all, empowers all and loves all.

The exile mentality, by contrast, is not one that focuses on giving everything one has but merely one’s extras as an expression of generosity. These crumbs could be charitable contributions to worthwhile causes, political lobbying and demonstrations, attendance at parades or even travel to Israel on solidarity missions. While some might argue these acts to be of some benefit to the Jewish state, they are often performed out of kindness rather than from a genuine sense of national obligation or a deep understanding of Israel’s inner unity.

The essence of Ahavat Yisrael is the willingness to take responsibility for the future of the Jewish people. It is being prepared to give everything – even one’s life – without fear. Fear originates from the mistaken exilic perception of our selves as individuals detached from the greater collective. Such egoistic perspectives breed irresponsibility, as is characterized by Kayin’s dubious question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – a statement that often leads a person to offer only his leftovers, essentially treating the collective Hebrew Nation a beggar. When a Jew suddenly experiences true Ahavat Yisrael, his mind develops a national consciousness and his heart begins to genuinely experience a sense of brotherhood and unity with his people throughout the world. He begins to feel discomfort at living in a foreign country and suddenly begins to yearn for the soil of his native land. This powerful love generally finds expression through active participation in Israel’s collective destiny and the willingness to give everything with the knowledge that it actually all belongs to HaShem. And it is those who find themselves gripped by this all-encompassing emotional force that will ultimately become the heroes who advance history forward.

Redemption Requires Israel to Shed its Slave Mentality

“Pharaoh approached; the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! – Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; the Children of Israel cried out to HaShem. They said to Moshe, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Is this not the statement that we made to you in Egypt, saying, Let us be and we will serve Egypt? – For it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness!’

Moshe said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of HaShem that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again! HaShem shall make war for you, and you shall remain silent.’” (SHEMOT14:10– 14)

Acknowledging that Israel greatly outnumbered the Egyptian military at the Sea of Reeds, the Ibn Ezra provides a remarkable explanation of the above verses. He writes: “How could a camp of six hundred thousand men fear their pursuers? Why should they not fight for their lives and the lives of their children? The answer is that the Egyptians had been Israel’s masters. The generation leaving Egypt had learned from childhood to endure the Egyptian yoke and they possessed a low soul. Being weak and unaccustomed to warfare, how could they now fight against their masters? We see that Amalek came with a small force and, if not for Moshe’s tefillah, they would have weakened Israel. G-D alone does great deeds and orchestrates events. He arranged for all the males who had left Egypt to die out – because they lacked the strength to fight the Canaanites – until another generation arose who had not seen exile and who possessed an exalted spirit.”

The Ibn Ezra teaches that despite their superior numbers, Israel was not commanded to stand and fight. The Hebrews had been conditioned by several generations of slavery to fear and obey their Egyptian masters. Possessing a low soul made them near incapable of warfare, thus requiring Moshe’s tefillot to later overcome the Amalekite ambush (SHEMOT 17:8-13). According to the Ibn Ezra, this low soul was the reason that the generation departing Egypt would later need to die out in the desert over a forty-year period. Their children – a new generation raised in freedom – would then be able to wage a war of liberation against the Canaanite kings.

The low soul that the Ibn Ezra speaks of is similar to what modern psychologists term “learned helplessness.” At various historic points, this slave mentality has prevented the Jewish people from successfully advancing our national mission. One example of this neurosis in recent decades has been the confusion among many scholars concerning the process of redemption and how the Jewish people must relate to – and interact with – the historic events unfolding in modern times.

Israel’s Prophets and ancient Sages teach that there are two ways in which the final redemption can occur. There is the miraculous way (aḥishena) and the more mundane natural process (bi’eta). Due to the bitter realities of life in the Diaspora, Jewish communities in recent centuries were conditioned to believe that the redemption could only transpire through open miracles. Taking the initiative to advance salvation through physically conquering the Land of Israel was scorned as forbidden by many rabbis who claimed that Israel must sit patiently and wait for the Kadosh Barukh Hu to redeem His people. In the ghettos of Europe, where day-to-day life included a fear of gentile persecution, the idea of Jews valiantly recapturing Eretz Yisrael by force of arms seemed as if it would be even more an aberration of the natural order of the world than HaShem performing supernatural miracles on our behalf. As a result of this reality existing for so long, many Jews became trapped in this mindset of helplessness even once the political reality surrounding them had changed.

Other factors also contributed to the Jewish idealization of learned helplessness. Because of the internal damage inflicted upon Israel by so many unsuccessful messianic movements, the study of the redemption process was halted in most houses of study throughout Europe, leading to any attempt at bringing salvation closer through human efforts becoming widely seen as tantamount to an act of heresy. The combination of these factors created an expectation that the redemption would occur through supernatural events above and beyond human participation. Practical efforts to achieve redemption came to be viewed as destructive behavior stemming from a weakness of faith.

Learned helplessness became most prevalent in Jewish circles during the decades leading up to the development of political Zionism. The handful of Torah giants at the time who understood that Hebrew liberation could – and most probably would – unfold through a series of natural historic events were unable to effectively spread their ideas or inspire the faithful masses to actively participate in the redemption process. But examining the words of these visionary scholars can help us to retroactively recognize how correct they truly were and how much their teachings still illuminate our proper path.

Rabbi Yehuda Ḥai Alkalai, the famed kabalist of Sarajevo, wrote of redemption from within in Raglei Mevaser. In it he explains: “Redemption will reach us in a natural way. Had the Almighty wished to redeem His people through miracles, the exile would not have lasted so long. Moreover, in the present Jewish situation even a naturally attained redemption would be miraculous. Redemption will grow from within the people and not with the Messiah performing miracles, as in the days of the Exodus from Egypt. Final redemption will be the result of national initiative aided by G-D, as it is written: ‘And the Children of Judah and the Children of Israel will be gathered together’ (HOSHEA 2:2), and ‘Shake yourself from the dust, arise and sit down, O Jerusalem, release the bonds from around your neck,’ (YISHAYAH 52:2). Yishayah uses the reflexive form to emphasize that redemption will stem from self-help.”

In his Reply to the Skeptics, Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmakher states: “To our great misfortune there are yet many who mistakenly believe that they will sit in the comfort of their homes when suddenly a voice from heaven will proclaim redemption. But it will not be so! The Babylonian exile, though destined to last no more than seventy years, required the practical leadership of Daniel, Ezra and Neḥemia to achieve a significant return toEretz Yisrael. Unlike many of our own contemporaries they did not say ‘let every man remain at his place and redemption will come of itself.’”

Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Kalisher illuminates the way to redemption in Drishat Tzion. He writes: “It is wrong to believe that redemption will come as a sudden revelation of G-D from heaven, calling upon His people to leave the Diaspora. The vision of the Prophets must come true, but not as a sudden event. Final redemption will come in stages with the return of the people to the land and ultimately by the coming of the Messiah. Dear friend, you must rid yourself of the illusion that the call of the Messiah will come as a bolt from the blue arousing the sleeping masses. Redemption will come about through an awakening of well dispersed gentile leaders and governments, viewing favorably the return of Jews to the Holy Land.”

In regards to Rabbi Kalisher’s last point, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Ḥarlop – a prominent disciple of Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook and former head of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav – teaches in the sixth volume of Mei Marom (Mayanei HaYeshua) that initial gentile support for Israel’s return to our land must eventually give way to hostility from the international community in order facilitate a later stage of the redemption process that will force the Jewish people to become independent through the realization that our strength and security stem not from alliances with other nations but directly from our relationship with the Kadosh Barukh Hu.

In Awake, Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever teaches: “Even though natural events will lead to redemption, this is not simply an historical accident. There are no coincidences in the Universe, since G-D’s Will is also manifested in the course of natural events. Accordingly, it is for us to rouse the powers that be to treat the Jewish people favorably, whereupon Divine help will surely be forthcoming in the ingathering of the exiles to the Holy Land. As the Prophet proclaims (YISHAYAH 62:10): ‘Go through, go through the gates; clear the way of the people; cast up, pave the road; clear it of stones; raise a banner over the peoples.’ Yishayah’s intention is clear: we must awaken and do all in our power to clear away the obstacles in the path of our redemption.”

These scholars stressed the fact that human initiative would be necessary in bringing Israel’s redemption to fruition. Their ideas were highly advanced for their time – especially when compared with many of their contemporaries – and their teachings represent a Torah of action that challenges the psychological state of learned helplessness. While it is clear that we have still not yet tasted full redemption, the process has certainly begun to unfold. There exists a sovereign Hebrew state in much ofEretz Yisrael but in order for us to participate in bringing total salvation, a higher approach to Torah study must be adopted.

The holy Ohr HaḤaim speaks of redemption and self-awakening in his commentary on VAYIKRA 25:25. There he states: “Redemption will start with a stirring in men’s hearts urging them: Do you feel secure living in a strange land, exiled from your G-D? What pleasure does life offer so far removed from the lofty values that were yours in the presence of the Almighty? Superficial, ill-conceived desire will then become repulsive and a spiritual craving will awaken your soul, improving your actions until G-D will redeem. Who will be called to stand in judgment? The Jewish leaders of the Diaspora who throughout the years did not encourage their people to return to Zion. They will be made to bear the shame of a forsaken homeland.”

In Eim Habanim Smeiḥah, written during the Holocaust, Rabbi Yissakhar Shlomo Teikhtal echoes the Ohr HaḤaim’s statements on the dangers of passivity. “The Orthodox, on the other hand, those zealous for G-D’s Will, stood aside and took no part in this effort. They remained with their traditional view that ‘sitting back and doing nothing is best’… It seems to me that all the leaders who prevented their followers from going and joining the builders [of Eretz Yisrael] will never be able to cleanse their hands and say ‘our hands have not spilt this blood.’”

A new generation has arisen today, alive with a more vibrant Torah of redemption. It is a generation infused with an exalted spirit of vitality as Israel’s youth is again being raised on our natural soil. The homeland – which had for so long refused to provide fruits to any stranger – has blossomed under the renewed political sovereignty of her native people.

The vitality infused into the Jewish people today has inspired incredible acts of valor and self-sacrifice, even amongst those not observant or even knowledgeable of mitzvot. At nearly impossible odds, Israel has won miraculous victories over our enemies. We have liberated portions of our homeland and revived the Hebrew language after many long centuries of separation from both. These incredible events are part of a greater process prodding history forward as Israel returns to the international stage in order to ultimately shine blessing and light to mankind. HaShem has inspired a new generation with a lofty spirit uncorrupted by fear, passivity or the learned helplessness of the Diaspora. Israel’s youth demands a greater and fuller Torah that encompasses and infuses all aspects of life with the necessary strength and courage to usher in an era of universal redemption.

The Light of Hanukah is the Light of Redemption

For an entire generation, the ancient Judeans waged a struggle for freedom, which, in terms of intensity, has almost no parallel in human history. It was among the first recorded wars of liberation and it laid a model for nearly every revolution that followed. With an unbreakable faith and willingness to sacrifice, a handful of valiant Hebrew fighters forged the eternal covenant that resistance to tyranny is the highest and truest service to HaShem.

In those years, the cultural colonization to which the Seleucid Empire aspired was at its peak. Hellenist values and practices were imposed on the native Hebrews by means of harsh edicts and the swords of foreign soldiers. The victimization of the weak, rampant debauchery and the desecration of the Temple were pinnacles of the Greek culture bestowed upon Judea. In Jerusalem, the urban upper class yearned to be citizens of Antioch and to transform their ancient city into an “enlightened” Greek Polis. When the uprising began, it arose from the mountain folk who remained loyal to the Torah and to the heritage of their fathers. They were led by the Hasmoneans – Matityahu and his five courageous sons. The flame of revolt was kindled in Modiin and quickly spread like wildfire through the hills of Judea. After Matityahu’s death, his third son Yehuda took command. He became the Maccabee and his guerrilla army moved in two decisive channels – resistance to foreign culture and armed struggle against foreign soldiers. Two wars with one goal of Hebrew independence in Judea.

The Maccabean revolt was not merely a struggle to revoke harsh decrees or secure freedom of worship. Hebrew sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for proper Torah observance (see Mishnah Torah Hilkhot anukah 3:1, the Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot 4, Shulan Arukh Even HaEzer 75:6,Pesikta Rabati 34, Magid Mesharim Parshat Vayikra and esed L’Avraham 3:7) and HaShem’s Divine blueprint for mankind demands Jewish independence in the historic Jewish homeland.

The Hasmoneans were determined. After several Judean victories and the liberation of Jerusalem, the Seleucid Syrian-Greeks offered a truce. Freedom of worship would be restored to the natives in exchange for ending their armed struggle for independence. There were some Jewish leaders naïve enough to accept the terms. A misunderstanding of our Torah caused those weak in spirit and tired of war to believe that they had already achieved their objectives. The Hasmonean faction, however, understood their obligation to liberate the Land of Israel from foreign rule. They also knew that without full political independence, there could be no lasting peace or real freedom of worship, as the spirit of Greece could again seek to dominate. Yehuda declared that the revolution must continue until Judea would be free from foreign influence and foreign soldiers. After nearly three decades of ferocious conflict, the Hasmoneans triumphed and the Kingdom of Israel was restored (Hilkhot anukah3:1).

When the Seleucid-Greek Empire began to persecute Israel, the devout heroism of Matityahu and his sons awakened within their people aspirations for self-rule. This desire for freedom – which had not strongly surfaced prior to the oppression – was catalyzed by the persecution and the fierce backlash it provoked. National independence was eventually declared and this declaration itself served as a sacred barrier against the forces of Hellenization as the very desire for self-determination psychologically impedes assimilation into the culture of an occupying power. Yet without Matityahu and his sons – the warrior-priests who imbued the political ideal with spiritual content – the revolution would have lacked sufficient force to keep fighting and withstand the prolonged hardships of war. This is demonstrated through the miracle of the oil. The pure cruse with the seal of the High Priest shone brightly, its light permeating the collective soul of the Hebrew Nation and bestowing upon Israel the strength to fight on.

Perhaps the most important lesson of anukah is that light is not merely another creation but rather Creation’s ultimate goal. The Maharal of Prague teaches in NerMitzvah that the world was created deficient so that mankind could actively participate as partners in its perfection. Human beings are given free will in order that we choose to involve ourselves in bringing the world to its ultimate goal. As the main protagonist in the drama of human history, Israel is tasked with revealing this truth, thereby leading mankind to its predestined ideal state.

Israel’s mission of bringing the world to the awareness of HaShem can only be accomplished through the Jewish people sovereign over Eretz Yisrael with the Torah serving as our national constitution. Only through this specific formula can Israel thin the veils of human perception and reveal the Divine light constantly present in our world, leading mankind to recognize and experience HaShem as the infinite Whole that creates, sustains and permeates all.

While the light of G-D’s Truth is always present, it is often hidden from man’s consciousness by curtains of perception. It is Israel’s task to remove those curtains and to reveal the Divine light – to bring the world to a state of perfection where all humankind achieves ultimate fulfillment and expression through a higher awareness of our relationship to HaShem.

Although G-D’s presence is hidden in day-to-day events, He continues to work through the system that He created in order to return that very system back to the full expression of His Ideal. Through a Divinely guided historical process, all of existence is sanctified and brought to the collective awareness of its inner relationship to its fundamental Source. Not only supernatural miracles but also the entire world, with all of its natural laws, is being pulled toward Creation’s ultimate goal through the story of Israel’s national rebirth on our native soil. The full restoration of the Hebrew Kingdom in our homeland will dissolve the remaining veils and bring everyone to finally recognize themselves as unique aspects and expressions of a much greater Reality.

Rabbi Moshe aim Lutzatto teaches in Derekh HaShem that G-D placed forces of evil into our story as an essential ingredient enabling free will and human growth. These dark forces have been tasked with working to prevent Israel from bringing Creation to its goal. Throughout history, this evil has manifested itself as four main human empires, each attempting in its own unique way to impede Israel from reaching our full potential as the nation that will express the Divine Ideal in all spheres of human existence. This is the inner battle between light and darkness raging through the annals of human civilization.

The four empires – Babylon, Persia, Greece and Edom – that have dominated the globe throughout most of world history emerged from the inherently deficient nature of existence and aim to maintain the curtains of perception through preventing Israel from reaching our full national potential. Each of these empires, however, has had it’s own unique method for obstructing the Jewish mission.

Knowing that the Hebrews must be in Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill our national function in Creation, the Babylonians worked to physically separate us from our land. They forcibly uprooted us from our borders and then graciously provided us with material prosperity on foreign soil. This simple separation from our homeland, although Jews remained Torah observant in the Diaspora, was enough to prevent HaShem’s light from being revealed. The soil of Babylon was simply not conducive to Israel accomplishing our Divine historic mission.

The Persians had a different approach. Haman convinced his king to completely annihilate the Jews. By removing the bearers of HaShem’s light from the world, he believed he could succeed in snuffing out the Divine flame.

The Greeks did not try to remove the Jews from our homeland, nor did they initially attempt a physical destruction. Instead, the spirit of Greece sought to pollute Israel’s culture by reducing G-D’s Torah to the level of a human wisdom on par with other notable wisdoms of the time. The Torah’s Divinity was viewed as a threat to Greek philosophy, which valued human intellect above all else and could not tolerate wisdom beyond mortal comprehension. Unsatisfied with the success of this spiritual assault, the Seleucid Syrian-Greeks then sought to forcibly sever the Hebrew Nation from our authentic culture through the brutal enforcement of cruel decrees against adherence to Torah Law.

These three empires each attacked an essential component to Israel fulfilling our national purpose. The fourth antagonist, however, which first emerged as the Roman Empire and has since taken on several manifestations, is a combination of all three attempts in a much more destructive and concentrated form.

Throughout the last two thousand years, the Western world (Edom) has tried its hand at all three methods on countless occasions. Three recent examples are the terrible Holocaust in Europe less than a century ago, the British Empire restricting Jewish entry to our homeland and the Soviet Union forcibly separating its Jews from their Torah. The international community’s insistence on not permitting Israel to assert sovereignty over the whole of our country and the resources spent by Western governments on diluting the State of Israel’s authentic Jewish character are just two modern expressions of this evil force, subconsciously aware that its end is at hand. A candle flickers brightest immediately before it is extinguished and today the world seems ready to amass itself against Jerusalem. As Israel experiences a national rebirth on our native soil, the forces of darkness are gathering their strength to wage a final war to snuff out our light. In the wake of Israel’s triumph, Edom’s depravity will be exposed and mankind’s thinking will be liberated from the cultural tyranny of two thousand years. Concepts of righteousness, morality and truth will be elevated to meanings of newer and higher significance as Israel draws back the curtains of perception and reveals HaShem’s light to all of mankind.


With Redemption Close, Is the Eternal War Between Esav and Yaakov About to End?

After two decades of marriage to Yitzḥak, Rivka’s womb is finally opened as HaShem blesses the couple with children. There is, however, something irregular about her pregnancy.

“The children agitated within her, and she said, ‘If so, why am I thus?’ And she went to inquire of HaShem. And HaShem said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.’” (BEREISHIT 25:22-23)

The Maharal of Prague teaches in his Gur Aryeh commentary that the struggle in Rivka’s womb between Yaakov and Esav was not at all influenced by their personal inclinations of good and evil, as these inclinations could not yet exist before birth. Rather, Yaakov and Esav represent cosmic forces in Creation – forces that transcend the normal course of personality development and existed within them even in their mother’s womb.

Rivka, anxious that the struggle inside her could have resulted from some iniquity on her part, went to Shem (son of Noaḥ) in order to inquire of the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Through Shem, she is informed that her unborn sons represent not only two nations, but also two conflicting ideologies – Israel and Edom – and that the struggle in the womb was the irreconcilable conflict already raging between them.

Our Sages explain (Megillah 6a) that Israel and Edom cannot be simultaneously dominant on the world stage. When one nation rises the other must fall. History has shown that not only the nations but also their cultures have forever been in conflict. And ultimately one will succeed in fully eclipsing the other.

During the early Hebrew kingdoms, when Israel was counted as a major world power, Esav’s offspring were of no major significance to mankind’s political or cultural developments (they were even subjugated under the Israeli Kingdom for many years). It was not until the second Temple period that Esav’s Roman descendants appeared on the scene as central players. Rome exerted political influence over Israel, invaded our country, destroyed our Temple, put down countless Judean revolts (albeit with great difficulty), exiled us from our soil and even sought to abolish the Hebrew character of our country. Since that time, Rome has succeeded in dominating much of the world with its culture, value system and pagan notions of morality.

To fully grasp the eternal conflict between Rivka’s sons, it is necessary to examine the conceptual essence of Edom – how it developed through time and how it clashes with Israel’s Divine Torah culture.

The essence of Esav is to appear righteous on the outside while being internally loathsome (much like a pig that boasts all external signs of kashrut yet lacks the internal requirements of cleanliness). The Roman Empire, Christianity and the modern West all stem from the impure source of Esav. From the time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, this oppressive dogma was imposed throughout the world, eventually becoming the foundation for what is now Western civilization.

Beginning as a breakaway Hebrew sect, Christianity grew in influence within Roman society and ultimately dominated much of the globe. Through powerful vehicles such as the Roman Legion and later the Crusades, this poisoned doctrine spread far and wide as an efficient means of social control. By abandoning the mitzvot of our Torah, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While superficially mimicking the Torah’s universal values, Christianity actually led the world away from a true connection to the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Under a guise of false righteousness, this man-made religion demanded an unnatural level of piety, repressing man’s basest character traits while breeding a culture of guilt and forbidden desires that built up inside of Western civilization until finally exploding into cataclysmic world wars.

Inwardly sensing his estrangement from HaShem, modern man came to reject the Church and its teachings. Religion became viewed as a prison from which humanity must escape. In seeking freedom from the oppressive chains of theology, society leaped to the opposite extreme. Man’s every passion was declared legitimate and every desire suddenly became permissible. Europeans revolted against the Church’s dominion and the culture of Esav was given new expression. The European “enlightenment” and its ideological derivatives became the natural modern outgrowths of oppressive Christianity and the next incarnation of Edomism in the world. But because Christianity had for centuries stifled the life force of Europe, base traits and suppressed rages festered without any healthy outlets. Like a volcano, they burst forth in the form of devastating global conflicts, granting release to ancient pent-up aggression.

Enlightened civilization was exposed as a mask that had for centuries concealed the same primitive passions and murderous impulses that had hallmarked ancient Rome. No enduring moral progress had been achieved. Two catastrophic wars erupted out of Europe and scorched the entire globe with the slaughter of millions.

The worldview of Edom grew powerful and expanded its influence on the civilized world, first through Roman imperialism and then through the vehicle of Christian theology. Modern civilization, although predominantly secular and often hostile to the Church, is rooted in a value system that springs from Christian dogma. In separating mankind from a healthy connection to HaShem, Christianity remains the core foundation of Western thought.

The ideology of Esav – in all of its various forms – has unquestionably been the greatest cultural influence of the past two thousand years, laying the basic framework for Western morality. While professing to be an enlightened civilization, modern society is still rampant with the profane values of Edom. Rather than refining and uplifting man’s traits, Western civilization leaves him in a primitive state. The greed and exploitation encouraged by the capitalist system, along with the devastating wars of the previous century, underscore Edom’s failure to lift man out of his deep moral prison.

But hope exists for mankind. After a long and bitter exile from our country, the Nation of Israel has begun to experience a miraculous rebirth. Returning to take possession of our homeland, fostering agricultural achievements on a seemingly impossible soil, winning miraculous victories in war and reviving our ancient language to everyday use, the Jewish people are experiencing a full national renaissance. While the physical accomplishments continue to push forward, the Torah character of our state is beginning to take root and flourish beneath the surface of Israeli society. The Jewish people are slowly separating from the contaminated value system of Edom and returning to our authentic Hebrew culture.

Israel’s national resurgence is troubling for Esav’s spiritual descendents. World leaders instinctively feel the threat of Israel’s renaissance, as well as the fate it heralds for Western civilization. The subconscious realization that Israel is ascending to become the dominant moral light in the world compels the international community to try and limit the size and strength of the Jewish state. While pressuring Jerusalem to surrender portions of the Jewish homeland and lending support to regional forces committed to Israel’s destruction, the West bombards our society with its glorified hedonism and consumerist spirit in a distracting attempt to lull the Hebrew Nation into complacency and submission. The disproportionate focus of world media attention on Israel, along with attempts by Western leaders to separate us from the cradle of Hebrew civilization, are merely tools employed by Edom to prevent the Jewish people’s full national rebirth and the moral revolution we aim to bring to mankind.

Rivka was told that “The might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.” The cosmic force of Yaakov will eclipse that of Esav. The salvation of HaShem is destined to reach mankind through the Hebrew Revolution advancing in our day. The decline of Edom’s power will bring harmony to the world as humanity is liberated from centuries of spiritual tyranny. As the redemption process continues to unfold and Israel rises to the challenges confronting our people, our Divine Torah culture will be bestowed upon man, bringing all of Creation unparalleled blessing.