277 posts categorized "Emuna News"

Tu B'Shvat: Israel's Answer to the World

Jeremiah 31.4

Tu B'Shvat this year is Sunday night, Jan. 20 - Monday, Jan. 21, 2019

The nations of the world, in protesting our right to the Land of Israel, claim that all the other religions are fine with living in a variety of countries, so why must the Jews have their own land?

Many Jews don't know the answer to this seemingly-probing question. Yet, the answer is surprisingly simple. It also explains why we have a special New Year for trees, when it's a special mitzva to plant trees all over the Land of Israel.

In his very first statement of his classic elaboration on Torah, Rashi explains prophetically that in case the nations of the world will call Israel thieves for occupying Canaanite land, then know full well that Hashem created the world and He parcels it out to whomever He chooses.

King David says that Hashem gave us the land of the Canaanite nations so that we would "guard His laws and observe His commandments" (Psalm 105:45) on this hallowed land, as the Torah instructs.

When a Jew is honored with an "aliya" to the Torah, he says two blessings - one before the Torah reading and one after the Torah reading. The latter blessing is especially interesting: "Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, for giving us the Torah of truth, and planting posterity within us; blessed are You, Hashem, who gives the Torah."

Our sages called the Torah, the "planting of posterity". Why "planting"? Trees are planted, but why Torah? And, what does this have to do with the Land of Israel?

As Rashi explains, the Land of Israel is not like any other land - it is Hashem's special Holy Land. The Torah explains an entire array of special commandments that must be observed in the Land of Israel, yet need not be observed elsewhere. Many of these commandments deal with with trees and fruit, such as orla[1], trumot[2], maaserot[3], prat and olelut[4], just to name a few.

The Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, forbids a Jew from selling a non-Jew anything that is still rooted in the soul of the Land of Israel[5]. In other words, one may sell a non-Jew an entire ton of Israel's finest grapes, but he may not sell even one lone grapevine that is planted in the holy soil of Israel. The Gemara gives two reasons for this prohibition[6]: First, since Hashem gave the Land of Israel to the Jews specifically for the purpose of performing the Torah's commandments, one may not give or sell any portion of the land, no matter how big or small. This in itself is one of the Torah's 365 negative mitzvoth known as Lo Techanem[7]. Second, by selling or giving any portion of land to a non-Jew, one is obstructing the performance of the required mitzvoth that pertain to that portion of land, which constitutes a desecration of the land's holiness.

Planting is so important in the Land of Israel, that if a person has not yet harvested the first fruits of his vineyard, he is exempt from military service[8].

With all the above in mind, what's so significant about planting trees in the Land of Israel? And why is the Torah said to be "implanted" with us?

The Prophet Jeremiah said [10]that the sign of our final redemption will be when you see Jews coming back to the Land of Israel and planting vineyards in Samaria; that's happening right now, and that's what the BDS Movement and all our other enemies are fighting against...

The Torah tells us that he who plants, especially in the hallowed Land of Israel, is he who is connected - he sends forth roots, deep in the ground. The deeper the roots, the stronger the connection. The Torah is also called the "Tree of Life"[9], for those who cling to it. In this respect, the Torah represents our spiritual clinging to Hashem - for the Jewish people are rooted in Hashem, as Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says in the Zohar - while the trees we plant in the holy Land of Israel signify our physical clinging to Hashem, to His holy land, and to His commandments. So, just as we rightfully celebrate our anniversary of Torah every year on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, we annually celebrate our New Year for trees, every year on the Fifteenth of Shvat. Happy Tu B'Shvat!


[1]    The prohibition of eating fruit from a three-year old tree or younger

[2]    Typically 2% of the yield that is given to a Cohen

[3]    10% of the yield that is given to the Levites; there are two additional types of tithes, for the poor and for the purpose of spending in Jerusalem during the time of festivals in the Holy Temple

[4]    Enabling the poor to glean fallen and lone grapes left over after the grape harvest

[5]    See Yora Deah 141:7

[6]    See Tractate Avoda Zara, 21a

[7]    Numbers 7:2, mitzva number 284 according the the Sefer Chinuch

[8]    Numbers 20:6

[9]    Proverbs 3:18

[10]    Jeremiah 31:4

Updates, Attacks on South of Israel

I'd much rather write about emuna and good health, but the 4oo+ rockets that have fallen so far in the last 24 hours in the south of Israel are quite an acute threat to our health. Here are the latest updates with illustrations:

  1. Rocket fire continues from Gaza - the image directly below shows what the skies of the Eshkol area in South Israel look like this morning. Sky 13 Nov 2018
  2. The 19-year old soldier who was critically wounded yesterday when a Hamas guided missile (courtesy of Iran) hit a bus yesterday only moments after 50 other soldiers got off it is from Ashdod.
  3. Of the dozens injured yesterday, some 15 are still in the hospital. Two women are critical, injured in the same barrage that took the life of a man in Ashkelon yesterday, killed in his sleep. The two women were rescued after courageous civil defense and first-aid personnel pulled them out of the rubble. (See image below, apartment block in Ashkelon that was hit last night). Ashkelon  13 Nov
  4. School an public gatherings from Ashdod to Beersheva, which are now on alert, have been cancelled today. Hamas is threatening to expand their bombing to Ashdod and Beersheva; meanwhile, the rocket fire has affected the radius from Gaza to Ashkelon, Ofakim and Netivot. (See adjacent map). South of Israel
  5. A missile fell in the playground of a Shaar Hanegev kindergarten this morning. Thank G-d, no one was there.

Meanwhile, things are very tense and we have no idea what will happen in the coming hours. May we hear good things from each other. Anyone who wants to help the security of Israel, and that of Jews all over the world, should stop the idiotic intramural baseless hate, right now.

Rouhani Roulette: Playing with Fire, Iranian Style

Rouhani Roulette2
While everyone's preoccupied with Labor Day weekend plans, back to school and Rosh Hashanah just around the corner, few are paying attention that the Middle East is a powder keg that could explode sky-high in a split second. The current political-military climate is almost identical to what it was in December of 1990, before the USA attacked Iraq. For those who don't know, or forgot, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August of 1990. His dream was to control all of Arabian Gulf oil and therefore cripple the US economy. In his chutzpa, he moved to control the Straits of Hormuz and so obstruct and control any Middle East oil shipments through that super vital route out of the Gulf to all points east and west. If Saddam would have been able to do that, it would have been a knife to the West's economic jugular. The USA could not let that happen, so after an ultimatum, it attacked Iraq on Jan. 15, 1991.

Iraq, having a ten-year long unsettled score with Israel, who had destroyed Saddam's nuclear reactor in 1981, was itching for revenge. As soon as America attacked Baghdad, Saddam made a huge missile attack on Israel, something we won't forget for a long time.

Fast Forward, August 28, 2018: Iran's economy is collapsing, after the US's rescinding the ridiculous nuclear treaty and renewing sanctions, real ones, that hurt. There are spontaneous protests all over Iran against Rouhani and the Ayatolla government.

Rouhani and the Ayatollas are about to lose control. They are acting now out of desperation and have done two rash things:

  1. They just now signed a defense pact with Syria, defying both Russia and the USA while daring Israel, and thereby attaining a quasi-legal license to remain entrenched in Syria.
  2. They have just now declared that they control the Straits of Hormuz and therefore the entire Persian Gulf.

Note that 20% of the entire world's oil flows through the Straits of Hormuz.

Iran wants one of two things: either peace for an ease of US sanctions or to lure the USA into an armed conflict in order to give them the justification to launch a massive missile attack against Israel, which has already been planned to the minutest detail. Don't forget, in recent months Israel has repeatedly attacked Iranian weapons stores and military bases in Syria. Iran wants revenge and so does Syria, for Israel's destroying its nuclear reactor in 2007.

Yes, Israel has a powerful army, but deterrence has no meaning to desperados; both Rouhani and Assad are desperate. Both need to redirect their disgruntled populations' attention from starvation to Jihad. It's Saddam Hussein all over again.

There's one difference, though. The Gemara tells us that the end-of-days showdown will be between Iran and the USA. We have before us, without being dramatic, the potential of World War III and an existential war for Israel. Will it happen?

It depends on two things only - teshuva and emuna. It's Elul - we have no time to waste. Our individual self-strengthening in teshuva and in emuna are critical to the security of our people and our country. This is no joke. If Rouhani wants to play Russian Roulette with the West, Hashem could put the bullet in the very first chamber, honoring Rouhani with the first squeeze of the trigger. Hashem can snap His fingers and there's no more threat against the USA and Israel, but Hashem is waiting to see what you and I do in the next few days before Rosh Hashanah. Meanwhile, say Psalm 27 twice a day with fervor. G-d bless!

Israel's Task

Rav Kook-Jlem

Let's see how well you know our great leaders, of blessed memory. Who said the following quote?

The unique strength of the Jewish people is not for self-centered nationalism, for military conquests and national aggrandizement. The eternal nature of Israel must be understood within the context of their special mission, to promulgate God's Name in the world.

Here's a hint - the same tzaddik also said this quote:

I did reveal the fundamental failure of the Zionists’ entire enterprise, namely the fact that they do not place at the top of their list of priorities the sanctity of God and His great Name, which is the power that enables Israel to survive.

1. Rebbe Yoel of Satmer

2. The Lubavitcher Rebbe

3. Rav Avraham Yitchak HaCohen Kook

4. The Chazon Ish

5. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld

Not a single one of my national religious friends got the above quiz right. Most answered #1, #4, or #5...

If you answered #3, you're right. Rubbing your eyes? So many things have been done and said in Rav Kook's name. But Rav Kook, like all our other spiritual luminaries, saw our task first and foremost as "light unto the nations." What's more, in light of the above, I don't think that Rav Kook zatza"l would have agreed to the Nationality Law, which, "aims to codify Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people" - the Torah already does that! Then again, do you think for a moment that Rav Kook would have tolerated pride parades in Jerusalem or female instructors in IDF combat units? No and no! Back to the textbooks, brothers and sisters.

After I wrote the above post, Hashem reminded me that today is the third of Elul, the yahrtzeit of Rav Kook, marking his passing 83 years ago. Please light a candle for HaRav Avraham Yitzchak ben Shlomo Zalman HaCohen. Rav Kook's love for Eretz Yisroel and for every single Jew knew no bounds. May his saintly and blessed memory intercede in our behalf, amen! 

Battle for Air Supremacy: IAF F-16s vs. Hamas Kites

Wheat Field Israel Fire Gaza
It's so absurd, so surreal, so astonishing and so pitiful that it makes you laugh; that is, unless you're a Jewish Israeli, for if you are, you've gotta cry...

The world's most daring, most highly-sophisticated and most combat-proven Air Force - Israel's - cannot guarantee the security of our skies, as the fresh new fires in the south of Israel attest. The Air Force can't stop the incendiary kites that Hamas teenagers are setting free in the breezes blowing off the Mediterranean. The David's Sling and Iron Dome missile defense systems - the best in the world - are powerless against the Hamas kiddie kites, as thousands of burn acres of fields and forests, painstaking grown in the Western Negev desert, bear witness to (above image).

Elections are coming soon in Israel. The Government knows that it better return security to the south, or they'll lose a chunk of votes to the opposition. So where the IDF has failed, they've been grovelling behind the scenes asking the Egyptians to mediate a deal which is complete capitulation to Hamas. The Hamas kids have succeeded where terrorist rocket barrages have not.

Neither the Government nor the IDF gets the message. Nobody in the religious parties bothered to explain it to them. Sitting in the upholstered seats that are ever so comfortable, they continue to drink coffee around the Government's mahogany table and didn't say a world about the defilement of Jerusalem or Hashem's Torah that we protested last week. The Government of Israel thinks that its Nationality Law makes it kosher, but that's no more kosher than a kosher-style hot dog that they sell in Mets' Stadium. Hashem sends the incendiary kites and balloons as a wake-up call for the Government to realize that it's surreal, supernatural and absurd for the IDF and IAF to be rendered so ineffective by terrorist kiddies. So what do they do? The Government et al try to circumvent Hashem and cave in to Hamas. That won't work. It never did and never will.

This coming Shabbat is the beginning of the teshuva-month of Elul. It's time for national teshuva. Government capitulation to terror as a means of trying to circumvent Hashem, as so painfully proven by the disastrous Disengagement of 2005, is always a mistake. May Hashem help and torpedo the surrender to evil, from within and from without.

What do we learn from this? Hedonism, self-interest and self-indulgence are incompatible with self-assessment. And it doesn't matter whether the hedonist has a kippa on his head or not; the only difference between the religious hedonist and the secular one is whether or not there's a kosher certificate on the wall of the fancy resort where they're spending the weekend. Meanwhile, the firefighters in the south of Israel are spending their weekends fighting fires in fields and trying to save what's left to save in southern Israel's fields, forests and farms.

"My people don't open their eyes" (Isaiah 1:3). We need emuna more than ever.

Misplaced Pride

Lost Ship
One of the proudest Jews I ever met was Menachem Begin, our Prime Minister from 1977 to 1983. Life was different in Israel then. I would frequently and freely visit friends in Gaza City, Jazi and Ibrahim, whose family owned an ice-cream factory. My Druze friend Suleiman from Daliat el Carmel and I would often go hiking together. My bosom buddy was Naif from the Arab village of Tira, east of Kfar Saba. In my reserve unit, a very close comrade and one of the best medics in our unit was Ronnie, who was gay; nobody made a big deal about it and he didn't flaunt it. As long as you did your duty the best way possible, nobody cared. Ronnie, by the way, got along great with our battalion rabbi, Captain Yoni from Bnei Brak, who was all love and brotherhood without trying to push any agenda on anyone. He was there if you needed him.

How different things have become. Menachem Begin was a proud Jew but his pride was not at the expense of any minorities. In fact, because he didn't feel like a 2nd-rate human, and because of his lack of a Jewish-inferiority complex, Begin was courageous enough to engineer a peace treaty with Egypt that has lasted to and through this day. Menachem Begin was the one who uplifted Sephardi Jews from their second-rate status under the elitist secular Ashkenazi left.

In biblical Hebrew, an "uplifted heart" means arrogance, the negative type of pride. The Torah warns, "Lest your heart be uplifted, and you forget Hashem" (Deuteronomy 8:14). In other words, as soon as a person is arrogant in any way, he or she forgets Hashem. As such the Gemara says in the Name of Hashem (Tractate Arachin 16b), "The person with the uplifted heart and I cannot dwell in the same universe." Wherever there's arrogance, Hashem is not there...

Is all pride arrogance? Of course, not. When the Tanach describes King Yehoshafat, who strengthened himself in emuna, scorned the ways of his errant father King Asa and returned to the ways of his fifth-generation great grandfather King David, it says, "And he uplifted his heart in the ways of Hashem" (Chronicles II, 17:6). In Judaism, "kosher pride" is the pride we have in observing Hashem's commandments. All other pride, as the Gemara and Midrash say, is like stealing the King's robe, for all pride belongs to Hashem.

Now we can understand how without the values of Torah, the Government of Israel and its institutions have become a lost ship with lost pride. How so? Rather than taking pride in serving Hashem, the government is taking pride in going against Hashem. The IDF has lost its mind and lost its way, as subservient to the government. Why are religious combat soldiers, whose emuna is their strongest weapon, forced to listen to transgender lectures? Then, the IDF wonders why it's losing deterrence, and that incendiary balloons are now reaching Beer Sheva. They don't get it. IDF values have so eroded that service personnel have been freely uploading top secrets to social media. In my day, our post cards were censored. Where's internal security in the IDF? The same place that modesty is - out the window. In this day of warped values and mixed gender units that the Torah also warns against (see Deuteronomy 23:15), there's no discipline and no loyalty. The Divine Presence cannot be in such a place; I say this with extreme pain - it's my country and it's the army I gave almost three decades of service to...

Last week, we had a gala Sefer Torah inauguration parade through the streets of our neighborhood (See post below). No one would dream of flaunting our lifestyle by having the parade down at Ashdod's bikini beach. 

So a person chooses a gay or transgender lifestyle, that's his or her business, just like it is if he eats BLT sandwiches. Do what you want behind closed doors. Ultimately, whether people want to believe it or not, we are all totally accountable for everything we do. But why flaunt a lifestyle that the Torah calls an abomination through the streets of Jerusalem? Why must our children be exposed to this public debauchery debacle? No wonder it's called the Pride Parade, because it is only possible because the organizers and the government that allows it have forgotten Hashem.

Another sad indication of the government's spiritual amnesia is the needless Nationality Law. We don't don't need the Government's definition of the Land of Israel - the Torah does that already, and we don't need the Government's help. The silly law has angered and alienated minorities and gives the secular courts the power to define and overrule Torah. Once again, this is case of sorely misplaced pride that both threatens to further uproot Torah and destroy relations with our Druze and Arab citizens.

In case I haven't made myself crystal clear, I vehemently protest the Pride Parade planned for this coming Thursday in our holy city of Jerusalem. And, I vehemently protest any erosion of minority rights in Israel.

Without the Torah, which keeps our country anchored an on course, the government becomes shipwrecked, not washed up on an island, but in the middle of an arid wilderness. Please Hashem, we need Moshiach now! 

Moses's Rock, Miriam's Well, the 3 Weeks and the Recent Earthquakes

Epicenter Earthquakes July 2018

Miriam's Well July 9 2018
For years, veteran Galilee fisherman have known that there's a small area northeast of Tiberias that you avoid; it's dangerous and it has very strong undercurrents.

For years, experts have been baffled how so many experienced swimmers have drowned in the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, which by Swiss or American standards, would be no more than a medium-to-small-size docile lake whose waves at their choppiest barely reach a foot tall.

Since the 4th of July a week ago, there have been over a dozen earthquakes in Israel. Nine felt earthquakes, those 3.0 on the Richter scale and higher, have been smack in the middle of the Kinneret, all revolving around the earthquake epicenter (see above graphics), which is the exact place of the great Syrian-African Rift that separates between Asia and Africa. This is also a potential center of volcanic activity, as bear witness all the volcanic rock that surrounds Kinneret. In fact, the old houses in Tiberias, Capernaum and all around the Sea of Galilee are built of that familiar black volcanic rock.

All week long, I've been asking myself what the message Hashem is conveying by way of the earthquakes. This has been in my prayers as well.

This morning, after Shacharit prayers, I had a strange urge to run home and open up a Chumash. I did, and my Book of Numbers opened up to Chapter 20, that tells about Moses hitting the rock to elicit water in the desert instead of talking to the rock. The holy Ramban (Nachmanides) says that this rock was Miriam's Well that accompanied the Jewish People for forty years in the desert. Rashi, in his elaboration of the Gemara in Pesachim 54a agrees with the Ramban and says that the rock Moses hit was Miriam's well. Comes along the Yerushalmi Gemara, tractate Ketubot 67a, and tells us that after the Jewish People came into the Land of Israel, Hashem deposited and concealed Miriam's well in Kinneret, off the coast of Tiberias. This fact was later substantiated by the holy Ariza'l and his prime disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital.

So you see, Moses didn't have to hit the rock. The rock, inasmuch as it was Miriam's well, was ready to flow forth with sufficient water to quench the thirst of an entire nation, if he would only have spoken to it as Hashem requested. 

Hold it - this is getting much more exciting. The same rock that provided water for all the Jewish People for forty years in the desert became the rock that Moses was punished for. If you look at Rashi's commentary on Numbers Ch. 21, verses 15-16, you'll see that the same benevolent rock not only triggered an earthquake that led to the death of the Amorites who hid in the mountain crevices waiting to ambush the Jewish People on their way to Israel. Not only did the rock trigger the tremor, but its water later washed up the remains of the Amorites to show the Jews the miracle that Hashem did for them.

We see an amazing principle fact here: the rock, which is also Miriam's well, can be a source of life or a source of destruction.

It can be a source of abundance, of healing waters, or the epicenter of destructive earthquakes. 

What does all this have to do with the Three Weeks? The Yerushalmi Gemara in Berachot 64a says that Elijah the Prophet told Rabbi Nehorai that when Hashem gazes down at earth and sees all the plush stadiums and theaters, yet His Holy Temple is still destroyed, His roar causes earthquakes. That same Gemara lists two other causes of earthquakes - failure to give sufficient charity and homosexuality. The Babylonian Talmud in Berachot 59a gives a slightly different reason, but also connected to the Three Weeks: when Hashem sees that His children are still dispersed among the nations, He sheds two tears in the sea and this causes earthquakes.

No wonder we read the Torah portion of Chukat, which talks about Miriam's well and Moses with the rock, a week before the 17th of Tammuz and the start of the Three Weeks. No wonder the string of earthquakes, which has the whole north of Israel losing sleep at night, began with the Three Weeks.

Meanwhile, the south of Israel is still burning. Rather than making emuna and teshuva a national priority, our Nero-like leaders, rather than taking the earthquakes and the chance of a "big one" on the way as experts are warning, they're worried about sending an Israeli spacecraft to the moon. I truly wish I were joking, but I'm not.

Would you rather wait for Ezekiel's prophecy to manifest itself? "For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken: Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel" (Ezekiel 38:19).

I can only imagine the boo-hoo and bellyaching that this post will elicit, but that's too bad. People argue with Emuna News because it bursts the bubble of their comfort zone, while Torah, emuna and teshuva take a second place (or no place at all) to chatrooms and social media. But, you're not arguing with me, incredulous brothers and skeptical sisters: I've listed all my sources above. All I did here was to connect the dots. Go argue with our sages - Elijah the Prophet, Ezekiel the Prophet, Rebbe Yochanan, Rava, Rav Ashi, Rabina, Rashi, the Ramban and the Ariza'l, and that's not all...

Guess what will happen when Moshiach will come and reveal the exact place of Miriam's well: people with an incurable and terminal diseases will immerse themselves in its waters (one source says a mere sprinkle will suffice) and emerge with perfect health. Even the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Rama, Orach Chaim 299:10) mentions the healing powers of Miriam's well.

So what do we prefer, the lust and folly of this world together with earthquakes, or emuna and teshuva with the abundance of Miriam's well? Hashem is showing us that the choice is ours; He of course commands us and wants us to make the right choice (see Deuteronomy 30:19).