Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Sun Rises Over Yerushalayim

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
In his introduction to sefer Shemos, the Ramban refers to it as the Sefer Hageulah. The parshiyos of Shemos recount our subjugation in Mitzrayim, the miraculous exodus, Kabbolas HaTorah and then, finally, the construction of the Mishkon. These are all parts of a process. The Jewish people were at their lowest point, with seemingly no escape, and then, with the help of Hashem, they triumphed.
Today, as we find ourselves in golus, we wait for the next step in the process leading us to redemption. If we are attentive, we find indications that we are making progress toward exodus and geulah.
Last week, my wife and I traveled to Eretz Yisroel. We happily went through the airport lines, the security checks, and the commotion at the gate, as travelers waited to head home to the greatest land on earth.
We boarded the flight and headed to our seats, only to find that they were not together. There was an Israeli man sitting next to my wife. I offered him my aisle seat, assuming that he would have no problem switching with me, one aisle seat for another, so that I could sit near my spouse.
It didn’t work out that way.
The hard-edged Israeli with disgust in his eyes saw me, a chareidi with a beard, suit and tie, and shook his head.
A kind American woman seated nearby offered to switch seats and the incident was over. But it wasn’t. I took my seat, buckled up, and the airplane rose into the sky. I wanted to go over to the Israeli and talk to him. I wanted to tell him what it means to be a Jew. What it would mean to have love in his heart. What he is missing in life. But I didn’t bother. I was afraid that he would cause a scene, so I kept quiet.
I got off the plane without telling him what was in my heart.
I wonder why the secular liberal Israelis hate us so much. Why are they so like the American leftists, who can’t get over Donald Trump’s victory and continue to proclaim him as illegitimate? They prefer to divide the country than come together. They’d rather wallow in hatred and self-pity than face reality.
Sanctimonious liberals seek rights for everyone except the religious and those on the right. We are minimized, vilified, and shunted to the back of the bus. Because we follow the moral creed of the Torah. Because we are decent, honest, G-d-fearing people.
All throughout Barack Obama’s term in office, the media and politicians admonished everyone to work together in unity. Whoever didn’t was guilty of racism and was deemed unpatriotic. That has all changed with the recent election. Obama will be ever-present, remaining in DC, inciting division, and so will many others. Their dishonesty and intolerance will propel them to lie and engage in shrill threats to keep alive the anti-Trump madness.
The Democrat party has been decimated and lost dozens of congressional seats, which you wouldn’t know from following the media. The media and Democrat leaders, such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, create the fictitious narrative that they represent the majority, while Trump, his agenda and supporters are in the minority.
Please don’t fall for it. Stop kowtowing to the left and those who advocate on behalf of the deviants, causing harm to our community.
And so it is in Israel. From following the media, you would think that the religious community is an anti-social group, universally derided. Interactions with leftist Israelis are too often uncomfortable.
It is upsetting.
Then I read an article in Ha’aretz that was somewhat comforting. Shlomo Sand writes: “Zionism as a national movement that rebelled against historical Judaism was mainly atheistic…” After some time, “Beginning with the first stages in the consolidation and settlement or the Zionist movement, it was forced to meticulously sort and thoroughly nationalize some of the religious beliefs in order to turn them into nation-building myths.”
But that didn’t work out too well. Firstly, since they denied religion, Eretz Yisroel, for them, was not a holy land given to the Jewish people by G-d, and Yerushalayim was not a holy city that housed the Bais Hamikdosh. Consequently, everything that made the Promised Land special dissipated.
The atheists also had a problem identifying what a Jew is. That wasn’t as important pre-’67, when Israel was a small, nascent country. After the Six Day War, in 1967, as the country grew, Sand says, “the justifications for the appetite for renewed settlement also relied less on the Zionist demand for independent sovereignty and far more on the biblical idea of the Promised Land. That’s why it is no coincidence that the clerical establishment became increasingly inflated at the same time.”
And finally, “The synthesis of Zionism and socialism has disintegrated totally, making way for a winning symbiosis of religion and strong ethno-nationalism. For pseudo-secular Zionists – and not only for them – this new situation is difficult and oppressive. But…they do not have answers to the identity problems and contradictions that have been part of Israeli society since its inception.”
Therefore, the secularists will have no choice but to continue to rely on religious explanations, theory, laws and customs in order to give their country an argument for existence as a Jewish state.
And that worries them. They despise us and “our” religion. They despise our religiosity and the way we lead our lives, but they cannot exist as a Jewish country without us and what we stand for.
Rav Moshe Shapiro would relate that when he was a child, Rav Eizik Sher once asked him, “Zukt mir mein kind, tell me, farvoss zennen alleh Yidden brudder, why are all Jews brothers?”
The Slabodka rosh yeshiva answered, “Veil mir hubben ein Tatte, because we have one Father.”
I read the article and understood that this is the paradox of that country, of life, of our people.
That man on the airplane hates us because he needs us. He knows that because we are brothers, he has a claim to his piece of land. And that upsets him. The argument he uses to justify his existence in his country would seem to also obligate him to live life differently, so he gets angry.
The Gemara in Maseches Kesubos (66) relates that Rabi Yochanan was stopped by a hungry young woman.  “Rebbi, please give me food,” she pleaded. She was so starved that she was picking through animal waste in a bid to find kernels of nutrition. Rabi Yochanan learned that she was a daughter of the fabulously wealthy Nakdimon ben Gurion, who had been very generous to the less fortunate back in the good days.
“Ashreichem Yisroel,” he called out, “praised are you, Am Yisroel. Bezman she’osim retzono shel Makom, when you do the will of Hashem, ein kol umah... no nation can triumph over you. But if you don’t, bezman she’ein osim retzono shel Makom, mosrom beyad umah shefeila, you are given over to a lowly nation. And not just that, you are less than the animals of that nation.”
The obvious question is why he considers how low we can fall praiseworthy. The meforshim explain that his term “ashreichem” refers to the fact that we are a nation outside the realm of nature. When we rise, no one is higher than us, and when we fall, no one is lower than us, because we don’t belong to the regular order of things.
My encounter, while unpleasant, was a perfect introduction to my short trip. It was a welcome to the land of paradox, where light and dark exist side by side.
Eretz Yisroel is blessed with layers of incredible chein. It has a special flavor, beneath which lies a fierce struggle for its character and the hearts of its people.
You see it everywhere.
We arrived Wednesday night. On Thursday, we went up north to see Rav David Abuchatzeira, a man who seems to make the extraordinary seem ordinary and the supernatural appear natural.
He stands on his feet for hours at a time, greeting every person who comes to see him with care, concern, love and respect. He seems to look into the heart and soul of each Jew who appeals to him and find the right words and brochah for them. Heir to a royal rabbinic tradition, he exudes the sanctity and purity that have given that dynasty worldwide respect. I always leave his home feeling richer than when I entered.
On the way, we stopped at a place called Mivtzar Afeik, a town conquered by Yehoshua after entry into Eretz Yisroel. Later, Hordus built a palace there for his father, Antipatrus.
The place lies in ruins. Archeologists dug up remnants of the town Yehoshua conquered. It is fascinating to view a building that stood at the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun over 3,000 years ago. It brings Nach alive. It portrays us as the eternal people with an eternal connection to Eretz Yisroel. A Roman cardo lies nearby in ruins, barely recognizable but for a few broken columns and paving stones.
It tells us so much about who we are and who we have never stopped being.
Many countries subjugated us and thought that they would rule over us forever. Many more had advice for us throughout the ages. They are all gone. Their memories are gone except to scholars of extinct peoples. We are here and we flourish, though we continue to be reviled and recipients of much advice.
As we traveled and saw road signs for Chadeira, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see the work of the Fund for French Children. We pulled into the town and made our way to a school where the Fund supports efforts to educate and integrate olim from France.
The Chinuch Atzmai school where the group set up shop is ultra-modern and beautiful. Although we had no appointment, the staff was very welcoming and happy to give us a tour of the facilities. They were not only confident and proud of their school, they were also very competent. The French children we spoke to were quite impressive. Interestingly, when asked if they miss France, they all replied in the negative. They love it in Israel. “I’m never going back there,” was a common refrain. They are picking up Hebrew and making new friends as they learn about Torah, Yahadus, and other subjects.
Pakod pokadeti, from father to son, a tradition passed down that we all have a destiny.
It was comforting to see those children and hear their sweet voices, knowing that they will grow up to be shomrei Torah umitzvos. They will be part of the eternal chain stretching back to Yehoshua, and just as he overcame challenges to ensure that the Jewish people would be able to take root in the Holy Land, so will these children of France. With the help of generous Jews, these children are being placed on the path stretching back to the avos and forward to the days of le’asid lavo.
The journey through the glorious north continued with a visit to Rosh Hanikrah, at the northern tip of Israel. Mountains jut out along the sea and the waves whip at them. Throughout the ages, the water has etched out grottos along the cliffs. You stand there and hear the waves crashing against the grottos and lapping at the walls of the grotto caves. You know that although it is imperceptible, the water is breaking through rock. With very little imagination, you think of the people assumed lost and those whose minds seem blocked by walls of stone. And you know that one day, they, too, will be reached and the Torah will permeate their beings.
The waves of water are the good people at that school, and at so many schools and kiruv centers and shuls, working steadily and lovingly to pierce hearts in which the flame is near hidden. The learning of Torah continues on a remarkable scale, flooding the country with kedushah.
We read in this week’s parsha of Hashem’s promise to the Jewish people, using five leshonos of geulah to convey that they will be redeemed from the burden of Mitzrayim. Fantastically, the posuk says that when Moshe conveyed the promise of freedom, the enslaved Jews refused to accept his words of comfort. This is attributed to “kotzer ruach” and “avodah koshah,” a shortness of breath brought on by hard work (Shemos 6:2-9).
The Ohr Hachaim (ibid.) explains that the cause of their inability to accept Moshe’s words, that they had been waiting centuries to hear, was that they were lacking in Torah, which expands the hearts of man.
Those who are devoid of Torah lack the ability to accept the words of Hashem, as well as thoughts and concepts that could greatly improve their welfare.
If we encounter sad people, such as my brother from the airplane, don’t misjudge their anger and bitterness. We know who they really are. 
We have seen their country, their land of coarse sand and hard white stone, and the wall of secrets and tears, and we know where they come from. The waves continue lapping at the stones, eventually breaking through. The words of Torah enter and melt hearts.
I awoke early Sunday morning to leave for home. I looked out at the beautiful sight of the sun rising above the holy city, knowing that within minutes, its golden reflection would brighten the city as it came to life. I wanted to photograph the magnificent scene, but upon lifting my camera, I noticed a crane blocking the image of the sun.
Then I realized that the crane wasn’t blocking the sun. There in my lens was the portrayal of life today in the holy city and Holy Land, namely light, life and growth.
May the sun continue to shine, may the construction continue, may the holiness increase, may the Torah widen hearts, and may water pierce the stones until the day we merit the realization of the fifth lashon of geulah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Era, Same Goal

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The opening posuk of Seder Shemos marks the end of one era and the start of another. “V’eileh shemos bnei Yisroel habo’im Mitzrayma.” On the surface, the posuk addresses the details of the move from one country to another. However, in Torah, there are always many meanings beyond the surface. It stands to reason that there are depths to the fact that seventy people began a period of golus in Mitzrayim.
While the word shemos itself is defined as names, and thus the posuk tells the names of the people who arrived with Yaakov, the Baal Haturim and the Levush see the word shemos as a reference to the obligation of studying the weekly parsha. The first letters of shemos stand for shnayim mikra v’echad targum.
What they appear to be saying is that the halacha to review the parsha twice each week and its Targum translation once is tied to the parsha of golus.
Jews in golus struggle to find their footing. The flame of Yerushalayim lies in their hearts along with memories of a glorious past and dreams of a splendid future. The Jew tries to adapt to living a golus life without letting go of the sublime ideas that maintain our nation.
Reviewing the weekly parsha, studying the timeless words and lessons of the pesukim, reminds us of our identity, who we are, where we are, and where we want to be. The Targum translation, which helps us understand what is happening around us. Over the years, the Targum has been Aramaic and Arabic, Spanish and French, Polish and Russian, Lithuanian and Hungarian, German and English, and so many other languages.
We study the Chumash and translate its messages for our times, into a language we can understand. For no matter the year or place, our priorities must never change.
The country in which we find ourselves is undergoing change. One president is leaving and a new one is coming. The United States is going through a period of a new dawn. We have to appreciate the change and respect the fact that adjustments will need to be made.
We do not want someone who will promote the socialist, leftist, anti-religious, anti-moral agenda. By voting for Donald Trump, the people proclaimed that they have had it with the lies, the leftists, and those who redefine marriage. We have had it with the party that spent the past eight years embarrassing and threatening Israel.
We are an am kadosh. We stand for something. And what we stand for is not corruption, immorality, or the cynical alignment for temporary financial gain with those who lower the declining moral level of the country even further. There is a culture war being fought in this country. We have to decide which side we are on. We cannot be cavalier when it comes to our beliefs.
The vision and principles of the person who will occupy the Oval Office really do make a difference. His position on Eretz Yisroel is important. His plan for the economy is important to us. We need a viable economy to make ends meet, to pay tuition, to support mosdos and to help others. We all know too many sad stories of households where space and food are lacking. And besides, it is true that the president and politicians really do impact the moral climate of the country.
Just this week, the United States participated, along with 70 other countries, in a so-called peace conference in Paris, designed strictly to pressure and embarrass Israel. The country many have depended upon to shoulder the truth joined in stabbing Israel.
In times like these, we have to show that we are not apathetic. We have to demonstrate that we are not corrupt, we have principles, and we are not pragmatists. We don’t need those two-faced politicians addressing us at our dinners for our shuls, mosdos and yeshivos. We have had enough of those. We don’t need another guy coming around mouthing some nice words about Yiddishkeit and how he will always stand by Israel and then running off and waving rainbow flags at the parades of those who seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian principles of morality upon which this great nation has been built. We don’t need another politician who troops down our streets trolling for dollars and then goes to those who seek to destroy the moral fiber of our community, fighting the new president’s cabinet and judicial appointments. We have no use for people who supposedly represent us, but continuously vote against the best interests of our community.
We want to maintain traditional values, we want jobs, we want responsible tax policy, and we want less governmental intrusion.
We don’t owe anyone an apology that we are not from the generation of Jews who incorrectly felt indebted to FDR. We have no allegiance to the party of Carter, Clinton, Sanders, Schumer, and Obama.
There are always those who say that we can’t be so doctrinaire. We have to bend halacha here and there, they contend. We must be more welcoming, more forgiving, more objective, more accepting and more tolerant of those who have chosen the wrong path. We’ve got to reach out and conform to all.
How wrong they are. We must remember never to capitulate.
We need to promote people with depth, knowledge, leadership and communication skills who can identify problems, work on solutions, and convince people to follow them. We should demand intelligence and competence. We can no longer afford the same old sound bites. Tough times require tough leaders, tough answers to tough questions, and real solutions to real problems. We have to demand better leadership in our world. We must find people who have the achrayus to think every issue through thoroughly before registering an opinion, writing articles and going places. Askonus takes hard work and strong ideals; leaders must know what they stand for, communicate and articulate a vision, and defend and fight for the truth.
Meanwhile, we look at the people promoted by the media as leaders and we gasp. One of the heroes on the news cycle leading up to the inauguration was John Lewis, a Georgia politician who found sudden relevance in attacking Donald Trump and the legitimacy of his electoral victory. For good measure, he announced that he would not participate in the inauguration.
How nice! A voice of courage and conviction, a renowned civil rights leader, a crusader for justice and equal rights. The mainstream media rushed to band around this new hero and voice of truth.
Nothing against the good congressman, but when was the last time you heard his name? When was the last time anyone spoke of anything heroic this gentleman did since the March on Selma? Has he spoken in defense of the beleaguered country of Israel? Has he spoken up against arming Iran? When did he hold a press conference to bemoan the rising number of deaths in Chicago?
Last week, hearings were held in various senate committees for some of Trump’s nominees. Senator Jeff Sessions faced hostile questioning from Democrat colleagues, who sought to paint him as a Klan-sympathizing racist. To those of us who have been following the Rubashkin saga, their portrayals of the Justice Department stung. Under Obama, the department was deaf to any request for review of the case. All doors were shut. They didn’t care about justice, their concern was politics.
And so, we celebrate this new era in America as an end to eight years of hypocrisy and smug phoniness. We welcome a new president and pray for his success. We are grateful for this malchus shel chesed, the most pleasant exile our people has experienced. We should not take that for granted. Within the past month, we saw how tenuous our relationship was with the past administration and that as much as we feel safe and secure in this home, there is always a cause for anxiety. We pray for the peace and prosperity of this country, and that the president and his administration succeed in their stated goal of making America great again.
We look at the change in guard with hope, but we never forget our history.
Moshe Rabbeinu was the first leader of our people. After his childhood in the royal palace, he identified with the pain of his people. His first venture out of the palace walls that the Torah records enabled him to confront the evil of slavery. He also came face-to-face with the problem his people suffered, and the result of that encounter sent him into a personal exile to Midyan. From living as a prince, he was relegated to the life of a shepherd.
His introduction to leadership came in a dramatic encounter.
As he was leading the sheep to pasture on Har Chorev, he noticed a bush on fire. Yet there was something strange going on. The branches would not be consumed and the fire would not go out.
He approached the bush and stopped walking. There was something going on. There was a relevance and power to the bush. There seemed to be something supernatural going on.
Moshe bent closer to investigate and felt that there was a lesson here for him. He perceived a latent sanctity to the sparks.
Hashem called out to him from the bush and told him that, in fact, he was standing on holy ground. Hashem directed him to return to Egypt and lead His people to freedom in The Promised Land.
What was it that caused Hashem to appoint Moshe leader of the Jewish people?
Moshe saw the bush aflame and recognized holiness. Although he was in a desert, with nothing around, he was searching for kedusha wherever he went. When he came upon this spot, he froze in place. Perhaps he had come across the kedusha he was searching for. In the darkness of a strange land, in midst of the vacuity of a desert, he found it.
This is what identified him as the person who can lead the children of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov from the morass of Mitzrayim. As we exist in golus, the ability to differentiate fact from fiction and holy from vile is paramount. The need to constantly be on the lookout for kedusha and learn from daily encounters is what keeps us on the path to redemption.
Throughout our history, our leaders have been able to perceive holiness where others saw emptiness. They saw holy sparks where others saw darkness, and they found glory in a lowly bush with no chance for growth.
In golus, there are times when people want to give up. They think it’s over. We’ll never crawl out of this, they believe; we will never be able to bounce back. They see people who have erred and give up on them. They think that nothing good will ever come from them. They are burnt out. Yet, the good and the great among us see sparks of holiness waiting to be lit. They see a soul on fire, suppressed but looking for a way to break out.
Rav Elimelech Biderman told the story of a man in his seventies who recently arrived at the home of a fellow Tel Avivian, who heads a Yerushalayim yeshiva for baalei teshuvah. He said that he wishes to repent for his secular life and join the yeshiva. The man told his story.
“I was but a young child when my father was killed towards the end of the war. My mother, who went through the horrors of that period, came to Israel after the war and made her way to Tel Aviv, where she gave up religion.
“She heard of the nearby home for orphaned children. I was her only possession, but she wanted me to succeed, so she sent me there to be fed, taken care of and educated. After a short time, she came to visit me. To her horror, she discovered that she had sent me to a religious place headed by the Ponovezher Rov.
“She immediately packed up my things and took me to her tiny run-down apartment in the slums of Tel Aviv. That was the end of religion for me.
“The Ponovezher Rov would regularly visit ‘his children’ in the bais yesomim. When he heard that my mother had taken me home, he immediately called for a taxi and came knocking on our door. He identified himself as the father of the orphans. My mother opened the door and really let him have it. She told him all she had gone through during the war. She was done with religion. Nothing to talk about. No matter how much the Rov pleaded with her and tried to calm her, it was no use. Her son was not going to any place that would teach him Torah.
“The Rov asked for a chair. He sat down and began wailing. He cried over a boy who would be lost. What a tragedy. He couldn’t bear the thought of it. He cried and cried. Finally, after ten minutes, he picked himself up, said goodbye, and left. This happened in 1950.”
Fast forward to 2016. The man sat with the rosh yeshiva and told him that for the past sixty plus years, he couldn’t forget those tears. Finally, he had enough and here he was. “Bring me back,” he said. “I want to do teshuvah.”
The Ponovezher Rov was one of those in every generation who possess the neshomah of Moshe. They perceive sparks where others see hopelessness. They give everything they have to bring home a wayward sheep.
That boy had a spark. Every boy has a spark. Every mother has a spark. There is always room for hope. Never give up. Never say they are too far gone.
“Hazorim b’dimah.” He tearfully planted a seed. Sixty years later, that seed sprouted. Sixty years later, the spark flamed up.
The bush would not be consumed and was finally at peace.
As we enter this new era, let us never lose sight of our goal. Despite all that goes on, through joy and pain, never forget who we are and what our goal is. Let us remember that we are on a path to redemption. We are sparks being drawn magnetically to a great flame. The flame atop the mizbei’ach in the rebuilt Bais Hamkidosh.
B’miheirah b’yomeinu, amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rav Moshe Schapiro zt”l

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
If someone were to ask: How does a talmid chochom look? How does he walk? How does he talk? How does he sound? How does he present himself? I would think of Rav Moshe Shapiro and paint a picture of him.
Everything about him spoke of greatness molded by Torah and gedolei Torah. He personified and represented the immaculate, impeccable, flawless tzuras ha’odom. He carried himself with perfect dignity, yet spoke to people with fabulous humility. He embodied the gadlus ha’odom of Slabodka and the atzilus and discipline of Kelm. His knowledge was prodigious. He seemed to know and remember everything.
How do you describe Rav Moshe to someone who never met him or heard him speak? You open Pirkei Avos and you study it. Mishnah after Mishnah describes Rav Moshe. Our Rav Moshe. The one who walked among us. The one who just left us. And we are bereft without the huge light that exposed and opened the Torah for so many.
Rav Moshe gave hundreds, if not thousands, of shiurim on Pirkei Avos and understood it on so many levels you never thought fathomable until you heard his shiurim and studied them.
And studied him.
He opened the da’as of his talmidim to the seforim and teachings of the Vilna Gaon and Rav Chaim Volozhiner; Rav Tzadok Hakohein and the Izhbitzer; the Maharal and the Ramchal; the Rambam and the Ramban; Abaye and Rava. In his shiur room, they came alive. Their words were alive. Their teachings were alive. As Rav Moshe's thoughts meshed with theirs, you were wowed and overcome.
Once, while delivering a shiur to us at Yeshiva Bais Binyomin of Stamford, CT, on a complicated calculation in Maseches Yevamos, Rav Moshe suddenly stopped speaking. The silence hung in the room as the talmidim waited for their rebbi to continue. Rav Moshe appeared lost in thought, concentrating on the cheshbon he was in the middle of working out.
Suddenly, he spoke.
“Rabbosai!” he exclaimed. “You should know that un Torah, without Torah, iz gornit, there is nothing!”
Then he returned to explaining the sugya.
That was Rav Moshe. Torah was everything to him. It was his world. It was the entire world. He was so enraptured by Torah that it took over his entire being, transformed him and left him in a state of ecstasy.
With one sentence, he invested a roomful of bochurim with a lifelong sense of appreciation for the power and meaning of every line of Gemara and each diyuk in Rashi, lifting the curtain and allowing them to see reality.
A friend was at a bus stop in Yerushalayim when he saw Rav Moshe off in the distance walking to the stop for his ride home to Bayit Vegan. The 21 bus that he needed pulled up at the stop, while Rav Moshe was still some distance away. Rav Moshe saw the bus and knew that his chances of making it were slim if he didn’t hurry.
My friend watched as Rav Moshe continued walking at the pace at which he always walked. Like he was a prince. He walked like a prince. He carried himself like a prince.
The bus driver noticed the respectable person headed for the stop and waited for him, but that is beside the point. Rav Moshe carried himself with an awareness of who he was and what he represented. With that bigger image in front of him, missing the bus was not the deciding factor in how he would walk. Though humble enough to travel by bus, the significance of his role and what he represented defined his actions, not the smaller issue of the inconvenience of missing a bus.
The embodiment of Kelm, Slabodka and the Torah itself.
Rav Moshe was an ish emes. He was all about the truth. Suffused with Toras emes, his measure was truth.
A kiruv activist once asked him how to sugarcoat something for people new to religion. He told the person that the only way to succeed is with the truth. Fiction won't accomplish anything lasting. Nor will stupidity, he hastened to add, lovingly and with his famous twinkle.
To him, sheker and shtus were closely related.
He didn’t get sucked in by the sheker of this world, and neither should we. His search for the truth, combined with his genius, brought him to unique heights in limud and harbotzas Torah.
Rav Moshe taught that there are two levels of knowledge. Human intelligence occupies a defined spectrum and is governed by certain parameters that limit thought. A person whose thinking is in the physical realm of this world has a choice: either think the way humans do or be a fool. However, as much as an intelligent person thinks, he is confined and can never rise above the here and now of olam hazeh.
We can choose whether to remain within the limited realm and knowledge a person can attain using human abilities, or to raise ourselves to a higher level of da’as, knowledge achieved through Torah (and nevuah).
A person can raise himself above the boundaries that govern human thought. It is through bechirah that a person can choose to accept upon himself a much higher level of thought and knowledge, achievable through attaching oneself to the Torah, which is min haShomayim and thus limitless.
One who attaches himself to Torah min haShomayim is the freest person. As the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (6:2) says, there is no person freer than he who studies Torah.
Although Rav Moshe didn’t say this, perhaps we can. The Mishnah (ibid.) concludes, “Vechol mi she’oseik b’talmud Torah misaleh,” the person who studies Torah is raised. The person who connects himself to Torah raises himself to a different level and a different plane.
Rav Moshe was that person. He was on a different level. His seichel was on a different level. His knowledge seemed boundless, for it was not contained by the normative human parameters. His feet were planted in this world, but his da’as was heavenly.
Rav Moshe would relate the teaching of Rav Tzadok Hakohein that the Torah pays a unique compliment to Yosef Hatzaddik. The posuk says, “Vayehi Yosef yefeh to'ar v'yefeh mareh” (Bereishis 39:6). Yosef is the only man the Torah describes as a person with “yofi,” beauty.
Rav Moshe would present a point like this, let it hang in the air, and then say, “Mah katuv kan?”
When he said, “Mah katuv kan?” you knew that you were about to be brought into a new world. You were assured that the topic would be examined from every angle, the depths plumbed, the clear waters underneath exposed, and all the talmidim would find themselves refreshed.
And that was what he did here. He quoted Rav Tzadok and proceeded to explain “Mah katuv kan?”
He began by saying that to understand “yofi,” beauty, you must first analyze its opposite, “ki’ur,” ugliness. He said that ki’ur is a word that denotes a lack of clarity. As he was wont to do, Rav Moshe quoted a posuk and a Rashi. Yaakov Avinu told his sons, Shimon and Levi, “Achartem osi lehavisheini” (Bereishis 34:30). Rashi (ibid.) explains the word achartem as “mayim achurim,” dirty, muddied waters. Yaakov was telling his sons, “My mind was clear and you sullied it [by what you did to Shechem].”
Rav Moshe continued plumbing the clear waters of Torah. He said that in discussing the laws of cooking on Shabbos, Chazal use the term “mitztameik veyofeh lo” to describe a food that has been fully cooked yet improves as it remains close to a heat source.
He analyzed that the word “yofeh” refers to the precision of two different forces coming together to create a reality that had been concealed. Raw food and fire worked together to create an edible dish. The process is “yofeh.”
Ki’ur, ugliness, is brought about when the truth cannot be seen, when differing forces create ruin, and when concealed depths are obscured.
Yosef took his strengths and unified them, so that they were all working towards one goal: namely, to bring together the twelve brothers and unite them harmoniously around Yaakov Avinu.
The Maharal states that the fact that Yosef looked like Yaakov, and his life was patterned after his father’s and they shared similarities, indicates that the semblance went beyond the superficial and facial.
Chazal (Bava Metzia 84a) say, “Shufrei deYaakov avinu mei’ein shufrei d’Adam Harishon.” Yaakov was blessed with the “shufra,” the perfect beauty, of Adam Harishon, who possessed the ultimate tzuras ha’odom.
When Chazal teach that Yosef “looked” like Yaakov, they were revealing that not only was there a clear physical resemblance between the two, but also that Yosef shared this spiritual quality with Yaakov. It went far beyond the physical realm.
This, Rav Moshe concluded, is the yofi of Yosef Hatzaddik, a beauty that allows the truth to come together. This is why the Medrash (Tanchuma, Vayigash 10) compares Yosef to Tzion, the holiest city. The gematria of Tzion is Yosef. They are both the meeting point between physical and spiritual, where heaven and earth cross. (See also Afikei Mayim, Bais Hamikdosh, Chapter 15.)
And both are beautiful. They are both embodiments of what is meant by yofi.
True yofi.
And this yofi, the splendor and majesty of man, of a soul that circulated among us, a figure familiar in Yerushalayim of today, was the middah of a man who was a rebbi to many.
Rav Moshe showed us the dimensions of man. He demonstrated how a person can be elevated, regal and great. He was one with the Torah, showing us its expanse and breadth.
We saw him and we understood greatness. We listened to his shiurim and realized the heights man can reach. Through him, we understood the virtue of the Alter of Kelm, the precision of the Brisker Rov, the depth of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. He was a keili, a vehicle carrying the lessons of the greatest rabbeim and distilling them for a superficial generation.
I learned by him in Stamford, when he spent a few years in America. We talmidim had a zechus. We were enthralled by his shiurim, the vastness of his Torah, the prestige and chashivus he radiated. As young as we were, we grasped the truth of the statement, “Man malki rabbonon” (Gittin 62a).
His magnificence extended even to the way he spoke, his sweetness and warmth, his perfect diction, expression and vocabulary, and the way he articulated each word. Even the way he paused and let silence grab hold of the room was significant.
I'll never forget how he said one particular posuk, and how much heart and sensitivity went into it.
It was at my vort, a simcha that took place a few years after my mother passed away at a young age. Our family would never be the same. Our mother took so much blessing, joy and love with her. A child without a mother, no matter the age, has a void in his heart that cannot be easily filled.
Rav Moshe got up to speak. He looked at me, he looked around, and then he quoted, in his distinct way of speaking, the words of the posuk, “Vayinochem Yitzchok acharei imo” (Bereishis 24:67). When Rivka entered Yitzchok Avinu’s tent, he was at last comforted from the loss of his mother. With Rivka’s arrival, the brachos of Sarah Imeinu - the candles that remained illuminated all week, the challah that warmed and nourished, and the cloud that hovered protectively - returned.
Rav Moshe didn’t elaborate, because he didn’t have to. He was bentching me that with the return of brocha, my life would once again be complete. I never forgot his warm words and generous wishes. Every year, when this parsha returns, I contemplate the moment referred to by the posuk.
He knew what was in my heart. He gave expression to the subtle thoughts running through my soul. He understood.
That was a moment that encapsulates Rav Moshe - so much heart, so much empathy, so much friendship, through Torah. He only had to recite the words and we were able to appreciate the sweetness that lies underneath each one.
He had the ability to open vistas. His shiurim were deep, clear and beautiful, and when he was done, it all made perfect sense and left you enriched. He always left you in awe and wanting more.
You looked at him and imagined the greatness of those whose Torah he shared - the Gaon and the Maharal and the Alter of Kelm - and you opened your mouth wide, as he laid out their concepts before you, k’shulchan aruch, and then fed to you these lofty ideas with a silver spoon. 
Vezos haTorah asher som Moshe lifnei Bnei Yisroel.
He was so elevated, so refined, yet so approachable. He didn’t only know how to talk to us. He also knew how to listen.
At the levaya, Rav Moshe’s son spoke of his father’s ability to listen to and identify with the downtrodden. “Abba,” he cried out, “you were the lowest of all, the biggest shafel. You got down to feel with every broken person you met.”
Because he was able to make himself appear to be the lowest, because he was able to bring himself to that level to impart Torah wisdom and life lessons to others, he was, in reality, the highest. He was the greatest. He could make himself appear low, but his brain and soul flew in the Heavens. He seemed regular, but he wasn’t. He was the embodiment of yofi, combining heaven and earth.
Just as Rav Moshe perceived the depth of a Rambam or a Ramban where others only saw black letters, so was he with people.
He would look at me with his gentle, wise eyes and ask, “Peeny, vos machst du?” And by the way he asked, I knew that there was no reason to answer, because he already knew.
Throughout the years, whenever I had the pleasure to meet him, it was always the same greeting, the same “Peeny,” the same ability to load that one word with so much empathy and understanding. When he took my hand and held it an extra moment, and looked at me with a penetrating and meaningful look, I felt that there was at least one person in the world who understood me.
Someone once asked me if I minded that he still greeted me as if I was still the young bochur he had taught in Stamford. “No,” I replied. “He still sees me as that wide-eyed, eager bochur whose mind and heart he filled. He still views me the same way.”
I know that I will never hear that “Peeny” again and it saddens me. It is so much harder to hold on to who we really are if those who reminded us are gone.
Before he would deliver a shiur, he would look around. His expression would shift as he seemed to rise higher before our eyes, entering a sacred world.
You walked out of Rav Moshe’s shiur with a new appreciation of the vastness, depth and expanse of Torah. And you walked out of his shiur and felt like shouting out Birchos HaTorah all over again, because it was a new Torah, and it embraced you and you embraced it.
Once, during a Shavuos shmuess, Rav Moshe began to describe how Torah ought to cause not just man's soul to rejoice, but even his body. He described the pleasure and delight of Torah and the ideal of being able to feel that enjoyment as if enjoying a good meal. He then cried out, “Men darf es untappen mit di hent. You have to be able to touch it.” He moved his hands up and down, as if grasping it. His audience of American yeshiva bochurim felt themselves being transported to a world where they, too, could touch the timeless truth of Torah and experience it as he did.
He had that ability.
Rav Moshe Mordechai Chodosh, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon in Yerushalayim, was in Monsey one year on Shabbos Chazon. As I walked with him, he told me of the time that Rav Moshe visited the Ohr Elchonon branch in the city of Tiverya.
Rav Moshe spoke to the bochurim in the yeshiva and was in a state of ecstasy. He quoted the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (31a-b) which states that the last sitting of the Great Sanhedrin comprised of 71 members was in Tiverya. Rav Yochanan adds that the geulah will begin from Tiverya.
Rav Moshe explained that the Gemara (ibid.) states that Tiverya was “amukah mikulom.” Rashi says that the people of Tiverya were on the lowest level of the ten places the Sanhedrin exiled to. When the Sanhedrin ended up there, the Jews of the Holy Land had hit rock-bottom.
When the time of the geulah will arrive, the rebuilding process will begin there. The redemption will start at the lowest point in Eretz Yisroel and infuse it with kedusha as the land is prepared for the ultimate salvation.
Rav Moshe told the bochurim that by returning Torah to the forsaken city of Tiverya, they were contributing to the geulah of Klal Yisroel. For the first time in hundreds of years, Torah pulsates in Tiverya. Witnessing such a rebirth of Torah in the forsaken city brought Rav Moshe to a state of elation.
The Rambam in Hilchos Taanis writes: “A great city by the name of Beitar was captured. Inside it were many tens of thousands of Jewish people. They had a great king whom all of Yisroel and the rabbis believed was the king Moshiach. He fell into the hands of the gentiles and they were all killed. It was a great tragedy, as great as the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh.”
Rav Moshe explained that the tragedy was that their king, Bar Kochva, who could have been Moshiach, was killed. What could have been a period of redemption instead became one of destruction. Through their sins, an era that could have returned the Jews to the state they awaited since the chet hameraglim turned into tragedy.
We are so close to the redemption that we can hear the footsteps of Moshiach. We suffer from the chevlei Moshiach. Before Moshiach’s arrival, the tumah of the world increases, as the Soton fights to prevent his arrival. When the world will assume the state that Hashem intended, the koach hatumah will wilt. Amaleik will cease to exist after the geulah. So, in the period leading up to Moshiach, tumah rises and becomes strengthened, as the forces of darkness endeavor to prevent the Jewish nation from reaching the levels that Hashem intended.
Rav Moshe was niftar in the days of yarda choshech le’olam, on Asarah B’Teves. Rav Moshe was the one who could lift the veil to allow us a glimpse of reality, beyond the murkiness and shadows.
And now it is dark. He is gone.
He taught that the period leading to the redemption is referred to as ikvesa deMeshicha because just as the heel of the foot, the “ukeiv,” is largely numb and cannot feel much, so too, in this time period, our souls feel numb. Rav Moshe would quote the Yerushalmi (quoted in Tosafos, Shabbos 31a) which states that a farmer is “maamin bechayei olamim vezoreia.” He “believes in the Sustainer of world and plants a seed in the hard, dry ground.”
Rav Moshe would explain that when a seed is planted, it must first decompose and break down, unseen and nearly forgotten, before it is able to bring forth a living tree able to bear fruit. The same is with our nation. Hakadosh Boruch Hu is matzmiach yeshua, allowing Am Yisroel to grow from a broken seed.
Yarda choshech le'olam. Nistemu eineihem shel Yisroel. Let us hope that this is the darkness before dawn and that the seed that is our people is about to burst forth.
We must strengthen ourselves and seek to raise the levels of kedusha in this world so that it can overcome the kochos hatumah and permit Moshiach to reveal himself. It is plainly evident that tumah is spreading. It has a foothold everywhere. Many are entrapped in its clutches. The only way to fight back is through ameilus in Torah and maasim tovim. As the posuk states, “Tzion bemishpot tipodeh veshoveha betzedakah.” If we engage in righteousness and charity, we strengthen kedusha in the world and weaken the koach hatumah. When tumah is in its death throes, Moshiach can reveal himself and bring about the geulah.
If we remember the Torah Rav Moshe taught us, if we study the Torah of the leading masters and study their seforim, if we learn as if there is nothing else of any importance in this world, if we carry ourselves the way Rav Moshe did, if we treat others the way he did, if we raise our level and the level of those around us, we help bring light to the world. Light that chases away the darkness. Light that blinds the kochos hatumah and helps lead to the day when the world will be filled with that great light.
We will then merit “Ohr chodosh al Tzion to’ir,” the day when Moshiach ben Yosef is empowered with the strength and “yofi” of Yosef and allows Tzion to once again excel with its “yofi.” Moshiach ben Yosef will bring the world to a state of “yofi,” allowing the revelation of Moshiach ben Dovid. His arrival will bring with it the Bais Hamikdosh Hashlishi that will return Tzion to its state of “Tzion hametzuyenes” and “yofi,” as it connects elyonim and tachtonim.
May we merit that day speedily.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Neis Gadol Haya Poh

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
With a prolonged hiss, the last of the Chanukah lights flickered and went out. Pools of darkened oil, smudged glasses and used wicks are what remain of the eight nights. Each night we gathered our family and held a thin yellow candle to a wick and proclaimed our thanks to the One Who commanded us to light, praising Him for the miracles He performed for our people way back. We prayed that just as He performed miracles in the Bais Hamikdosh at the time of Chanukah, so will He perform spectacular miracles for us in our day.
Dovid Hamelech states in Tehillim (117), “Beshuv Hashem es shivas Tzion, when Hashem returns all to Zion, hayinu kecholmim, we will be as dreamers.”
The Izhbitzer Rebbe explains that the posuk comparing our reaction on that great day to dreamers is a reference to Yosef the dreamer, referred to as the “ba’al hachalomos.” Yosef was mocked, ridiculed and disliked on account of his dreams. His brothers threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave. To all, it seemed at that moment that the dreams had been quashed.
Years later, with the proclamation of two words, “Ani Yosef,” the brothers suddenly grasped the power and importance of the dreams. They understood that all the events that had transpired led up to this moment.
So too, when Hakadosh Boruch Hu will gather us and say the two words “Ani Hashem,” all will be clear. We will understand why everything happened. The significance of each pit, each blow, and each challenge will become clear to us.
Until then, we endure through the darkness as did Yosef. We are a nation that understands little but accepts much as we await that great day.
There are times when we merit a glimpse of clarity and realize that we have a loving Father Who watches over us and that nothing occurs by happenstance.
We may have experienced just such a time now.
We know that the letters on the Chanukah dreidel, nun, gimmel, hey and shin, stand for neis gadol haya shom, meaning a great miracle took place there. In Eretz Yisroel, where the miracle took place, the shin of the dreidel is replaced with a pey, signifying neis gadol haya poh, meaning a great miracle happened here.
This year, perhaps, we in America should have considered purchasing dreidels with those letters, for as we now know, a great miracle happened here. Poh.
It didn’t just happen now. The miracle has been happening over the previous eight years. We just figured it out now.
Two weeks ago, we looked on in alarm as the United States abstained on an anti-Israel vote at the United Nations. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy anti-Israel speech couched as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire.
On the way out, in the waning days of his administration, the president and his team have shown their true colors. They displayed for the entire world what they would have liked to have done during all their years in power.
It is a neis that they were held back from acting on their desires until now.
It is a neis that come January 20th, the Democrats won’t control the House, Senate or presidency, and will not be able to further their anti-Israel agenda. Hillary Clinton was so close to winning. Pundits, experts and savants confidently assured us that she would soon be in the Oval Office, building on the Obama legacy.
But Donald Trump won. His task will be to dismantle Barack Obama’s approach, especially as it pertains to Israel. 
Let’s objectively examine the issue of Israeli settlements, the ones that the world considers an impediment to peace, and see if we can reach an unbiased conclusion. Let us try to understand the recent UN declaration that the Jewish people have no claim to the Kosel, the Har Habayis, Ihr Dovid and other parts of Yerushalayim that our people have basically been “occupying” for thousands of years, way before the notion of a people known as Palestinians even existed.
We have been occupying Yerushalayim with our hearts and eyes, with our tears and written requests, with our hopes and dreams.
A minyan for Maariv was forming at a chasunah, and someone wondered aloud, as often happens, which direction was mizrach. Rav Yitzchok Hutner was walking by and smiled. “Turn in all four directions,” he said. “The one that makes your heartbeat quicken, that direction is mizrach.”
It has always been that way for us, wherever we were, be it Spain, Poland, Germany or Morocco. We were always looking home, to Yerushalayim.
Yet, the haughty John Kerry, descendant of an abdicated Jew, arrogantly lectures us and expects us to believe that the leading lights of democracy and fairness from Venezuela and Senegal, of all places, on their own, dreamed up the necessity for a resolution giving away the Land of Israel weeks before Obama exits the stage.
Kerry, who failed at everything he did while in his current position, has the audacity to lay down six cardinal principles for peace, as if they were never attempted. He makes you think that should his ideas be implemented, they would bring peace to the Mideast.
Before we even get to the question of settlements, is there anyone who takes the Palestinians seriously enough to believe, for a moment, that pacifying them with parts of the land of Palestine that they covet will bring peace to the Middle East?
Thanks to Obama, Kerry and Clinton, hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens have been murdered, while many more flood the countries of Europe. Will coddling the Palestinians have any impact on that mess in the Middle East? How about ISIS, formed when Obama and Company created a vacuum in Iraq? It was allowed to fester because Obama would not seriously engage the radical Islamic terrorists. Did you hear Kerry speak about them? Obama, hard at work on the golf course, wasn’t even heard from during the few weeks that this sorry spectacle was playing out. For once, he let his actions speak louder than the words of the past eight years that he is so proud of. This doesn’t include the mess in Afghanistan, Iran and other countries.
Yet, of all the awful Mideast states, the one to focus on is the one that has faded from the public consciousness, as even Arab countries realize the vacuous nature of the Palestinian claims and the importance of a strong Israel in the chaparral neighborhood.
While the world now claims that so-called settlements are a “major obstacle to peace,” the fact is that the so-called Palestinians have been fighting the notion of a Jewish state on its historic land since long before Israel captured these territories in a war the Arabs launched in 1967. They were fighting to destroy the entire state of Israel, and had Hashem not caused a miraculous military victory of the few against the many, they would have succeeded. They haven’t given up. To them, Rechovot and Bnei Brak are just as occupied as Yerushalayim and Chevron.
In fact, when the League of Nations took control of the Mideast from the Ottoman Turks, they created the states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. The original Mandate for Palestine apportioned to the Jews was the territory from the Mediterranean Sea deep into what is now Jordan. In 1922, the area of the proposed Jewish home west of the Jordan was reconstituted and the Jews were left with the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Both pieces were administered by the British.
Even after Winston Churchill removed 80% of the territory from the Jews and handed it over to the Arabs, the Arabs weren’t happy. Colluding with the British, they tormented the Jews living in Jewish Palestine, killing, maiming, robbing, and even once in a while conducting pogroms, massacring dozens, such as the horrific story with which we’re familiar, the Chevron Massacre in 1929.
When Israel was established in 1948, the neighboring Arab states all invaded. Though the new country was miraculously able to survive and hold off its enemies, it did lose territory. When the armistice went into effect, Jordan had control of the so-called West Bank and Egypt had control of Gaza. Jordan and Egypt actually occupied the lands that were Israel’s. Still seeking to eradicate Israel they went to war in 1967 against the small state. When the war ended six days later, Israel had miraculously recaptured the territory lost to the occupiers in 1949.
So, in effect, Israel had now freed the land from its occupiers. For some reason, the world refuses to see it that way and accepts the fictitious notion that Israel stole the land from the Arabs and is an illegal occupier of the territory. Even some of our own people are unaware of the history and believe that the West Bank is occupied.
In 2005, during the era of President George W. Bush, the land that constitutes Gaza was “returned” to the Palestinians in the hope of peace. Hamas grabbed hold of the territory and has used it since as a launching pad for missiles and rockets and three wars against Israel. The land-for-peace gambit failed. And settlements had nothing to do with it.
Left-wing Israeli political leaders Yitzchok Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians basically everything they are officially asking for - and more. Bill Clinton, as president, convened a peace parley at Camp David in the year 2000. The result? The Palestinians walked away on the cusp of victory and returned home to unleash a vicious wave of terror attacks against innocent Israeli Jews.
Kerry himself negotiated for almost one year, finally giving up in 2014, when the Palestinians did all they could to demonstrate that they weren’t really that interested in making any accommodations with Israel after all.
Binyomin Netanyahu, the man the administration loves to hate because he has exposed them too often for what they are, acquiesced to Obama’s request and froze all settlement construction for ten months in order to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
What happened?
President Obama, like other presidents who preceded him and attempted to bring peace to Israel, repeatedly promised that Israel has nothing to fear if they would give up land, and there would be peace, because he “would always have Israel’s back.” Bush did the same when he basically forced Israel to give up Gaza and hold elections there.
Obama and Kerry know all this. They know that the Palestinians don’t want a peaceful accommodation with Israel. They know of the terror the Palestinians have unleashed on Israel, the world and their own people; but in their irrational arrogance and hatred of Israel, they simply don’t care.
Kerry had the temerity to call for Israel to remove its security checkpoints, because they inconvenience the Palestinians who want to enter Israel. How can he ignore the reason those checkpoints were established in the first place - to keep terrorists out of Israel and away from its citizens? And yet, this pompous politician ignores the facts again just to make Israel appear to be a tyrannical occupying power.
Kerry also called for easing the blockade on Gaza, as if that were some type of humanitarian gesture. Someone should remind him that the blockade is there to prevent Hamas from acquiring even more weapons than they already have to attack Israel and further their goal of driving the Jews into the sea.
The Obama-Kerry-Clinton trio lies, distorts and ignores reality in order to stab America’s strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. Is that leadership? Is that what the American people expect from their leaders? Like petulant children, they kick and smash everything in their way as they are led out of the classroom for misbehavior and failing grades.
It was these same hypocrites who drew a red line in the sand to protect the citizens of Syria and then stood by and did nothing to protect the masses who were mercilessly killed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. And speaking of Iran, it is this same trio that rewarded the largest state supporter of terrorism with $150 billion and a deal allowing them to obtain a nuclear weapon with which to threaten the world in a decade.
The same trio stood on the sidelines as millions of refugees fled from Syria and other war-torn Arab countries, flooding Western Europe. The same European leaders who lecture Israel and voted for the American-led resolution against Israel sit atop combustible nations on guard of Arab terror threatening their citizens. They themselves are now experiencing what Israel has lived with for decades, yet their hatred of the Jewish people blinds them to the obvious reality.
The same trio caused ISIS to be formed and never engaged it in battle to destroy the nascent terror group that threatens the US, Europe and the world. They failed around the world and became a laughingstock in many capitals.
We ponder what the administration has wrought in its final days of power and we thank Hashem that they didn’t actively promote their corrupt, malicious and evil plans until it was too late to really get something going. They act like a tenant busting up an apartment as the eviction date approaches. Even the British prime minister, whose UN ambassador voted for the UN resolution, slammed Kerry. Theresa May said in a statement, “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. We are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”
This same tone-deafness they display is, thankfully, what cost them the election. 
Americans who just suffered through the election campaign should not be surprised by Obama’s move. As it shifts further left, the Democrat Party is becoming increasingly anti-Israel. The re-energized Bernie Sanders was more upfront about his dislike of the Jewish state. While Hillary Clinton portrayed herself as a friend of Israel, anyone who remembers her term as secretary of state can easily recall the public tongue-lashings that Netanyahu received from her as she attempted to force Israel to take positions that were against its interests.
Her apologists ignored that uncomfortable part of her history and the intense pressure her husband applied at Camp David, but the Democrat platform she ran on exposed her for what she is.
President-elect Trump is an unabashed supporter of Israel and the father, father-in-law and grandfather of Jews. He delivered a masterful speech at the AIPAC convention, clearly laying out his position. Now that he has been elected, he has stood behind Israel, and, regarding the recent Obama-engineered fiasco, told Israel to hold out until January 20th, when he will enter the White House.
How did Trump end up here, reassuring Israel and its supporters? How is he relevant when the media, mainstream politicians and power brokers actively tried to defeat him and literally laughed at the idea that he might triumph?
We have a Father in Heaven Who protects us and arranges all that transpires in this world. We are thankful that He is removing enemies of Israel from positions of power, and we pray that things will look up in the future for Israel, the Jewish people, the American people, and the entire world.
It’s true that we have differences with the government of Israel, but our disagreements with the secular Zionists have no connection to the anti-Semitism that is currently on display. Make no mistake about it: When the nations of the world attack Israel, they are attacking Jews, not Zionists. The founders of Zionism believed that if the Jews would have a state, anti-Semitism would end. They were wrong. It has increased, albeit with different names and guises.
People were fed by the media that Trump is an anti-Semite, and during the campaign, many compared him to Hitler, as ludicrous and false a claim as that is. In fact, it is Obama, a decades-long member in a church led by a known Jew-hater who has delivered so many speeches laden with hatred for Jews and Israel (and America), who has shown a proclivity for Arabs since his election. Although some Jews might give Democrats a pass and concentrate their suspicions on Republicans, that doesn’t change the facts.
Obama objects to Jews living in their historic land, because Arabs can’t tolerate Jews living among them. The Arab country of Palestine, which he and others like him pine for, would be Judenrein, but if a lonely Arab or his donkey claims that their rights in Israel were infringed upon, it becomes an international incident.
We have been around long enough to know that when France, Germany and the entire world hide behind the august states of New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela to condemn Israel, it is their old anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. Their actions are not prompted by concern for a refugee people mistreated by an evil occupier. Anybody can see that. The actions of Obama, Kerry and the others betray an inbred bias that Hashem has kept dormant until now. What they have done is not a simple outgrowth of stupidity and intellectually dishonest thoughts, but a furtherance of a stymied agenda.
We proclaim at the Pesach Seder, “Shebechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloseinu - In every generation, our enemies set out to destroy us.” Oftentimes, thankfully, we aren’t aware of their plans, for “Hakadosh Boruch Hu matzileinu miyodom - Hashem saves us from them.”
As we read and review the news during these moments of post-Chanukah reflection, we are given one of those rare glimpses to clearly realize just how great is the kindness we’ve been shown by Heaven.
In the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Mekor Boruch, on the second floor of a non-descript building, lives Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik, rosh yeshivas Brisk. Up the well-worn stairs, in his dining room, there is a weekly Chumash shiur. Along with incisive p’shotim and radiant chiddushim, the Chumash shiur presents the crystalline hashkofah of Bais Brisk, stories and divrei Torah that shape a worldview.
Each year, during the week of Parshas Yisro, the rosh yeshiva relates a vort from his revered zaide, the Brisker Rov. I heard it from him over thirty years ago, but its message is still fresh in my memory.
The posuk tells of Yisro’s amazement at seeing the Mitzriyim punished “badovor asher zadu aleihem, according to their own wickedness” (Shemos 18:11). Rashi explains that this is a reference to the middah keneged middah of their punishment. Just as the Mitzriyim had meant to destroy Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish children through water, at Krias Yam Suf they were consumed by water.
Targum Onkelos translates “badovor asher zadu aleihem” as “di chakimu, according to their schemes.”
The Brisker Rov explained this with a story about a Russian minister who asked Rav Itzele Volozhiner to translate the posuk which states, “Hallelu es Hashem kol goyim shabchuhu kol ha’umim ki govar aleinu chasdo - Praise Hashem all the nations, laud Him all people, for His kindness has overwhelmed us” (Tehillim 117:2).
Why, the diplomat wondered, should the nations of the world praise Hashem for bestowing kindness on Klal Yisroel?
Rav Itzele replied, “Do we know how many plans were hatched against us in the seat of the government in St. Petersburg? Do we have a clue of how many diabolical plots were created to harm us and weren’t carried out? Only you and others privy to the deliberations and meetings know that as much as you planned and as perfect as your plans were, they were foiled by Heaven. It is only those who plotted and know what could have been who can appreciate that we were spared.
“Thus, hallelu es Hashem kol goyim, the nation of the world laud Him, because they recognize how He showered His kindness upon the Jewish people”
Yisro, the Brisker Rov explained, was one of Paroh’s advisors. He was part of the inner circle and knew what Paroh had in store for the children of Yaakov. He was uniquely able to appreciate the precision of Hashem’s judgment on our enemies.
We know very little of their plans, but from Obama’s nasty UN move and Kerry’s speech, we can recognize some of what Hashem saved us from. We see a bit of what they tried to do for the last eight years.
And so, even though the days of Hallel each morning are over for now, we can still shout, “Hallelu govar aleinu chasdo.”
News stories abound with a single theme: How come the press missed the boat on Trump? Some offer mea culpas, apologizing for getting it wrong. Some ascribe Trump’s victory to Russia, others to James Comey, and yet others to angry white men. Everyone has an excuse.
But we know Who is responsible.
As Yosef told his brothers in this week’s parsha (45:5), fear not about what you have done to me, because the schemes and plots of man are nothing but to fulfill Hashem’s will. It’s all Him.
Rav Velvel Chechik, one of the tzaddikei Yerushalayim who was very close to the Brisker Rov, would often repeat the famed kushya of the Bais Yosef and share an answer from the Alter from Kelm.
Why, if the neis Chanukah was that the oil of one night burned for eight nights, do we celebrate for eight days, if only seven of them were miraculous? The Alter said that the very fact that oil ignites is itself a neis. He ascribed this homiletically to Rabi Chaninah ben Dosa, who said, (Taanis 25a), “Mi she’omar lashemen vayidlok. The Creator must command oil to light.” So, the first night was also a miracle; the other seven simply exposed that miracle in a way that everyone understood it.
The last few weeks of the Obama presidency are an indication of the miracles we didn’t notice. The oil ignites and we don’t even stop to contemplate the wonder.
But now we see it. Ribbono Shel Olam, thank You.
During the weekly shmuess given by the Chofetz Chaim to talmidim, he would often reflect aloud, more in the way of a conversation than a lecture. One year, he began to discuss the story of Yosef Hatzaddik.
“He was like us, like a regular Jew,” said the Chofetz Chaim. “He was a beloved son, torn away from the comfort and warmth of family while he was still developing. He was humiliated, sold into slavery and jailed. But he triumphed. Not only did he triumph, but each one of the obstacles and nisyonos he faced brought him closer to success and happiness.
“So too,” concluded the Chofetz Chaim, “we are nearing the end of the golus of Am Yisroel. All of our travails and suffering will bring us to ultimate victory and light.”
May what happened here serve as a lesson to us.
May the nissim never stop.
May we quickly merit the geulah.