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Best-selling author, speaker, and spiritual guide, Rabbi Lazer Brody came to Israel from the USA in 1970 after graduating from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture. He is a veteran of an elite IDF Unit, having served for nearly thirty years in the regular army and in the IDF reserves. Rabbi Brody pens the award-winning Lazer Beams weblog, is the editor of Breslev Israel web magazine, and the author of The Trail to Tranquility. His English translation of Rabbi Shalom Arush's international bestseller The Garden of Emuna has sold over a million copies. Rabbi Brody is also a musical composer; his Calming Waters is a collection of his original relaxing instrumental melodies and Judean Dream is an album of "Land-of-Israel" music recorded together with Guy Tzvi Mintz and Yosef Karduner. Rabbi Brody spends considerable time traveling around the world spreading the light of emuna.
My dear friend Gamlieli from the Pri Hagefen blog asked me to address a painful subject - Jews boycotting Jews. He told me the story about the very special people at Psagot Winery, north of Jerusalem. They are known to produce some of the finest wines in Israel, and in that case, in the world. Yet, many left-leaning establishments in Tel Aviv refuse to buy and serve Psagot wine because the winery is on the other side of the so-called "Green Line", the 1967 border. As such, Psagot - as well as the other award-winning Judea-and-Samaria wineries that have brought so much prestige to the Israeli wine industry as a whole - are being boycotted by certain Jews in Tel Aviv.
If Jews boycott Jews, then what can we expect from the nations of the world?
Hashem and the Torah tell us what the borders of Israel should be. Judea and Samaria are the heartland of the Holy Land. I have no doubt that such over-the-Green-Line companies as Psagot, Tanya, Gvaot, Har Bracha, Hararei Kedem, Livni, Tura and Shiloh will thrive, boycott or not. It's a tough test, but with emuna, they'll see Hashem do miracles for them. The prophet Jeremiah promised (see Ch. 31) that this area would flourish with vineyards. They're here to stay.
Tell your local wine store that if they don't start stocking Judea and Samaria wines, you'll find a store that does. My answer to the boycott will be by gracing my Shabbat table with a bottle of wine from our beloved brothers in Judea and Samaria. We pray for their success.
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), 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 oral (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 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 loan 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 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!
You're welcome to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's award-winning daily blog, Lazer Beams
Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka, is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.
Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.
Where did he get his strength and courage from?
Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.
Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, Yochanan and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute truth with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.
Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.
21-inch biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.
If the Government of Israel - and particularly the Prime Minister - would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would be able to delay, much less cancel, the construction of a single housing unit anywhere in our hallowed and beloved homeland, or stifle our efforts to do what we need to enhance our security. And, they'd have no qualms about moving Bedouin squatters off of government lands in the Negev as well as destroying all the illegally-built structures they erected.
Several months ago, the USA released a dangerous top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, who had been arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire equipment that could be used for Iran’s military-nuclear programs. In the hypocritical eyes of Amalek, that's legitimate, for all Atarodi and his bosses want to do is destroy Jews and level the State of Israel - no big deal. Those who are kind to the cruel are in turn cruel to the kind - they've been holding Jonathan Pollard in intolerable conditions of incarceration for 28 years without a trial. If the Government of Israel would clarify the truth, it would find the way to get Jonathan Pollard's immediate release, may he come home soon, amen. The Hellenists among us would warn against rocking the boat, but they are the antithesis of national courage.
If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a Jew outside of Israel would clarify the truth and ask himself what Hashem really wants from him, he'd start planning to book a flight for himself and his family to Israel as soon as possible. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress.
Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.
While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it.
All we need is emuna and truth; these are the two components of Jewish national courage. Whenever and wherever we see our leaders cave in to foreign pressure, there's an acute deficiency of emuna and truth. The Festival of Lights is our annual reminder to strengthen ourselves in these two essential areas. Happy Chanuka!
Rouhani is gloating that Israel is isolated. We owe Iran's president our gratitude for the great news.
Moses blessed the People of Israel before he died, "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated." This is one of the best blessings of Torah, if only we'd heed it...
In the south of Israel in the Negev Desert, lives an amazing creature, the Yael - the Ibex, or Israeli mountain goat. You won't find a more sure-footed animal in creation. It's breathtaking to see the Yael walk along steep and narrow mountain ledges, where the slightest slip means plunging down hundreds of meters to the canyon below. But the fact that the Yael lives in such rugged and trecherous terrain is also his protection. He dwells alone, where no predator or enemy can reach him.
When we the people of Israel dwell on a spiritual high of unshakable emuna, no predator or enemy can reach us either. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Shofar is made from the horn of a Yael is to teach us to be like him. When we put all our trust in Hashem, we too are surefooted and never fall.
The important news is that Chanuka begins tonight, reminding us to rid ourselves of any and all foreign influence and dependence. The insignificant news is the West is caving in to Iran. At this very moment, sanctions are being loosened which will pump at least $11 Billion to Iran, and thereby to reinforcing Iran's proxies of Hizbulla and Hamas. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue wouldn't act the same way if hostile Venezuela was enriching uranium. And, Iran is a lot closer to Israel than Caracas is to Miami. Thank goodness, we lead lives of Torah and emuna, and we don't lead two-faced and immoral governments.
Any person with emuna should be delighted that the administration in Washington, DC has blatantly betrayed Israel. Any time throughout history when Israel depended on a foreign power led to submission and tragedy. It's about time we did what Hashem wants us to do and not what foreign governments want us to do. For example, the cowardly building freeze in Israel during the last few years as a capitulation to the White House did not bring peace; it only created a shortage of at least 20,000 housing units and drove apartment prices here through the roof. The 3,000 units that the Israeli Government is currently planning are certainly welcome, but still a drop in the bucket.
Don't be afraid as the nations of the world isolate us - Hashem is doing this for our very best and as preparation for the imminent redemption of our people - the Geula. You'd like to be part of the Geula, wouldn't you? Or do you prefer to continue hiding your kippa in your pocket and wearing a baseball hat or a beret so that your hostile neighbors won't know that you're Jewish?
Live like a Yael, with no fear of anyone but Hashem. Vayishkon Yisrael betach badad - "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated." Happy Chanuka from the Land of Emuna.
You're welcome to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's award-winning weblog, Lazer Beams
וַהֲלַכְתֶּם עִמִּי, קֶרִי. .. וְהָלַכְתִּי אַף-אֲנִי עִמָּכֶם, בְּקֶרִי
"If you walk in a sinister manner with Me, then I shall walk in a sinister manner with you" (Leviticus 26: 23-24).
Hashem tells us in the above passage, as He says in many other places in the Torah, that He runs the world - and especially Israel and the Jewish People - on a measure-for-measure basis.
The word in Hebrew for sinister is kerry - it also means rebellious or spiritually impure.
The prophecy in the above passage is amazing - let's now translate it with its alternative definitions:
"If you walk in a rebellious manner with Me, then I shall walk with Kerry toward you."
US Secretary of State Kerry has now become this generation's Neville Chamberlain by caving into Iran. The USA's appeasement of the Ayatolla's, as manifest in the agreement signed yesterday is ever so remindful of the UK's appeasement of Hitler in 1938.
Yet, who made the deal with Iran? Kerry? No! Hashem made the deal, for everything comes from Him, as the Rambam reiterates in the first of our Thirteen Principles of Faith.
The current Israeli Government has become the most vehemently anti-Torah government in modern Israel's 65-year history; without a doubt, the coalition has been walking in a rebellious and impure (kerry in Hebrew) manner with Hashem. So measure-for-measure, they received Kerry in return, along with his ridiculous agreement that enables Iran to continue with its nuclear program, as well as his demands for unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. The Israeli Government gave Hashem kerry, and Kerry in return.
It's high time for all of us to wake up.
You're welcome to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's award-winning daily weblog, Lazer Beams