Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedPR photo

How difficult it is to write about Rabbi Haim ztz”l… He was so alive with us, exuding faith, love and life – and then suddenly — the funeral, the family sitting shiva. Zeycher Tzaddik le’vracha. But his divreiTorah (words of Torah) continue to add life.

There are degrees of divrei Torah, and the divrei Torah that Rabbi Haim Druckman ztz”l learned from his rav muvhak (primary teacher), Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, and taught to the multitudes of Beit Yisrael, are the greatest and most profound.

Rabbi Haim ztz”l, who dedicated his life to teaching and expressing them in public life, is one of the true Gedolei Ha-dor (eminent Rabbis of the generation). Some people make the mistake of measuring gadlut (Torah greatness) by wrestling with important details, such as hatarat agunot (dispensation of the abandoned wife). But the most important point of gadlut in the Torah is to understand the great things.

This column is dedicated to the great words of Torah he would always repeat and teach (thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Lindbaum who helped me compile them from Rabbi Druckman’s books of classes he gave).

Ahavat Hashem (Love of God)

“The basic love for Hashem is born in our hearts from observing creation, which is overflowing with the grace of Heaven. From this recognition, the basic level for love of Hashem is created in us… however, there is another source for love of Hashem… it is a love that originates from within… in the inner depths of the soul, by virtue of it being a divine spark, a part of Hashem from above… this supreme love, which flows from one’s inner-self, is the essence of love, and it is much greater than that which is absorbed from external reality” (Haggadah of Pesach, p. 219).

Ayin Tovah (Positive Attitude) and Limud Zechut (Judging Others Favorably)

“Man is implanted with a soul of life from above, and in it, a higher spiritual power is hidden – an aspiration for divine goodness and justice. Even in people in whom this power does not manifest itself in practice, even in great sinners – this power exists, for it is part of the essence of man, from his being a creation in whom Hashem blew the breathe of a divine, living soul. Avraham loves to do justice to mankind, and hates to find fault in them (Bereishit Rabbah 49:9), because he sees in every person the same supreme inner point, the same supreme ‘living soul’. He strives to help each person realize this power and put it into practice, so that it should not go to waste, God forbid. We, the descendants of Avraham and his successors, must adhere to this character trait” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit, p. 212).

“Even if negative aspects are revealed in Israel, it is important to remember that these are only external aspects. One must penetrate deeper, into the depths of Israel’s soul, and reveal the true goodness that exists within them. This is the role of a leader in Israel – to help the People of Israel reveal that inner point, and put it into practice.

“The unity of Israel is a paramount value. The way to deal with spiritual weakening among the nation is not by tearing the nation apart, and dividing it into tribes. Indeed, we need to find a way to deal with the problems that exist, but at the same time, we must also take care to preserve the unity of the nation. This is indeed complicated and complex, but there is no other option!” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Devarim, p. 296).

Torat Eretz Yisrael

“The Torah instructs us how to live in a worldly reality, without drowning in the material – how to engage in all areas of worldly life – out of a heavenly holiness, and purity. The commandments of the Torah constantly encounter us with the Ribono Shel Olam ‘Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us’… Man lives in the world, and by means of the Torah, lives a heavenly life on earth. We must strengthen ourselves by increasing Torah, because only through it, do we give value to life and creation, and with its help, we reveal the spiritual side of the world” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit, p. 76).

“In order to immerse the world with the light of the Torah, one must delve into Torat Eretz Yisrael. Torat Eretz Yisrael views the world with a positive attitude, and sees all of life positively – in all its areas, it recognizes their value and elevates them. Torat Eretz Yisrael also recognizes the special value of the great era in which we live. It acknowledges the shadows and darkness of our time, but prefers to emphasize its great lights, and relates in a healthy and genuine way to all the needs of the People and the Land” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bamidbar, p. 47).

“The ideal is to establish an entire nation that marches entirely on the way of Hashem. An entire nation that lives in its own country as a sovereign nation, and engages in all areas of life. A nation that possesses all the variety of forces that make up a nation – spiritual and worldly people, poets, writers, engineers, farmers and artisans – and all bearing the mission of: ‘And keep the way of God to do righteousness and justice.’ The root of everything lies in the nucleus of Avraham Avinu, who instilled the recognition that Hashem is not only ‘the God of heaven’, but ‘the God of heaven, and the God of earth'” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit 281).

“There are Torah scholars who do not understand that the Torah is connected to Clal Yisrael, and the State of Israel. Whoever studies the Torah without connection to Clal Yisrael and Malchut Yisrael – his Torah is incomplete, it lacks an understanding of the true nature of the Torah, which appears from within the entire nation of Israel when it builds a state. A Torah disconnected from these values, is the appearance of Torah in Galut (exile), of a Torah belonging to a time when there was no state, and no living nation, rather, bones scattered in the grave of the exile… Therefore, the Torah in Galut deals only with the development of the individual, but Torat Eretz Yisrael is the Torah of the Clal” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit, p. 219).

Love of Humanity and Closeness to the Torah

“Love of mankind is not a means of bringing people closer to the Torah, but the goal itself. One must love mankind – because one needs to love mankind, and not for any other purpose! Indeed, when a person loves his fellow man, he brings him closer to the Torah, because out of his love for him, and wishing for his best – surely, he will bring him closer to the Torah, because this is the greatest good for him. True love of Israel, brings them closer to the Torah…”

Emunah (belief) in Hashem “must take into account an appropriate attitude to all human beings who were created in the image of God – and even to the most distant, as Avraham behaved with the three angels who he thought were Arabs bowing down to the dust of their feet.” “From the same motive, from the desire to do good, Avraham bestowed upon them an additional kindness, and brought them to bless God… Avraham is active in the world – not as a proofer at the gate, tormenting mankind to guide them in the ways of God – but as a beacon, spreading his unique light, and as a result, revealed the path of truth before mankind” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit, p. 155).

“True love of the Creator leads to the love of humanity, as it is said about one who engages in Torah for its own sake: ‘… one that loves God; one that loves humankind'” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Bereishit, p. 283).

The Segulah of Israel, and Love of Mankind and the Nations

“Our uniqueness stems from the virtue of man as a human being. When we understand the value of all the nations of the world, how endearing and precious, noble and wonderful they are – consequently, Israel’s virtue becomes even clearer, and the great benefit of communicating God’s deeds among all nations becomes well-defined.

“We must love the entire person, all the good in him, and first and foremost – the image of God that exists in every person in the world. As a result of this love, the desire must arise in us to benefit all of humanity, and to bring goodness in the spiritual and material spheres to the people of the entire world.

“‘The People of Israel among the nations is like the heart among the organs’ – the heart expresses the full strength of Israeli uniqueness – but at the same time, it expresses the belonging of the People of Israel to the entire human race. Through the heart, life flows to the entire body. The action of the heart is achieved within the body, and not in a way that is detached from it. A heart disconnected from the body, is a dead heart – no matter how wonderful and special it is. The nation of Israel desires good, and through it, goodness will come to the entire human race. It is the basis of the happiness of all mankind – ‘And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you'” (Ha-Torah Le-Doreinu, Leviticus, p. 125).

Zionism – Correcting the Sin of the Spies

“In recent generations, repentance for the Sin of the Spies has been realized in practice, the correction to the Land’s rejection has been revealed in practice. In contrast to ‘And they rejected the desirable land’, in all its power, ‘Your servants take delight in its stones, and cherish its dust’, has been revealed. The People of Israel woke up to immigrate to the Land, to build it, and to sacrifice their lives for it. And indeed, out of this we merited the beginning of flowering of our Redemption, with the establishment of the State of Israel, together with the mighty Ingathering of the Exiles, and all the stages of progress in the redemption process, up to this very day.

“The very awakening of Israel to return to their Land and their national values encompasses a light of repentance. This repentance is an inner repentance, and there is no force in the world that will prevent it from breaking through and manifesting itself in all ways of life. The beginning of this inner repentance is the return to the Land of Israel” (Kimah, Kimah, p. 112).

The State of Israel is the Basis for Revelation of the Shekinah, and Perfection of the Entire World

The destiny of the People of Israel is to “enlighten the world and uplift it, but as long as it is enslaved to others… it is bound… the meaning of independence is freedom from the shackles… independence enables the revelation of Israel’s identity, by means of which Israel is able to reveal their identity, and bring it to true expression in the real world.

“The humble state of the People of Israel in the Diaspora, prevents them from rendering their special contribution to the entire world. The People of Israel can fulfill their mission and influence the world, only when they are in a situation where the world appreciates them. Only then can a process of real, spiritual and moral influence occur. The establishment of the state restores to the People of Israel its national pride, it returns to being an influential, central and independent nation. It has a say in the world, and has a platform to present this input; it has power and capabilities – it has a state” (Kimah, Kimah, p. 260).

“The establishment of the State of Israel is the basis for the sanctification of Hashem throughout the entire world. Our return to the Land, our holding on to it, our independence and our standing tall and firm – all of these pave the way to fulfill our role in the world, when Torah comes forth from Zion, and the word of God from Jerusalem. All of these pave the way to true peace, of ‘and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war'” (Kimah, Kimah, p. 244).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.