Our Yom Kippur vort is being sponsored by Yossie and Elisheva Schulman of Ramat Beit Shemesh. To Yossie, Elisheva and the Schulman family, may you all be inscribed and sealed for only simcha, success, good health, nachas from your children, and only good things in the year to come and to at least 120 years. Many thanks for your sponsorship and your continuing kindnesses.
Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
As Yom Kippur 5776 approaches, one cannot help but reflect back on the calendar some 42 years to Yom Kippur 5734, Shabbos – 6 October, 1973. That Yom Kippur marked the surprise dual-frontal attacks on Israel by Egypt and Syria marking the beginning of the Yom Kippur War. To this day, although Israel was to beat back the attacks which threatened her/our very existence only 19 days earlier, and actually emerged victorious solidifying her hold of Mt. Hermon and gaining additional areas of the Golan Heights while crossing the Suez Canal and encircling the Egyptian 3rd Army, we bare the scars of the Yom Kippur War to this very day.
Out of the overestimation by Israeli generals of their military’s own capabilities visa vi underestimation the capabilities of the Arab adversaries, as well as misreading their adversary’s inclinations toward pursuing war and then failing to preemptively strike, for fear of offending the “superpower” when they knew war was imminent, as well as possible imperfections in our Torah observance, emunah in Hashem and in carrying out Hashem’s mission, and disunity amongst various sectors within the Am, there evolved an engrained leftist elite of media, intelligencia, university professors, judges and politicians who came to the fore in the war’s wake. Those scars are firmly implanted in at least two generations of Israel’s governmental leaders and politicians, as well as substantial segments of Am Yisrael, the seeds of addictive dependency on a super-power for aid, diplomatic support, etc., such that our leaders feel it necessary to conform to a hypocritical standard of “western morality” in time of war, against enemies committed to our eradication and annihilation, which no country, including the United States has ever adhered to in any war ever fought throughout history. This conformance, this seeming lack of emunah in Hashem out of false fear of the “superpower” later led Israel to absorb 39 unanswered Iraqi rocket attacks during the First Gulf War for lack of American aircraft fighter “friend/foe” codes.
And so, with last summer’s Gaza War, Operation Protective Edge still fresh and sensitive in our hearts, as is the geirush of our Jewish brethren from Gush Katif and all of the subsequent expulsions of our brethren in Hevron, Beit El, etc., we look back over these past 42 years and try to glean lessons for our time, both positive in terms of the great unity achieved by the masses of Am Yisrael during combat and negative in terms of what we have to keep learning, relearning and hopefully intellectualizing regarding Jewish unity — at all times, and how a war for Torah, a war for Jewish survival and sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael must halachically be fought.
By virtue of our being Hashem’s “most favored nation”, The Kohen Godol is to the Jews a paradigm of Hashem’s blueprint of what the Jews are to represent — Hashem’s Kohanim — His Priestly People to the other nations of Mankind.
It seems that in order to project Hashem’s paradigm of Majesty, of Kohanim (of Priestliness) to the nations and peoples of the world, we must be unified within ourselves, within Am Yisrael. We saw great unity last summer during the Gaza War, but does our unity continue once a ground war ceases and enemy rockets stopped blitzing?
There is a d’var Torah by the Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 440-441). The thoughts expressed by the Shem Mishmuel seem particularly pertinent.
In this d’var, Shem Mishmuel cites Moshe Rabbeinu’s final address to the B’nei Yisrael (Devarim, Perek 29, posukim 9-10):
You are all standing here today, before the Lord, your G’d — your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every Jewish man. Your children, your women, the outsider who is in your camp, from your woodcutter to your water-drawer.
Shem Mishmuel then explains that:
These divisions of people represent the whole gamut of the nation, from young to old, the powerful and the ordinary — in short, everyone of every type.
…The ketores (incense) was a component of the daily korbonot (offerings), but that on Yom Kippur it would play a primary role.
The Kohen Gadol took a shovel-full of incense into the Holy of Holies and waited there until the cloud of spices filled the room. This incense contained eleven spices, ten of which were pleasant-smelling, but one of which had a foul odor. We may suggest that the ten sweet-smelling spices corresponded to the ten groups within the Jewish people noted above.
…Ketores… is etymologically linked to kesher, which means “connection.” The spices were pounded together to make a single compound. This illustrates that each group within Israel must recognize that it has value only as part of a larger entity. When this occurs [the pounding and grinding together of all ten spices into a single compound – MB] , it is possible to add the eleventh, malodorous spice, which represents the bad elements within YIsrael. Only when these eleven spices are pounded into indistinguishable dust, that is completely mingled, can they be brought to the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. In the same way, only when everyone, good or bad, acts for a single purpose, nullifying his individuality to the benefit of the community, can the “compound” of the Jewish people be presented to G’d for His scrutiny… However, if dissonance exists within the various elements of the klal, then the weaker, eleventh group cannot join. Since there is already disharmony among the people, adding the sinful element will not produce a completely unified Yisrael and…. will cause additional strife, as the weaker group will join one side or the other of the rift, strengthening the divide.
…To achieve real unity in the community, and throughout Am Yisrael, a sort of “grinding” of the personality is needed. It is arrogance which leads to disunity, the feeling that one is special and in some way above everyone else. One must pound this arrogance out of one’s character to effect the realization that one’s whole existence depends on the community.
There is another citing which amplifies the above. Gemara Mesechta Megillah, page 25a1 (Shottenstein edition) cites Mishnah Perek 4, posuk 9:
One who says [about Hashem – MB]: “Good men shall bless You” — this is the way of heresy.
The footnote in gemara on this Mishnah reads:
For he does not include the wicked among those who praise G’d, and the Sages teach us (Kereisos 6b) that any public fast that does not include the transgressors of Israel is not accepted, They derive this from the inclusion of galbanim, which emits a foul odor, among the ingredients of the incense offered in the Beit HaMikdash. Similarly, the wicked must be considered as part of the congregation of Israel. (Attributions to Rashi; cf. Ran, Meiri)
And consider this profound citing written by Yehoshua Starrett, the translator and editor of the Sefer “To Heal the Soul” authored by the Aish Kodesh, the Rebbe Piazecna, R’ Kalonymus Kalman Shapira as a journal (pages xvii-xviii):
In Warsaw he was confronted with the Sabbath desecration epidemic of the 1920s by the irreligious Jewish socialists. In this too, Rebbe Kalonymous accomplished with his love and understanding what others were unable to do with their campaigning.
He used to say that in every single Jew, even the most belligerently antireligious, is a spark of Jewish soul that needs only to be reached, opened and ignited in the right way. Rebbe Kalonymous knew how to do this. After several meetings with him, these hard socialist leaders admitted their difficulty arguing with him…
Rebbe Kalonymous was indeed a most devoted leader, both in the spiritual and material sense. “A rebbe who is not willing to enter Gehinnom to save a follower is not a rebbe,” he used to say….
In other words, the Aish Kodesh too held that every Jew has that “spark of Jewish Soul,” The pintele Yid, that every Jew was integral in making up the total Ketores, the scent that rises to Shemayim.
Accepting that even though other sectors may not meet certain standards in the minds of some, and may represent to these — the galbanum, WE ARE, STILL AND ALL JEWS?.
May we pour our hearts out to Hashem this Yom Kippur with purity, complete unity and deep sincerity leaving “nothing in the locker room” on a national level as well as locally and as individuals. May Hashem grant us a happy, healthy and sweet new year, a new year where a Jewish governance of national pride and self-image replaces the current shameful state of Israeli governance. As Rabbi Moshe Ungar would always say before a fast, back in Philly — back in the “old country”, “Daven hard, fast easy” — Tefillah Kasher V’Tzom Kal!
But as we daven, we need all keep in mind the the words of this golden oldie:
Private Eyes are watchin’ you… watchin’ you, watchin’ you, watchin’ you! Private Eyes!
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two Chayalim from last summer’s Gaza war. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
May You, All of My Brothers, Sisters, be Sealed, for another Year of Life… Now and Always!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.