Thursday, November 24, 2016

To Veto Reality (UN/UNESCO) - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha from Parshas Bereishis

Baruch Hashem, Rav Weinberger has approved this version of my write-up of his drasha from parshas Bereishis. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Bereishis 5777
To Veto Reality

After all of the Yomim Tovim, we are once again able to focus on current events, namely parshas Bereishis. A couple of weeks ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to deny the Jewish people’s connection to Har HaBayis – the Temple Mount. Let us therefore study a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy’a (5 Likutei Sichos p. 4), a tzadik who never set foot in Eretz Yisroel but knew every stream of water and every street corner of the land. He held the deepest, most abiding love for the land of Israel.

As he does so many times, the Rebbe begins his teaching with the first Rashi in Bereishis (1:1):

Why did He begin the Torah with “In the beginning?” It was because of [the passuk] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Tehillim 111:6). If the nations of the world say to the Jewish people, “You are thieves because you conquered the lands of the seven nations [of Kena’an],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Hashem; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper. When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out three difficult questions on this Midrash quoted by Rashi. First, why would the “nations of the world” make this accusation of the Jewish people? Ostensibly, the only people affected by our conquest of the seven nations were the seven nations themselves. Why would the other nations of the world care to get involved in something that never affected them and has nothing to do with them?

Second, the military conquest of land is and has always been a recognized form of national land acquisition. Every nation does this and has done this from time immemorial. Even halachah recognizes this as a form of acquisition (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Hefker v’hasagas g’vul 63): “A king who conquered some country in war acquires it.” So why would the nations of the world suddenly call us “thieves” for conquering a territory militarily?

Finally, Rashi teaches us (on Bereishis 12:6) that the Kena’anim were not even the original inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel. They conquered the land from the descendants of Shem, from whom the Jewish people are descended! Hashem’s promise to give Eretz Yisroel to the Jewish people was actually an assurance that He would restore the land to its original possessors. Given the fact that when the Jewish people conquered Eretz Yisroel, they were actually reclaiming that which was already theirs, it is even harder to understand how the Midrash could say that the nations would call us “thieves” for taking back land that already belonged to us.

The Rebbe therefore explains that normally, military conquest is only recognized as a form of acquisition as long as the conquering country continues to control the land. As soon as it loses the land to some other conquering power, it no longer has any right to the land. Conquest only gives a nation the right to occupy a land. It does not create any lasting, inherent change in the land’s status or nature.

It is in precisely this respect that the Jewish people’s conquest of Eretz Yisroel differs from all other conquests in history with respect to every other territory in the world. From the moment Yehoshua led our people into the land of Israel, it underwent an existential change in its nature. We did not merely acquire the temporary right to live in Eretz Yisroel as long as we were militarily strong enough to hold onto the land. Forevermore, it could never be considered Kena’an, Palestine, Jordan, or the Ottoman Empire. It would always be, to its very core, only Eretz Yisroel.

Therefore, when we conquered Kena’an, and it transformed eternally into Eretz Yisroel, the land became the one place on earth no other nation could ever truly possess. Why would all of the nations of the earth care if the Jewish people dispossessed a couple of little nations on one small strip of land? How does it affect them? The reality is that even if they do not consciously recognize it, deep within themselves they know that they all lost their potential right to the land when we conquered Eretz Yisroel.

Why do Switzerland, Belgium, Venezuela, Egypt, and Jordan care to call us “thieves?” Because deep inside, they know that they lost out on even the potential to ever have any right or privilege over the land. They hate us because it no longer mattered whether some other nation ever became strong enough to dispossess us of the land. Our birthright prevented them from ever truly possessing the land. That is why Eretz Yisroel never gave itself over to any nation which occupied it after most Jewish people were exiled from the land, whether the Romans, Turks, the British, or the Jordanians. It was always barren for them. But as soon as Hashem’s children, the Jewish people, returned to the land, it bore fruit and blossomed once again.

UNESCO’s vote is simply the latest manifestation of this deepest truth. Just last year, the UN adopted 20 resolutions singling out Israel for criticism and only three against the rest of the world combined. The rest of the world is a slaughterhouse, with hundreds of thousands of people being butchered by totalitarian and Islamist regimes, yet the United Nations remains virtually silent. But it is simultaneously apoplectic in its complete intolerance for the existence of the Jewish people in its G-d-given home, Eretz Yisroel.

What motivates this? The Jewish people are simply returning to their home from the time of Shem and Yehoshua. It is clearly something much deeper than international law, which the nationsy conveniently rewrite to facilitate their desire to justify their Anti-Semitism, to scream out, “You are thieves because you conquered the lands of the seven nations!” Indeed the word “Semite” originates from the name, “Shem,” our ancestor and the original occupant of Eretz Yisroel. The nations know deep down that because Hashem gave Eretz Yisroel to the Jewish people as our eternal home, that it is the only place in the world where they can never stake any true claim.

It is because this is their question that we answer them with confidence, “The entire earth belongs to the Hashem; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper.” But why does the Midrash say that we answer them, “The entire earth belongs to the Hashem...” Because the focus is on Eretz Yisroel, why do we explain to them that the entire earth belongs to Hashem? Why not focus on the fact that Eretz Yisroel belongs to Hashem?

Perhaps it is not referring to the quantity of land belonging to Hashem, but on the depth and quality of Hashem’s ownership of the land. Hashem’s control over every territory of land in the world is not limited to the who occupies any given piece of land at a certain time, which might imply that He does not exert control over the essential, deepest nature of any part of the earth. Rather, we are telling the nations that the entirety of any piece of land, qualitatively, belongs to Hashem, all the way down to its very essence. That is why Hashem can, when He chooses to do so, transfer not just possession, but even the essential nature, of a piece of land to the nation of His choosing.


Even if the world does not care to listen to or hear the truth, we must know the truth so that we can hold our heads up high and see our G-d-given connection to Eretz Yisroel. Soon, with the coming of Moshiach, the entire world will be forced to recognize Hashem’s reign with the entire people of Israel fulfilling the Torah of Israel in the land of Israel, may it happen soon in our days.

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It Really Works! - Rav Weinberger's Drasha after the Yomim Noraim

Baruch Hashem, Rav Weinberger has approved this version of this write-up of his drasha from the way back on parshas Haazinu. Big thank you to Reb Dovid Frei who wrote up this drasha! See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Haazinu 5777
It Really Works!

The tzadikim say that the period between Yom Kippur and Sukkos is a very special time quite apart from the fact that the Jewish people are busily immersed in the building of Sukkos and the acquisition of the four species.

The Tosher Rebbe, zy’a, explains that every day, each Jew enacts the lesson of the opening passuk of our parshah, “Listen o Heavens and I will speak, and the earth will hear the words of my mouth.” A Yid wakes up and immerses himself in davening, reflection, and learning, asking Hashem in Heaven to hear his entreaties. Only after he has sincerely prayed to Hashem is he then in a position to go out in to the world (“the earth”) and embark on his daily working life, always mindful that his actions are governed by “the words of My mouth,” the instructions of Hashem.

Similarly, the intensive period of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, the ten days of teshuvah, and Yom Kippur is one long continuous tefillah, when we are continuously involved in “Listen o Heavens and I will speak,” trying to minimize our contact with the outside world while embracing matters pertaining to the Heavens and fulfilling “and I will speak” with the numerous selichos and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur tefillos.

After Yom Kippur, we have reached the position of “after davening.” Rav Naftali Tzvi Horowitz, the Zerah Kodesh of Ropschitz, zy’a, would say that during the period between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, he could hear the tumultuous sound of Jewish prayers soaring Heavenward.

The Tosher Rebbe explains that after Yom Kippur, we enter into the period of “and the earth will hear the words of my mouth.” We return to the everyday world, interacting with our peers and families, but on an elevated plane so that our actions and speech are infused by a spirit of “the words of My mouth.”  

We are now fortified by our involvement with the Heavens in the Elul/Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur period to go confidently forward to rejoicing with our family and friends over Sukkos in a spirit that “the words of my mouth” will govern our behavior and interactions.

The Tosher Rebbe says that in these days following Yom Kippur, it is important to have faith that out tefillos have been accepted and that Hashem has acknowledged the sincerity of our teshuvah.

He cites a comment of the Bas Ayin on the passuk in Beshalach which speaks of how the Jewish people were hemmed in at the Red Sea, surrounded by wild animals to the sides, the Egyptians behind them, and the sea in front of them. When Moshe cried out to Hashem, He responded by asking (Shmos 14:15), “Why are you davening to Me”?

All the commentaries ask the obvious question: Why was Hashem asking why Moshe was davening? What was he supposed to do at a time of crisis? Are we not all taught to beseech Hashem when in danger?

The Bas Ayin quotes a teaching of the Arizal that the opening letters of the words “Why are you davening to Me? –  מה תצעק אלי” form the word אמת – truth. HaShem was telling Moshe that because his prayers had been expressed with a truthful and sincere heart, he should have the faith and trust that those tefillos have been accepted and no further tefillah was required.

This is the meaning of Rashi’s comment, “The matter is dependent on Me and not you,” i.e., that he had completed his task with the sincerity of his tefillos, and that now he should rely upon Me to answer them. Moshe was therefore commanded, “Speak to Yisroel and they should move forward.” They should proceed confidently into the sea, trusting that their tefillos had been accepted.

This is the position in which we find ourselves after Yom Kippur, needing to truly believe that our tefillos have been accepted. There is a tendency to doubt whether our efforts over the Yomim Noraim have borne fruit.

The Alter Rebbe, zy’a, commenting on the passuk (Tehillim 35:4), “For with You is forgiveness in order that You may be feared,” suggests that Hashem hides the fact that He has forgiven the Jewish people. In other words, He is aware of our forgiveness but we are not aware of it. This is in order that we not become complacent in our teshuvah. The forgiveness is hidden with you.

Nevertheless, Hashem does want us to believe that our tefillos and teshuvah have been accepted and this is our task in the approach to Sukkos – to understand that we are at the stage “and the earth will hear the words of My mouth.”

We are at the point of “Speak to Yisroel and they should move forward.” Significantly, the notion of moving forward is mentioned in the Torah more than once in connection with Sukkos. In Bereishis (34:17), we read that, “And Yaakov travelled to Sukkos,” and in Shmos (12:37) we read “And the children of Israel moved forward from Rameses to Sukkos.” Sukkos is the time to move forward to everyday living when we can fill the world with “the words of My mouth.”

Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin, zy’a, used to comment, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion regarding that which we begin davening on Shmini Atzeres, following the Yomim Noraim season, “May He return the wind and cause the rain to descend.” Because the word for wind (רוח) also means spirituality and the word for rain (גשם) also means materialism, he explained that after such a long period of davening and spirituality, we are asking Hashem to return the spirituality to where it came from and cause the materialism to descend. While he made his point in a humorous way, his lesson, that we should recognize that after Yom Kippur it is time to bring that spirituality back down to earthly life, is equally true.

May we all merit to bring the spirituality and success of our davening during this season into our material lives!

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