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Haazinu + Sukkot |  13th Tishrei 5777  |  Oct 15th, 2016  |  Issue 671
Mazal Tov to Shlomo Blass (Cape Town, 1997-98) and his wife Sarah on the birth of twin sons!
Mazal Tov to David and Meital Tzviel (Montreal, 2005-2010) on the birth of a son!

   Rabbi Benji Levy

College Dean, Moriah College, Sydney
Ideals and reality
Two strands of one thread

Parshat Ha’azinu begins, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” According to Rashi, when he was warning Israel, Moshe needed two witnesses, similar to any testimony. He therefore appointed the heavens and earth, two entities which are eternal and thus will bear testimony as long as the Jewish people live. Moshe begins by addressing the heavens, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;” and then the earth, “and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” Similarly when reprimanding the Jewish people, Isaiah, one of the later prophets, recalls the same two witnesses, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth…”
When analysing these seemingly identical verses, Midrash Tanchuma picks up on a subtle difference: though both the heavens and earth are called on as witnesses, the order of Isaiah’s prophecy is inverted. The Midrash quotes Rabbi Akiva’s simple yet astute explanation. Moshe dwelled in the perfect and ideal world, the heavens. He ascended twice for forty days and forty nights to the heavens, not needing any physical sustenance, drawing nourishment and learning Torah directly from G-d, in a sort of extended Yom Kippur. So too, when the Torah says that Moshe saw G-d’s face, it is depicting Moshe’s untainted view and pure connection to the Torah, which transcends an earthly knowledge and is likened only to that of the heavens. Thus Moshe addressed the heavens first since his relationship towards the heavens was like that of a close friend whereas his relationship to the earth was far more distant. The direct opposite to this can be learnt about Isaiah. Isaiah lived during an epoch of rebellion and though he did attain a spiritual level of prophecy, which comes from the heavens, this was somewhat distant to him as his main knowledge of experience was acquired in the world that he toiled day and night, the world of physical existence - earth.
The innovative premise of this Midrash is that when talking about something close, the phrase “haazinu” is used, whereas when referring to something distant “tishma” is applied as established through both Moshe and Isaiah. Moshe had a closer connection to the heavens yet Isaiah had a closer connection to earth. Shamayim (heaven) is by definition a flawless world and is thus indicative of ideals, whereas aretz (earth) is the day to day world that we live in and is thus symptomatic of reality. Any Jewish person that has capitalised upon the opportunity of the Torah has to act in each sphere. We all need ideals, yet we cannot use these ideals as escapism from reality and everyone has to instill an integration of the two.
Though each individual’s personality often leans towards either idealism or realism it is imperative to maintain equilibrium. There are few days in the year which warrant the opportunity for a dwelling in the ideal world. Two of these days are Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, where we are able to devote our entire day towards lofty pursuits. The days in-between however, seem to be normal working days. And it is no co-incidence that this parsha, parshat Ha’azinu, falls in between these two festivals. Many people act upon a “Moshe”/ Yom Kippur approach, ignoring certain necessities; however the danger is that they become detached from, and lose track of reality. At the same time, many situations dictate a necessity to make minor concessions in the ideal world, in order to live in reality.
A life of Torah does not by any means detract from a professional life, whether doctor, lawyer or engineer, however the realist must still realize that his monetary pursuits are not an end in and of themselves. One should always be weary of a reality where yesterday’s concessions become tomorrow’s !standards and that is why a balance between ideals and reality – that which both Moshe and Isaiah sought, is absolutely essential. May this New Year bring an ideal reality.

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   Rabbi Ilan Goldman

Former Rav-Shaliach, Bnei Akiva England
Currently Executive Director, Project Aseret

Sukkot is the last of the three Regalim. We all know that Pesach is a reminder of Yetziat Mitzrayim, and that Shavuot is a reminder of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. However, when it comes to Sukkot the message is a little less clear.

The Torah tells us that we dwell in the sukkah so that we should remember how Hashem had us dwell in sukkot when we left Mitzrayim. In which sukkot did our ancestors dwell? Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva discuss this question in the Gemara: the former says it was the clouds of honor, whilst the latter understands it literally – referring to sukkot as we know them today.

Though the concept of clouds of honor is difficult to understand, it is Rabbi Akiva’s opinion which is not clear in this case. At what point exactly did Bnei Yisrael dwell in the Sukkot? We know that in the desert they were in tents – מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב, ‘How good are your tents O Jacob’ – but when were they in sukkot?

Rav Elazar explains in Sefer HaRokach that at the time of their wars against Sichon, Og and the cities of Canaan, Am Yisrael lived in sukkot. Up until the time that they actually conquered the land, they continued to dwell in sukkot. Although the pesukim refer to dwelling in the sukkot at the time of Yetziat Mitzrayim, HaRokach proves that the entire forty years – including the wars at the end of the period – are included in the episode of leaving Mitzrayim.

The Vilna Gaon describes a remarkable connection between Sukkot and Eretz Yisrael. It is these two mitzvot alone in which we immerse fully, with our whole physical being. These two mitzvot are also unique in elevating all we do to the level of a mitzvah – for example eating, sleeping, or walking around in the sukkah, and hiking in Eretz Yisrael.

When we reach Sukkot, the end of the cycle of three annual festivals, we have therefore concentrated on the three great principles of Judaism: Am Yisrael (Pesach), Torat Yisrael (Shavuot) and Eretz Yisrael (Sukkot). However HaRokach leaves us a little puzzled in his following explanation. What is the purpose of the Torah telling us to know that our ancestors dwelt in sukkot? He answers that this is so that we won’t think that Am Yisrael lived in Eretz Yisrael since the time of Avraham, Yizchak and Yaacov. Rather, we all need to know that we once sat in sukkot and went to war.

My Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Yehoshua Weitzman in his Sefer Mesos Ha’Aretz asks why we need to know that we once fought for the Land. He answers how important it is to remember that the Land was not handed to us on a silver platter, so that we do not take Eretz Yisrael for granted. Times of war demand us to define for ourselves our connection to the land, and what right we have to it. Today, we have ongoing problems – both from within and also from our neighbours in Israel. These seem to be a call upon us to reconnect and realize how rooted Am Yisrael must be in Eretz Yisrael. Sukkot, by serving as a reminder of our history, is therefore directly relevant to the appreciation of our existence today in the Land of Israel. Chag Sameach!

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Torah MiTzion around the world
Gilad and Esther Lavi, along with their daughters, Shai and Shoham, leaving for Perth
Eliana Silverman heads off to join her fellow shlichim in Munich, Germany
A toast for Rosh Hashana with the Israeli ambassador in Washington 
Cooking at a fun pre-Rosh Hashana event with our Shlichim in Montevideo, Uruguay.

     Arik Speaker                   In cooperation with: 

'Lilmod' Coordinator and Head of  European Desk in Torah MiTzion

Emek Habacha (lit. The Valley of Tears) is one of the most famous symbols, and a relatively positive one, of the Yom Kippur War.
This area in the northern Golan, near the deserted Syrian town of Konitrah, was where the Syrian forces directed their primary penetration efforts, because of the convenient passage for armored vehicles. Syria did indeed sent the bulk of their forces there. But the IDF, which was well aware of that in advance, based on intelligence and strategic assessments, placed the bulk of its defense forces in this region, a decision which certainly proved itself during the war.

This is actually the only area were the defense forces kept their line entirely. This as opposed to the Southern Golan Heights and the Sinai fronts which broke, and were able to eliminate the enemy forces only after the IDF reserve forces arrived a few days later.
This is one reason why this battle has become so famous, with several books and videos published on it. An additional reason is the commander of Battalion 77 which fought in the area,  Avigdor Kahalani one of the war's most famous heroes - who managed to hold the front with only the regular forces.
After the war he was awarded a medal for his heroic performance in this battle, and later became a politician and Member of Knesset .

The battle lasted about 4 days, with 150 Israeli tanks fighting against 470 Syrian tanks. The IDF lost 70 armored vehicles compared to over 500 Syrian vehicles which were destroyed.

After holding the front, the IDF counterattacked and captured an area of ​​about 400 square kilometers.

The battle symbolizes in many ways the entire war: a complete surprise, fierce battles against enemy with far more forces, many casualties among our forces, eventually blocking the attack and successfully counter-attacking.
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