A Crisis In Leadership
By Menachem Ziegelboim

Two of the yeshivos headed by the gaon and mekubal Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh, in Shechem and Yericho, were destroyed and set on fire. The third yeshiva is under constant fire. We asked the fearless Rabbi Ginsburgh for his Torah view about the situation in Eretz Yisroel, and what is being asked of us in these troubling times.

Halls are packed when he lectures and people follow him from city to city to hear him speak. The gaon, Chassid, and mekubal, Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh was born in the US, and became known as a mathematical genius and gifted musician in his youth. From the time he first became acquainted with Chassidus, he has had only one desire: to disseminate the wellsprings of pnimiyus ha’Torah.

Rabbi Ginsburgh’s work is under the auspices of an organization called Gal Einai, from the verse in Psalms, "Gal einai v’abita niflaos mi’Torasecha" (Uncover my eyes and I will see wonders from your Torah). The organization publishes books, pamphlets, hundreds of tapes of classes and lectures on the weekly sidra and other topics, and dozens of video tapes. This material reaches tens of thousands of Jews around Eretz Yisroel and abroad. Rabbi Ginsburgh also has two Internet sites which serve to disseminate his teachings. The organization arranges evening programs, lectures, classes, and Shabbaton weekends.

Rabbi Ginsburgh began teaching in Yeshivas Od Yosef Chai thirteen years ago, at Kever Yosef in Shechem. He then established an additional yeshiva located in the old shul in Yericho, as well as Kollel Menucha Rochel in Chevron. Dozens of students devotedly showed up each day to learn at these holy sites. They endured endless troubles from Palestinian terrorists, but they withstood it with Jewish pride. Unfortunately, on Erev Rosh HaShana, with tensions growing, the students of the yeshiva in Shechem were cleared out of the area and not allowed to return. Instead, they continued their studies at Yishuv Yitzhar near Shechem. The uprising began and the yeshiva in Shechem was attacked and burned down, including thousands of sifrei kodesh, r’l. The site was then turned into a mosque.

The Kollel Menucha Rochel in Chevron is in constant danger. "Yeshivas Od Yosef Chai and the Shalom Al Yisroel Shul in Yericho went up in flames," Rabbi Ginsburgh relates. "The people in Chevron are still under fire. We need an increase in prayer and an arousal of mercy for those living there."

* * *

The nation is in a daze. What is actually going on?

It’s becoming more and more clear that we have a vacuum in leadership. Chazal say, "If not for fear of the government, man would swallow his fellow alive." Since we are now in a situation in which man swallows his fellow alive, it proves that the government has lost its authority.

What is required of us under the circumstances?

That every Jew know that this is the situation – i.e., that there is a vacuum in leadership – so that everybody will plead from the depths of their hearts for "Hashem their G-d and Dovid their king." When the government is intact, people don’t feel and understand that true malchus is lacking. The time has come to ask for true leadership.

Is the Redemption supposed to emerge from this anarchy?

Chassidus explains that between one yeish ([state of] existence) and another, there’s a period of ayin (void) in between. Therefore we must increase in prayer and good deeds, so that the period of ayin can be as short as possible. How long does the ayin state last? In Chassidus it’s explained that sometimes it’s as short as the blink of an eye, like the halachic discussion as to the length of bein ha’sh’mashos (the period of time between sunset and nightfall). After this brief period, we move from the present malchus to the heavenly malchus under the rule of Moshiach.

If we have just reached the stage of "and they requested Dovid their king," does that mean we are still at the beginning of the process?

We are at the breaking point now: "And he will rule – and he will die." This refers to the false impression people had regarding settling Eretz Yisroel; they thought it was the beginning of the Geula process. Well, that balloon has burst. Everybody sees the shortcomings of our present government. It is a government that signs agreements with our enemy, and desires to pacify our enemy for the purpose of assimilating among the nations. The Rebbe always said that in order for Moshiach to come we must open our eyes. The present crisis is meant to help every Jew open his eyes.

Then we should be happy about what’s going on, for it’s nothing but a preparation for the Geula.

A Jew must always be happy, even under the most difficult circumstances, even in painful situations, r’l. A Jew must always see the good in it. It says in Keser Shem Tov that joy is finding the good in everything that happens. That is the true ability to rejoice – when you discover the purpose in everything.

So everything taking place now is part of the Geula process?


Is this mentioned in sifrei kodesh?

It says that in the seventh year (shmita) there will be sounds of war. To this we must add and explain based on what it says in the Gemara: "Every year that is poor in the beginning will be rich in the end." Chassidus explains that you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to be rich. It occurs at the very beginning, so that from the blowing of the shofar and on one can manifest the riches at the end.

When we consider the acts of violence, we see that they began just at the beginning of the year; this is what is meant by a year that is poor at the beginning. We must pray and hope that this year will end with "riches" – with the coming of Moshiach, though obviously we don’t need to wait until the end of the year for that.

* * *

A proclamation by Rabbi Ginsburgh was publicized lately about the situation in Eretz Yisroel. Under the heading "What To Do?" the Rav’s opinion, based on true Torah knowledge and the Rebbe’s sichos, is presented.

It’s probably the first and only such paper these days expressing a clear and unequivocal view as to what our reaction should be: "The I.D.F. should utterly destroy the enemy!" the text reads. "This is what Dovid Melech Yisroel said and fulfilled: ‘I will chase after my enemy and reach them and not return until they are destroyed.’" Rabbi Ginsburgh continues, "We should know that the Arab’s war against us is a religious war. The only way to be victorious is to strengthen our religion, das Moshe v’Yisroel – the true religion! Truth will prevail!"

That is the first public statement that expresses a clear position about the current situation and about shleimus ha’Aretz. Why, in this state of emergency, does the rabbinic world remain quiet?

The Rebbe said, and this is based on the navi, that blindness and not opening one’s eyes refer primarily to the rabbanim, who are described as the "eyes of the nation," for whom blindness is applicable. The Rebbe said numerous times that the Geula is delayed because of the rabbanim – those rabbanim who are not prepared to make the proper statements at the proper time.

In light of the crisis in leadership both in government and in rabbanus, what can we, the people, do? If the "cedars" are on fire, what about us?

The people must wake up and open their eyes. That’s the way it was at the splitting of the sea, as Chazal say that a maidservant saw at the splitting of the sea what even the prophets did not see. It’s explained that it was specifically the maidservants and babies in utero who first saw the G-dly revelation. Apparently, opening our eyes, which is what Heaven is waiting for, begins with the ordinary folk.

One of the points mentioned in the message you publicized is that this isn’t merely an argument over land, but a religious war of Islam against Judaism. What is the difference between these two types of wars?

The entire war is based on who’s in charge of the holy sites. The Arabs sense that their life-force comes from the Jews’ holy sites. That’s why their battles have always been focused on kivrei tzaddikim, because these places nourish their life-force. It’s no wonder that they hold fast to Kever Yosef, Kever Rochel Imeinu, Me’aras HaMachpeila, and most importantly, Har HaBayis.

Generally speaking, since we are in Galus because of our sins, isn’t it right for the Arabs to rule over the holy sites?

Moshiach is about to come and the Rebbe demanded that we open our eyes and see that things don’t have to be that way, and that there really isn’t any reason for the Galus to continue. There is no justification for the Arab’s continued domination of our holy sites.

There are those who say that the Rebbe spoke only about endangering millions of Jews, but upon examining the sichos you see three central themes regarding shleimus ha’Aretz: 1) returning land endangers the lives of millions of Jews; 2) Hashem gave us the land through open miracles, so giving away land is actually a slap in the face of the One who gave us the gift; 3) and the importance of the land is underscored.

In many sichos, the Rebbe explained these three points. We should learn them and publicize them. "Danger to life" is the p’shat (i.e., the basic reason), but on a deeper level, it’s all about the holiness of Eretz Yisroel. This is our contract with Hashem, in which He gave this land to the Jewish people. In order to guard this bond and covenant, we must have mesirus nefesh.

Looking at it this way, even talking about concessions, even thinking about it, is not only an insult to Hashem’s gift, but an utter chilul Hashem. Contemplating returning land blemishes a Jew’s emunas Hashem in that he does not acknowledge the miracles G-d performs for him, and it even blemishes the inner and essential connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisroel.

This applies to merely thinking about giving away land; all the more so concerning speaking about giving away land. Speaking about concessions strengthens the government’s policies and makes us partners to the killing. Our soldiers are being killed, r’l, because our government prevents them from taking action!

* * *

Rabbi Ginsburgh is not afraid of stating the truth, and all the truth – even if it isn’t favorable towards certain groups, specifically the political left. It’s not for naught that the government under Peres put him under lock and key with the excuse of "incitement." It didn’t take long before justice was served and the Supreme Court judge who presided over his case was sympathetic to his logical claims, and ordered his release on the spot. He was greeted in Kfar Chabad with singing and dancing.

It seems as though today as well, he is the only one complaining about those who continue to buy produce from the terrorists, thereby actively helping support them. We asked him about this, too:

It’s a shmita year, so the kashrus organizations rely heavily on Arab fruits and vegetables. In the article you wrote, you spoke strongly against this. What should be done?

They prosper as a result of our buying produce from them. This is an outright prohibition of the Torah of lo sichonem. Buying from them gives them a chaniya b’karka (a foothold in the land), because even if you don’t actually give them land, you’re giving them a partnership in the land of Eretz Yisroel. Not only is this an outright prohibition of the Torah, but danger to life is more severe than a prohibition.

As Jews who believe in hashgacha pratis, how can we understand why it is that this uprising is taking place during a shmita year, when we need the Arab’s produce more than ever?

Specifically this year, when we need them, it’s a challenge for every Jew whether he will withstand the test of making do without approaching them. There are stores here which do not sell Arab produce nor do they sell produce which was grown with a heter mechira, and the prices are not high.

Withstanding the test by not helping them depends on our will. Though the test is hard indeed, this is the significance of "yisbareru v’yislabnu rabbim" (literally, "many will be refined and cleaned," i.e., tested) before Moshiach comes. This year we have an excellent opportunity to see for ourselves where we stand. Each of us can ask ourselves: With whom do I identify? Am I ready to struggle a bit and not support the enemy and be a partner to his crimes? The issue that needs clarification is not the relationship between our enemies and ourselves. It’s a test of each individual’s attitude.

Why must we reach this stage of clarification?

In Chassidus it’s explained that before the "sweetening" and before every good situation, there must be a process of refinement. As we said, every Jew has to clarify for himself what it means to be a Jew. How does it obligate me that I am a believing Jew? Am I prepared to stand proudly and not lower my head and give in to pressure?

Not only is the government a memsheles hefker (anarchic government), it’s far worse than hefker, for it is an active partner in the murder and destruction going on here. Just recently, the government transferred a sum of millions of shekel to the terrorists, thus becoming their greatest supporters. The Israeli government gives them far more than it gives to yeshivos!

What is the inner connection between shmita and Geula?

The Rebbe explained many times that shmita is Shabbos, a Shabbos for the land, and the light of Geula relates, as is known, to Shabbos. This is especially significant this year, when Rosh HaShana fell on Shabbos. The Rebbe explains that in a year like this, the entire year is Shabbos-like, corresponding to the aspect of oneg (pleasure). Of course, oneg can also be nega, a plague, as they are composed of the same letters. The avoda of a Jew throughout the year is to transform the war, milchama (which is numerically equivalent nega and oneg; i.e., all equal 123), and nega into oneg.


You direct the Yeshiva Od Yosef Chai in Shechem and Yeshivas Shalom Al Yisroel in Yericho; when did you become the director?

With regard to Shechem, twelve years ago. I went there a number of times in order to give classes. After getting to know the people there, our connection grew and then they asked me to serve as rosh yeshiva. The yeshiva had been founded eight years before that, after they dismantled Yamit.

The Rebbe took great interest in this yeshiva, as well as those in Yericho and Chevron. On more than one occasion the Rebbe gave a bottle of mashke for a farbrengen at each location.

One of the interesting answers we received was when we had the opportunity to build the yeshiva in the Shalom Al Yisroel Shul in Yericho. I asked the Rebbe whether to establish the yeshiva, and the Rebbe said we should. Then I asked what sort of yeshiva it should be. I presented three possibilities: that it be 1) an outright Chabad yeshiva, or 2) a mixed yeshiva, in which both Lubavitch and non-Lubavitch students would study, or 3) like the yeshiva in Shechem, where Chassidus is studied in depth, as much as in every Chabad yeshiva, but everybody dresses their own way. The Rebbe agreed with the third suggestion, that the new yeshiva should be like the yeshiva in Shechem.

The year that the Rebbe said to increase the number of mosdos to 1,000, one of those mosdos was the yeshiva in Shechem, as well as all of the mosdos of Gal Einai, and the Rebbe formally accepted these mosdos as part of his Chabad mosdos.

We also established a kollel in Chevron at the location of the first Chabad shul in the land of Israel. This shul was called Der Mitteler Rebbe’s Shul, as it was founded one generation before the old shuls that were named after the Tzemach Tzedek.

When we founded the kollel, we asked the Rebbe what to call the shul. Until then, the Ashkenazim called it the Ashkenazi Shul of Avrohom Avinu, but the Chabad Chassidim called it Der Mitteler Rebbe’s Shul, or after Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel, the central Chabad figure in Chevron, where she is buried. We were privileged to have the Rebbe himself name it after Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel.

Did you expect the evacuation and burning of Shechem and Yericho?

It was obvious that according to the natural course of things, in accordance with the government policy, this is the way things were going. But, of course, we believe in hashgacha pratis and miracles.

When did you find out about the abandonment of Kever Yosef in Shechem?

The evacuation was on Shabbos Shuva, and we heard about it right after Shabbos, along with news of the disappearance of R’ Hillel Lieberman (may Hashem avenge his blood), whose body was found a few days later. R’ Hillel was bound to the place with all his soul, and the fact that both incidents took place on one day – the abandonment of the kever and his murder – testify to a connection between the two.

* * *

In the course of the interview, Rabbi Ginsburgh asked of every Jew in general and Chassidim in particular, to come and strengthen the people in these places that are going through difficult times. He spoke about his students who are scattered throughout the country, some of them on various hilltops in order to establish ownership. "There they are with a wife and child – surrounded by Arabs," he describes.

Aside from financial aid, which is urgently needed, there’s nothing better than coming to visit them, and boost their morale. "For Simchas Torah, a bus of Anash from Kfar Chabad went out to Chevron. Afterwards I heard from the people who live there, with whom I am in constant contact, how greatly encouraged they were by the visit."

* * *

This is how Rabbi Ginsburgh concludes the proclamation mentioned above:

"The time is ripe. From Above G-d yearns to give us victory and success in everything, to bring the entire world true peace. Yet we, too, must arouse ourselves here below: ‘Open for me an entrance the size of a needle and I will open a doorway for you as big as the doorway of the main hall of the Sanctuary.’

"The Torah, which we all received together from G-d, will give us the strength to fight for our people and the cities of our L-rd. We will go out to war, full of bitachon in G-d (and not bitachon in ‘my strength and the power of my hand’), bitachon accompanied by the joy of the mitzva of conquering and settling Eretz Yisroel (the place where we serve Hashem ‘with joy and gladness of heart, meirov kol [provided with bountiful abundance]’). ‘In Him our hearts will rejoice, for we trust in His Holy One.’"


Rabbi Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh

Rabbi Ginsburgh giving a shiur to his talmidim
in Kollel Menucha Rachel in Chevron



The entire war is based on who’s in charge of the holy sites. The Arabs sense that their life-force comes from the Jews’ holy sites. That’s why their battles have always been focused on kivrei tzaddikim.




Just recently, the government transferred a sum of millions of shekel to the terrorists, thus becoming their greatest supporters. The Israeli government gives them far more than it gives to yeshivos!


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