Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5759 - March 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Those Who Stubbornly Insist on Riding the Wrong Train
by Yisroel Spiegel

"`This is the statute of the Torah' -- because Satan and the nations of the world taunt the Jews, saying: What is this commandment and what logic lies behind it? Therefore does the Torah establish it as a statute, an arbitrary decree before Me, which you have no permission to question" (Rashi Chukas 19:1).

This principle is an axiom for the entire Torah. "It is a decree before Me." Hashem, Creator of heaven and earth, formed man and established the Jewish nation; He gave the Torah and He commands us: "This is the statute of the Torah." It is one great entity of Creation which is comprised of heaven and earth, man and all other creations. And the holy Torah sets Israel apart from all other nations and tongues. "Thus says Hashem: if I have not appointed My covenant with day and night, the ordinances of heaven and earth . . . "

This is a Jew's warranty, his guarantee that the Eternal Who has chosen Israel will not lie, will not renege on His promise, and by virtue thereof, he must fulfill the Torah and its commandments because this is the divine will, because it is a divine arbitrary decree [as far as he is concerned]. The Jew in history, who constitutes a link in a long chain of three and a half millennia since the giving of the Torah, was not trapped in the net of questions and doubts, but remained staunch in this belief that every single commandment which he was given to fulfill is "because the Torah requires it." He need not look for rationale, for this very principle -- that mitzvos are beyond reason -- is the underlying axiom of all the commandments. Any induction that the human intellect can produce, be it ironclad in logic, is ever subject to challenge -- excluding the fundamental premise that "This is a decree before Me." Heavenly will is non-debatable.


"Why does the Torah use the term chukas precisely by the commandment of the poro adumo -- and generically call it `the statute of the Torah'? Also difficult in Rashi's explanation is that if we needed an explanation of this commandment for the gentiles, why didn't the Torah furnish it? For our own purposes, it is enough that Hashem commanded it thus; for theirs, it is not.

"This is why Rashi explained that Satan and the nations etc.; that even if the reason behind this particular commandment were explained to them, they, in their foolish stubbornness, would find some rejoinder to rebut. If the reason were explicitly stated, they might have the power to nullify and dismiss it, G-d forbid, and then we could not offer any other reason, since they would claim that it was not written in the Torah . . . " (Noam Elimelech p. 80b).

We certainly cannot suggest any reason other than what is stated in the Torah because we are not authorized to do so. While the summit of a Jew's aspirations is to make an acquisition of Torah, this can only be achieved through toil in Torah, whereby it is absorbed into his fiber and becomes an integral part of his essential being. Not the opposite, G- d forbid. Man cannot subjugate the Torah to his own mortal intellect. This is the lesson we derive from this portion and why it is established as an unquestionable statute. "For all tum'as meis is derived from the original sin of eating from the eitz hadaas. `And you shall be like G- d, knowing good and evil.' Purification from sin can only come about through the nullification of one's intellect and reason as was the divine will that Adam not eat from the Tree and not be subject to the trials of life. But Satan and the nations attempt to incite the Jews, just like the Serpent enticed Chava with the lure of being able to understand everything through man's limited, lowly intellect. But Jews do not succumb; they follow their faith and rely on the divine wisdom in the Torah and its commandments without inquiring into it, and this is their merit; this enables them to achieve purification from sin" (Sfas Emes, Poro p. 110).

This is a Jew's obligation, his goal -- to subjugate his whole will and intellect to the Torah and to the `mind' of the Torah. Anything outside of this is the very antithesis of the process of subservience to Torah; it demotes him from the status of the historic Jew and nullifies him as a human being, altogether. "Behold, I have given before you today life and goodness, and death and evil. And you shall choose life so that you shall live, you and your seed" (Devorim 30:15-19). The most clever person, even one who reaches new peaks of revelation in science and research, stands impotent when he is confronted with the key, the secret of life, itself. This is your limit, man. You can inquire no further. Why? Because. "Behold, I have given before you today life . . . "

Hashem grants life. And equally, He establishes good and evil and their demarcations, as that very verse goes on to state. Man has no choice in determining what is life and what is good. His sphere of choice lies only between life and death, good and evil. And the Torah charges us to "Choose life so that you shall live; you and your seed."


The true reason for all this is "It is a decree before Me." All of the Torah is statutory, in the same manner as the poro adumo, which is obviously so. This is the historic route of our ancient people through the halls of time, beginning with Avrohom who was commanded to "Walk before Me and be guileless." A Jew proceeds with unquestioning faith -- and he survives to endure. When he veers from his simplicity and tries to `understand,' he is shunted off the route leading to eternity, and all kinds of calamities befall him, major and minor. A Jew who does not submissively accept the decrees of the A-mighty implicates himself in trouble and arrives ad absurdum.

At first, he deceives himself into thinking that he has succeeded, and becomes smug. "Ah," he pats himself, "I've made it!" That is what happened to the first mavericks. They succeeded in erecting the Tower of Bovel, because Free Choice operates, but further than that was beyond them. And so on down the line of history.

The State has experienced periods of shock waves, like when one general compared the `knitted kipot' to the swastika. A leader from the Opposition blurted impulsively that had he been born a Palestinian, he would have joined a terrorist organization. A secular-leftist writer who won the Israel Prize for Literature was attacked for an article he wrote ten years before criticizing the settlers. Another awardee of the Israel Prize for literature was a poet from the same circle, who wrote: "There is no longer reason to conceal:/ We are an experiment that failed,/ A program that fell through,/ At the cost of far too much murder . . . "

No one rose up to challenge her right to the prize in the jubilee year of statehood. just like she did not announce, to date, her refusal to accept this honor from the State, and the Zionism that preceded it, against both of which she passes her judgment. "An experiment that failed; a program that fell through." The reasons why such statements went unchallenged, and why she did not reject the prize -- remain a riddle. But that's beside the point we wish to highlight -- that of an outright admission of "an experiment that failed."


Those who are truly distant are unable to grasp the meaning of this. But we are dealing with people who should, ostensibly, understand. They wear kipot; they study Torah and keep its commandments. In spite of this, they are misguided. One of them, Yisroel Harel, the former Chairman of the Judea-Samaria Council, a man of letters, writhes in literary acrobatics in an article explaining the nature of the abysmal hatred that is being generated from the left towards the Zionist right, especially in that unfortunate statement comparing the knitted kipot to the swastika, or in an essay written ten years ago against the settlers by the writer who was awarded the Israel Prize.

His argument is that there is a deep-seated envy amongst the leftist camp towards religious Zionists. To uphold this theory, he quotes Professor Ravitzky, who sports a kippa and is a leader of Meimad, as saying, "The engineer in the Zionist `train' was always the socialist elite. My parents were also passengers of that train, but the only car that remained free for them -- and this, at an outrageously high price -- was the dining car, where they served as kashrus supervisors. Towards the end of the '60s, the children of these supervisors began making their way towards the more central cars. And now, when the engineers have reached the end of their road, they remain, in their sights, the only ones whose inceptive Zionism has remained `unadulterated'. This is why they feel fit to steer the train to its original destination, and to monitor the wheel since the role of engineer held by the founding fathers no longer interests their direct descendants, many of whom actually despise it."

Harel's big error, common to all his fellow religious Zionists be they more to the political right or less, is that they think that they merely occupied the wrong car in the past, but have finally reached their rightful place. The truth is that they have been traveling with the wrong locomotive for the past century. Theirs is the train of delusions, of the big mistake, the train that is waylaying its passengers off the main track of the Judaism of history, of the ages.

It is no mere chance that when a nation leads a campaign against Hashem, His Torah, and His loyal ones, those on the train do not produce as much as a tweet of protest. On the contrary, they hasten to join the inciters and hurl oil upon the fires of hatred against the true altruists of the State, those who lay aside temporal comforts and devote themselves to eternal values, those who possess an exalted ideology and subjugate themselves and their intellects to the Divine wisdom of Hashem and His Torah, and reserve for themselves no more than the four cubits of halocho. When do they rouse themselves? When the hate campaign suddenly swerves to their direction, to include them. Those who invaded the central train cars. A famous popular singer, a fourth generation of the founders of Nahalal, once noted that the train was headed Nowhere. And now, the winner of the Israel Prize is none other than a poet who defines the Zionist experience as `an experiment that failed, a program that went haywire.'


Jewish history is not like raw material in the hands of a mortal craftsman. It is unique, different from anything else that exists by other nations. The Agudist thinker and writer, HaRav Dr. Yitzchok Breuer z'l, frequently used the term "metahistory" with regard to the Jewish people.

World history follows certain laws, as does nature, but the Jewish nation is set apart from other nations; it is excluded from these laws, being above them and subject to metahistory, which, in turn, is directed directly by Hashem Who elevated us above all tongues and implanted eternal life within us. Many mighty nations have perished from the face of the earth leaving no trace, while the Jewish nation has survived all persecution that seemingly threatened its existence. For this there is only one explanation:

"Said Hashem: I promulgated a statute, issued a decree. You are not permitted to transgress it" (Bamidbor Rabba 19:1). The natural law of history determines that there is no justification for the survival in this cruel world of a small, persecuted nation. But since the Jewish people occupies a metaphysical place in history, in the very cycle of "Behold, I present before you today life . . . ," and in the merit of those who do choose good which comes coupled with life, this nation has been able to surmount all barriers of natural existence and survival and thereby proves, before the very surprised eyes of all historians, the axiom of " . . . so that you shall live, you and your seed."

Those who rebel against the decree stand abashed and rejected, and this includes even those who affixed a mezuza, as it were, upon their train car. One cannot occupy a place both in the movement of Nimrod and that of Avrohom. We read in the haftorah of Parshas Ki Siso the piercing clarion call of Eliyohu Hanovi: "For how long will you straddle the two sides?" There can be no coexistence between the great belief that Hashem is G-d and, lehavdil, the Baal. One must choose.

A strange thing is happening to the kippa sruga camp. At the very peak of their adherence to Zionism, their former partners-in-politics turn against them and denounce them for those very points which should stand to their credit. They are the last of the expansionists of the settlements, the best soldiers. How stinging and painful is this slap in the face! Instead of serving as the counter-force to the anti- religious accusation of `draft dodgers' and `haters of Eretz Yisroel,' they are being attacked with a venomous, satanic vengeance.

A general in the reserves compares the knitted kipot to the Nazi swastika, and Yisroel Harel writes that the general serves as a mouthpiece for all those who called him up in support. Settlers are branded by a writer who won the Israel Prize for literature as those "who sprung up from the sewers to the center stage of history." And some go so far as to mention the forgotten fact that in 1975, the serving prime minister called the settlers "a cancer in the body of Israeli democracy."

From the corner of their eyes, they glance towards the Reform and other pluralism advocates. Yisroel Harel, who was so shocked by the abysmally overt hatred towards those who wear knitted kipot was, himself, not below stooping to attacking the chareidim, in a central newspaper, which categorically slings mud at both the religious and chareidim alike. In spite of all this, they are being thrown to the lions, not because they are not Zionists, but precisely because they are what they are!


In utilizing the simile of the train and the cars, Harel expresses his dream-wish of "the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state." That is, of occupying the engineer's cabin of that wayward train chugging down the wrong track. Even after the wave of hatred has crashed down upon their heads, don't those people see everyone screaming at them: get off the train; it's headed down a cliff! That is not the way to the Jewish goal of "This is the statute of the Torah," above and beyond Time, beyond Nature and beyond Place. For "I have promulgated a statute, issued a decree [and] you are not permitted to transgress My decree." Whosoever dares to do so is cast out of the eternal metahistory cycle and shunted to that of history limited by temporal laws of cessation and persistence.

The Zionist ethos is not Jewish; it was shoplifted from the nations, which is why it is "an experiment that went awry," as those who are disillusioned by it readily admit. Nor can it ever succeed, even if the last of its adherents, the wearers of the knitted kipot, stubbornly and religiously cleave to it. The destiny of the Jewish people is the hoped-for spiritual redemption which must be preceded by the purification of the poro adumo. "Chazal ordained that this portion be read before Nisan since just as a wave of renewal descends upon Israel in Nisan, so does purification descend upon the souls of Israel beforehand . . . And since in Nisan we expect to be redeemed, surely before that redemption Hashem will waft a spirit of purification in the hearts of Bnei Yisroel" (Sfas Emes, Parshas Poro).

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