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28 Nissan 5760 - May 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Truth and Peace

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

The war the militant secular Jews and heretic so-called religious movements are waging against the Torah observant has in the last few years taken on a new and threatening form. They have decided that instead of defending their own ground they should attack ours. Although once they were content to ignore the warnings of the Torah-true to the Jewish Nation that they are jokers, forgers of Judaism and uprooters of Torah, now they audaciously dare to slander Torah Jewry.

Maybe you will ask how is that possible. How can they portray themselves as being more "kosher" than yirei Shomayim and Jews meticulous in fulfilling mitzvos? At the best they can try to present their perversion of the Torah as an "option within legitimate Judaism," but how can they even try to delegitimize traditional Judaism? Even according to their school of thought Torah Judaism should have a "right to survive" at least as a "movement" or an "option."

The answer to this is that they discredit the Torah observant with the despicable argument that we are causing division and dissension in am Yisroel in that we disqualify and reject outright the Reform, Conservative, and various secular deceptions.

In a discussion at the Annual Conference of Agudath Yisroel of America, HaRav Nosson Scherman told the following story: "Not long ago several Jewish newspapers in English published a large advertisement signed by twelve Jewish billionaires who run large charity funds. These philanthropists announced that henceforth they would support only Jewish institutions that "help strengthen unity." HaRav Sherman said that it was superfluous to indicate what this "unity" was: It meant recognizing spurious Reform conversions and the legitimacy of the Reform and Conservative Movements in Eretz Yisroel. It also meant agreeing to a list of demands. The problem was these demands endanger Judaism's future and we must fight against them.

One of the grave matters, as HaRav Scherman pointed out, was that one of these funds is, surprisingly, Orthodox and distributes millions of dollars for charity purposes. Two years ago this fund sent out circulars to all the institutions including yeshivos announcing its new policy: strengthening "Jewish unity." Only those enterprises following this "lofty principle" will be recognized as deserving of assistance and all others will receive either decreased funding or nothing at all. One of the results of this new "policy" was that support for the eminent Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore and the American nation- wide network of Torah schools of Torah Umesorah was reduced some 80-90%. We can presume that even this little support will soon be stopped.

The attempt to portray the campaign against those uprooting Torah as "making a machlokes" and as "harming unity" is not at all new. All falsifiers of the Torah have used this demagogic means in their attempt to protect themselves from the criticism of those who follow the Torah loyally.

They knew that what they needed was a temporary state of peace allowing them to imbue their heretic poison within the hearts of innocent Jews. They therefore told the masses while feigning righteousness: "Take a look. We only want to be considered a legitimate movement. No more. Not we but they are causing a controversy, shooting arrows at us, stabbing us with their swords, and harming Jewish unity."

We have on other occasions quoted the Maharam Chagiz in his war against the Shabtai Tzvi and other false Messianic movements, explaining that these demagogic arguments repeat themselves throughout history. In Elu Hamitzvos (ch. 547) he explains at length the fallacy in presenting the struggle of the Torah-true against those trying to destroy Yiddishkeit as being a machlokes. Because of the relevant importance of the sanctions the Reform are making against those "harming the strengthening of unity," we will quote once again what he wrote.

Many parshiyos in the Torah come to teach us that "anyone involved in a machlokes or dissension lesheim Shomayim and protesting against those doing aveiros is not called a baal machlokes, although the crude masses unaware of Hashem's ways may think so and mistakenly interpret the just as being unjust. Whenever and wherever these people want to do any evil they use the same method as the people of Anosos. These simple people verbally attack those trying to help and protect them from sin and charge them as being baalei machlokes, and as intervening in an affair that has nothing to do with them.

"I have seen this but cannot understand. How can it possibly be that those trying to protect the Jewish masses from sin and guide them in the way of truth, attempting to distance them from physical and spiritual dangers will be called shotim and baalei machlokes? I would like to ask these people something and am interested in hearing an answer. Perhaps this [mitzvah of preventing others from sin] is something new? Is it not an inheritance from our Patriarch of Patriarchs, Avrohom Ovinu? Did not Avrohom Ovinu place himself in grave danger and provoke Nimrod and all those living in his time?

"Avrohom traveled to Canaan where he was a stranger. He did not decide to remain in his homeland among his fellow citizens. Undoubtedly if Avrohom would have followed their ways and agreed with them or at least remained silent he would have been considered an eminent person since his father was one of their leaders. In any event, Avrohom Ovinu chose to act differently. He decided to live in poverty and danger, departed from his homeland, and went to call in the name of Hashem. He wrote books about the foundations of emunah, gathered people and let them know the truth of Hashem's oneness and His ways, as is written `For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of Hashem to do justice and judgment' (Bereishis 18:19).

"Eventually this holy nation, the nation of Hashem, was created. From whom can we learn how to behave if not from Avrohom who disregarded his family's honor?

"He was also not biased in favor of Lot, his nephew, and when he saw that Lot became a judge in Sedom, and that he departed from Hashem and desired benefits and pleasures from those evil in monetary affairs and wretched sinners with their bodies to Hashem, Avrohom separated from him, and did not ask rachamim for him. Hashem pitied Lot only because of two reasons: First, in the zechus of Avrohom, as is written, `Elokim remembered Avrohom and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt' (Bereishis 19:29). Second, because Ruth the Moabite and Naomo the Amonit would descend from Lot. If not for these two reasons Lot would have been trapped and destroyed together with the people of Sedom. Avrohom for his part did not care what would happen to Lot. This is not because, cholila, Avrohom was cruel, a shoteh, or a baal machlokes, since we know that Avrohom followed the midda of chesed.

"Moshe Rabbenu learned from Avrohom how to act in the machlokes with Korach and his community. Pinchas and Eliyahu in their kano'us, Daniel, Chananya, Mishoel and Azarya, and Mordechai who did not bow down to the scoundrel Homon, all learned from Avrohom Ovinu. Many similar incidents have occurred. Would it have been proper for even one of these people to be discredited or considered a shoteh or baal machlokes? On the contrary, it is logical that the reverse is true.

"I am well aware of the source of this popular mistake. They have listened to the hypocrites who have lost the Torah's splendor and darken its radiance. They present Toras Hashem contrary to the commentaries' explanations and tell their perverted version to the masses who are not proficient in Torah. Since they neither understood nor could they protest, they should have remained silent, as is written, `O that you would altogether keep silent and it should be your wisdom' (Iyov 13:5). The hypocrites told them that Rebbe praised effusively the virtue of peace and said that even if Yisroel worship avoda zorah but peace exists between them, it is as if Hashem says I cannot rule over them, as is written, `Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone' (Hoshea 4:17).

"The masses rely on this. They justify themselves by saying that they want peace and not trouble. They say that if we want to clarify the truth, instead of peace we will have only dissension. One party would blackball the other and since there are so many, the bickering would be enormous. Peace is preeminent and it is preferable to remain silent. `It is better they remain unintentional sinners than intentional ones' (Beitzah 30b).

"I have seen much in life and will tell you what the nevi'im say explicitly. `There is no peace, says Hashem, for the wicked' (Yeshaya 48:22) and further (58:1) the posuk reads, `Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like the shofar, and show My people their transgressions and the house of Yaakov their sins.' They are not embarrassed to `say Peace, peace, when there is no peace' (Yirmiyahu 8:12). Anyone to whom Hashem has given intelligence understands that we neither know Hashem's thoughts nor understand His plan. Truth and peace together are the foundation for the whole Torah and mitzvos."

The trenchant message of the Maharam Chagiz speaks for itself. It is, however, worthwhile to point out the background of my first publication of it. This reminder is necessary since ever-so-often secular elements and the media repeat this argument in their attempt to silence us.

As everyone surely remembers such demagogic arguments were voiced several times in the past against Maran verabonon zt"l vyblct'a. We will mention one example that stands out and is well known. When Maran the Rosh Yeshiva shlita fought valiantly against spurious ideologies and false Messianic and nationalist approaches found also among the fringes of our camp, among Jews who wear yarmulkes and put on tefillin, you could hear them complain that this is factionalism and machlokes. Instead of dealing with the topic itself some tried to discredit the criticism, which came from the depths of an aching heart.

The war against the baalei machlokes was made in every possible way. Some are reminiscent of what HaRav Sherman's revelation of the recent attempts to harm Torah institutions of America. At that time Maran shlita told me about a certain donor who used to investigate the institutions asking him for financial assistance to find out whether they were among "Rabbi Shach's yeshivos." He had decided "not to support baalei machlokes." Maran told me that he sees how widespread this argument is. In the country where that philanthropist lives there are almost no chareidim or yeshiva students. It is far away from the boiling pot of the polemics of Eretz Yisroel. Nonetheless that philanthropist decided to join the "war against baalei machlokes."

As mentioned, Maran the Rosh Yeshiva shlita compared this in a speech at the Ponevezh Yarchei Kallah to a thief trying to steal from another person. When the victim attempts to stop him the thief yells out: "Leave me alone! Don't be such a big baal machlokes!" Everyone realizes the absurdity of these cries when trying to stop a thief.

Nonetheless, the public at large has difficulties making the comparison since spiritual matters and hashkofos do not seem to him as something we should fight for and be moseir nefesh for. Our spiritual leaders, however, feel strongly that a war against our religion is "a personal matter" for every Torah-observant Jew, much more so than stopping another from stealing his personal property.

We are living immediately before the coming of the Moshiach. Yeshaya writes concerning this period (59:15), "Truth is absent and he that departs from evil makes himself ridiculous." Chazal explain that in this period "whoever departs from evil appears insane to others" (Sanhedrin 97, see Rashi, ibid.). This has indeed occurred in the last generation. Anyone who departs from evil is considered as having lost his mind. Any campaign for sacred values is considered insanity and "an outburst from baalei machlokes."

But the Torah truth interwoven within the history of the Torah Nation teaches us, as the Maharam Chagiz writes, that every machlokes that is lesheim Shomayim, where we protest against those who sin, against attempts to uproot and pervert the Torah, is guarding the Torah. This, he writes, we have in tradition from our Ovos who did not agree with the masses who said "If we would want to clarify what is true there would be no peace but only dissension."

We are walking in the way transmitted to us throughout the generations: every believing Jew is obligated to protest against those who try to uproot the Torah and halocho. "There is no peace, says Hashem, for the wicked." "Truth and peace together are the foundation for the whole Torah and mitzvos." This is the answer to all the demagogic arguments of the heretic "movements" who try to harm Torah organizations by complaining they are not "helping unity." They consider everyone who departs from evil as insane, but we know that this is really what guards true Yiddishkeit.

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