Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Teves 5759, December 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Pressure and Persuasion
by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

A front-page headline in Ha'aretz, a popular morning Israeli newspaper with strong Leftist leanings, reported: "Tremendous Slash in Funding for Chareidi and Dati Education." The newspaper, which seemed to be overjoyed at such "good news," wrote that the Education Ministry made its budget proposal to reduce items for chareidi education and Torah-culture courses. The Minister of Education, Yossi Sarid (Meretz), estimates the general cutback of allocations for chareidim and datiim at about 40%. He said that he decided to "rectify" the situation in which "datiim and chareidim were extremely favored in recent years" and therefore "there was more to cut back." The newspaper, which listed the various reductions, tells us that the total expected "savings" from curtailing funds for chareidi education and Torah-culture studies is more than 100 million NIS (less than twenty-five million US dollars).

Everyone understands that this is a deliberate policy aimed at injuring the Torah-observant. Key figures in this government have a hostile attitude towards mitzvah-observers in general and Torah scholars in particular. Now Barak and his colleagues have decided to realize their election slogans such as "No money for chareidim!" They seek to delegitimize chareidim, as if they were not tax-paying citizens entitled to enjoy equal rights.

It should be pointed out that the budget-slash proposal is enthusiastically supported by Leftist newspaper writers. These reporters consistently claim that the chareidim are sucking the blood of the secular populace and are only exploiting the country's resources. Simultaneously they explain eloquently under what conditions they will agree to accept us as citizens with the right to exist. When we start broadening our knowledge with "general education" and stop preaching that Torah must be studied for its own sake, when we forsake the botei midrash and prefer to blend into the general populace, the Leftists will then be so kind as to accept the fact of our existence.

Some of these Leftists go so far as to openly explain that the "reeducation" of the chareidim in this spirit requires a policy of embittering our lives, reducing our already paltry budgets and resources, molesting Torah scholars and harassing their lives until they "understand" that it is preferable for them to give up their "reclusive life style." We chareidim, they say, must reach the conclusion that the Leftist groups are correct in their continual moralizing about the "redundant Torah students" [sic!] existing in Israel.

@BIG LET BODY = During the winter we read in the parshiyos of the Torah about the eternal battle between Yaakov and Esav and the parsha about the golus of am Yisroel. The commentaries on the Torah tell us that we must learn a lesson for future generations from the way Yaakov acted with Esav, since "the way the Patriarchs acted is a sign for their offspring" (see the Ramban's commentary on the Torah at the beginning of parshas Vayishlach and other places).

The Beis HaLevi ztvk'l, in his commentary on the Torah, points out various instances where the Torah's pesukim and the midroshim of Chazal on these parshiyos serve as guidelines for dealing with the difficulties of golus. Although the Beis HaLevi deals with golus among non-Jews, what he writes also has relevance for our unfortunate golus among other Jews.

The Beis HaLevi indicates that the common method of instigation is to claim that Jews become rich out of the general public's money and live at the expense of others. He points out that this argument was used long ago by Avimelech when he said to Yitzchok, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier [in property] than we" (Bereishis 26:16). At the end even Avimelech admitted that this was merely an erroneous popular feeling that prevailed when Yitzchok lived among them. After Yitzchok left their land they understood that "you are now the blessed of Hashem" (v. 29), a person whose existence is Divinely guaranteed and whose material success is independent of the wealth of others.

". . . when Avimelech initially said, `Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we [mimenu]' he was actually saying that all of your riches come mimenu, `from us,' from the Pelishtim. The Midrash in fact writes on that posuk `all of this might is from us,' just the same as we have written. `The way the Patriarchs acted is a sign for their offspring.' In the next golus the Egyptians will claim that all of Yisroel's money came from them. That is what is meant by `You are now the blessed of Hashem.' Now when you are far from the Pelishtim, and distant from those who live in the city, but your success is increasing, we all see that you are blessed by Hashem, that Hashem makes you prosperous and everything you have comes from Hashem's blessing, and did not, cholila, come deceitfully from the Pelishtim as they previously thought. Now we admit this."

The Beis HaLevi continues that Chazal refer to the essence of Yitzchok's brocho to Yaakov as a "brocho for golus." This brocho taught them how to grapple with the waves of animosity in the golus that try to obstruct the Torah Nation from achieving its purpose. Chazal write in a Midrash, "Why did [Yitzchok] give [Yaakov] another brocho, as is written, "Yitzchok called Yaakov and blessed him" (Bereishis 28:1)? Yitzchok saw with ruach hakodesh that his offspring would go into golus in the future. [Yitzchok] said to [Yaakov]: `Come here and I will give you a brocho for golus, that HaKodosh Boruch Hu may later gather you in from the golus.' Those brochos are: `He will deliver you from six troubles, and at the seventh no evil shall touch you. In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, nor shall you be afraid of destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, nor shall you be afraid of the beasts of the earth.' (Iyov 5:19- 22)."

"Yisroel needs these brochos in the golus, and they induce the coming of the redemption."

The first brocho is "You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue."

" . . . as we see clearly from those satanic slanderers whose entire aim and basis in life is causing evil for Yisroel, cholila. The second brocho, `Nor shall you be afraid of destruction when it comes,' teaches us not to be worried about the activities of those who loathe us, seek to starve us, and conspire against us. Surely we should not try to compromise with them, `since the golus in general is not so bad.' Everywhere that [Yisroel] go into golus, the Shechina is with them to guard and redeem them.

"This happens as long as Yisroel are not apprehensive of the future and . . . [do not] search for ways to behave so that their neighbors will approve of them. So it was in Egypt, as the Midrash Rabbah in parshas Shemos writes: When Yosef Hatzaddik was niftar the Jews discontinued bris mila and said, `We will be like the Egyptians.' Hakodosh Boruch Hu immediately converted the love the Egyptians felt for bnei Yisroel into hatred. Yisroel did not do any issur by acting this way [since the Torah was not yet given], except that they transgressed a minhag of their fathers to find favor with the Egyptians, because of worry about the future. At that point the bondage began anew. This is what always happens . . . This is meant by the brocho, `Nor shall you be afraid of destruction when it comes' -- do not be afraid of the future and Hashem will see to it that [the gentiles] will not hate you.

"The third brocho, `At destruction and famine you shall laugh,' is also pertinent to golus." The Beis HaLevi explains the special character of the golus for am Yisroel. Although sometimes non- Jews from other lands are sent into exile from their homelands, they do not experience such problems as Yisroel do when this happens to them. They can continue their materially- oriented lives wherever they live. . . .

"The main burden of golus is upon Yisroel, for the golus, the poverty, and the obstacles in livelihood and observing the Jewish religion are together extremely demanding. The Jewish people need to suffer patiently, not to be perturbed by this immense inconvenience, and accept this situation with simcha."

This is the test of a Jew in his golus. Whenever he feels a collision between his striving to continue in his fathers' tradition and the difficulties of sustaining himself, he must decide what he prefers and what he rejects, how he builds his list of priorities. "It is dependent on which he will nullify: either the poverty and distress that he encounters when observing the Jewish religion or, cholila, he will nullify the opposite and will not observe his religion. That is what is meant by `At destruction and famine you shall laugh' -- when you encounter destruction and famine you will laugh at it and it will not make any difference in observing your religion."

In parshas Vayishlach, what the Beis HaLevi emphasizes reminds us of our current situation. He explains at length that the way in which Esav acted towards Yaakov in his attempts to destroy his emunah was in two stages. First he oppressed him, injured him, and was cruel to him, and afterwards he was ready to "compromise" with him and live peacefully with Yaakov. That is the way of Esav. "Eventually he will say that he wants to be at peace with Yaakov; but his intention is to distance Yisroel from avodas Hashem and seduce them to leave their faith."

At this point the Beis HaLevi writes as if it were about current events: "They want Yaakov too to give up a little of what he has, for him to put aside some of his different ways of avoda that relate only to Olam Haboh, and for him to follow some of the ways of the world and deal with it and with superficial matters, and not persistently study only Torah."

Here, too, the Beis HaLevi writes that we are obligated to know that "the way the Patriarchs acted is a sign for their offspring," and we should not be swayed by all the temptations of those who hate the Torah and claim that their concern is for our good and for our olam hazeh. "This is what is meant by `Let us take up our journey, and let us go, and I will go before you' -- we will be like you . . . This [refers to] the second golus, which will be the end of the goluyos and is called beforech ("with harshness"), about which Chazal darshen that it is befeh rach (with a soft mouth). Yaakov Ovinu was more afraid of this golus than of the first, since people are more likely to be misled during it . . . Benefits will be given only to those who give up observing the mitzvos. Anyone who does not want these benefits and does not want to come nearer [to the reshoim] will remain impoverished as before, and in this way will suffer a double servitude. This process will continue until the Moshiach comes, speedily, in our days."

As it seems from recent events, the current government intends to embitter the lives of the chareidim. We must prepare ourselves for a difficult period under this government. The Prime Minister and his colleagues from the Leftist parties, who are guided by an ideology extremely remote from loving Torah and its scholars, will do all in their power to realize their vision of shriveling the Torah World and gnawing at the wall of the yeshivos kedoshos that so tremendously annoys them.

The idea of slashing budgets and the like will, therefore, continually pop up on the government's agenda. It will serve as an aim in itself and as a "whip" to "encourage" us to swerve from our tradition and begin our "reeducation" by the anti-religious elements who show themselves as "trying to help us." Naturally, the chareidi representatives must fight against any attempt to injure Judaism or the Torah institutions. It is, however, difficult to know whether we will always be successful in frustrating their designs, since they will constantly try to implement these evil plans. It is possible that, cholila, their attempts to wither the Torah institutions will partly succeed.

In such a case there is always the fear that perhaps some chareidi Jews among us will be frightened because of the endless attempts to harass Torah scholars.

We must strengthen ourselves and be well aware of the wonderful present called the "brocho of golus" that Yitzchok gave to Yaakov. "Nor shall you be afraid of destruction when it comes." Even if the enemies of the Torah World persecute us and try to starve the Torah institutions, we will be blessed with the brocho of "At destruction and famine you shall laugh," seeing as "the Jewish people need to suffer patiently, not to be perturbed by this immense inconvenience, and simply accept this situation with simcha." Then, "when you encounter destruction and famine . . . it will not cause any difference in observing your religion."

The arguments of the enemies of the Torah that they are only interested in helping us and finding compromises in their plans to belittle the Torah's value are also a challenge. They want us to give up our different ways and our study of Torah, in favor of a compromise that will allow us to be "more productive."

The Beis HaLevi shows us how to live in golus. The first challenge is being compelled with visible hostility; the second challenge is that of soft persuasion. Both of these trials were foreseen by our gedolei Torah. They have reminded us that "the way the Patriarchs acted is a sign for their offspring": we should neither be deterred nor enticed by such threats and temptations.

We must cling to our way and proclaim to all that no power in the world exists that can move us even an inch from our tradition. The small group of lomdei Torah will continue to dedicate their lives to Torah no matter what.

Those who seek to uproot the Torah, those ingrates, do not understand that their entire existence in the Holy Land is only by the merit of the yeshivos kedoshos and kollelim. Because of their foolishness they attempt to cut off the branch on which they are sitting. They will never grasp the truth. It is, however, preferable that they at least know that they are waging a war against those who are accustomed to mesiras nefesh. They will not be able to "reeducate" the Torah-observant, they will never succeed in damaging the marvelous spectacle of the Torah World's blossoming.

The new government, that seeks to undermine the foundation for our existence and injure the Torah institutions, thinks that it will succeed where many others failed. It will soon learn that it has no way to grapple with the internal strength, the single-minded clinging to their aim, and the determination of the Torah scholars, who march by the light of Maran Verabonon and who have transmitted the Torah's tradition from one generation to the other. All the government's attempts, while seeking to be an oneis and a mefateh at the same time, will misfire. We are not dependent upon them. We are promised that the Torah will continue to be followed, and we rely on the "brocho of golus" that accompanies us even in the golus among Jews. We must always keep in mind never to compromise our position. Never.

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