Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Kislev 5761 - December 13, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Unique Nation

By HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira

A People That Shall Dwell Alone

We are currently suffering from disturbances in Eretz Yisroel and our enemies in chutz la'aretz are also convening against us. Let us consider how the Guardian of Israel has dealt with His people during all our years in golus and what Chazal have to say about the period we are living in.

The Chofetz Chaim zy"o cited the posuk in Amos (9:9), "Behold, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet the least grain shall not fall upon the earth." He explained that this refers to the period when the birth pangs of Moshiach will be experienced. The Jewish people will be like a sieve which disperses its contents, and whatever remains inside is shaken and in constant motion. Thus we are now all shaking and tense, our only refuge is Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Chazal's descriptions of this period are well known: it will be more difficult than thousands of years of wandering from place to place, of murder and all the other terrible calamities we have had to endure during this bitter golus.

The irrational hatred towards the Jewish people and the increase of antisemitism around the world -- where we see seventy wolves gathering to destroy one sheep -- are only coming to awaken us and remind us that we are not a nation like other nations but one that shall dwell alone. They are Hashem Yisborach's way of ensuring the continued spiritual existence of His people.

This has always been characteristic of Hashem's relationship with our nation during our years in exile. Whenever we lived in one place for one or more centuries and stuck to the customs of our ancestors, we experienced no misfortunes. But as soon as we started being attracted to our hosts and their culture, our situation would suddenly change dramatically for the worse, forcing us eventually to leave that country altogether and to find a new place to settle. The Guardian of Israel in His great kindness protected the Jewish people from assimilation amongst the nations and reminded us of the fact that we are Jews and servants of Hashem.

If we consider the history of the Jewish nation through the thousands of years in exile, we notice how Hashem has always dealt kindly with us: whenever we suffered misfortune in one place, there was always another nation willing to offer us their protection.

Already in the time of Chazal we are told that when our brethren from the south were expelled from their homes the people of the north accepted them, and when a decree of expulsion was announced against the Jews in the north the southerners let them in again.

Similarly, when the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, Holland accepted the exiles. During the First World War, Russia persecuted the Jews and the Germans were sent to save them. Less than twenty years later, when the Germans became our enemies and Angels of Death, the Russians were our divinely-sent saviors.

Thus Hakodosh Boruch Hu protects us, and we should not worry, hoping for Hashem's salvation at any time from those that wish to destroy our bodies, and He protects our souls by preventing our assimilation amongst the nations choliloh.

Eretz Yisroel

In this post-Holocaust generation, a large part of the remnants of the Jewish people have settled in Eretz Yisroel. In itself this is a very good thing, because Eretz Yisroel has many segulos, even while we are still in golus.

It might be thought that in this country, which has a large Jewish population, there can be no danger of assimilation. Unfortunately, because of our sins, this is not the case. In Eretz Yisroel, of all places, the threat posed by assimilation is especially dangerous, because here we are faced with an "internal" assimilation.

How great was the foresight of the gedolim of the previous generation, may their merit protect us, when they warned us about this new golus known as the State of Israel, which was founded only in order to uproot the Torah from the Jewish people, so that they may not, choliloh, be distinguished from the other nations in any way. Nowadays, they themselves talk openly about their aims.

At the root of their outlook is the philosophy of "nationalism." They argued that we had no country and no language and once we acquired these, we could finally become a nation again, like the Americans, the English and so on. According to their theory of "my power and the might of my hand," the State of Israel was going to become a power to reckon with, its army second to none.

With this purpose in mind, the founding generation of the State forced hundreds and thousands of immigrants from Morocco, Yemen and other oriental countries to give up their religious lifestyle. They made them "Israeli" by changing their appearance -- cutting off their beards and payos which had been preserved throughout the long years of golus amongst the Arabs -- and their language, from loshon hakodesh to Ivrit.

Today there are more than a million children being educated in their school system who are not taught Shema Yisroel and the unity of Hashem. Their whole education is an incitement against pure Judaism and they would like their pupils to grow up chas vesholom as members of "a nation like any other nation."

If this were not enough, hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants have increased the dangers of assimilation and intermarriage Rachmono litzlan.

The non-Jewish nations kept our bodies in golus but had no part in our souls, but the Jewish rosho wants to put the Jewish neshomoh into golus too, and that is the worst of all!

Lately, they have openly declared war on our holy Torah and they especially aim to harm the foundation of the nation, the holy Yeshivos, the secret of our continued existence. We do not have to be afraid of their declarations, but we should worry and must investigate in which areas of Torah study we have become weak, so that Hakodosh Boruch Hu has deemed it necessary to make our enemies rise up against us.

Our rabbonim already told us the principle brought in the seforim hakedoshim that if we see our enemies fighting against and showing contempt for a certain mitzva, we must take it as a sign that we have been negligent in that mitzva before their attacks.

We already see in the Egyptian exile that none of Pharaoh's decrees against the nation was successful. Even the decree against every Jewish male that was born, did not serve its purpose. On the contrary, Moshe actually grew up in the house of the rosho. About these plans the posuk says, "He that sits in heaven laughs, Hashem has them in derision."

Afterwards, however, when Moshe delayed in performing bris miloh on his son, an angel wanted to kill him. If the angel had killed him, the Jewish people would not have been redeemed, since it says in the Medrash that the purpose of the Egyptian exile was for the Jews to be redeemed specifically by Moshe. Thus we can see that Pharaoh's decrees did not threaten the course of the redemption from Mitzrayim, but Moshe's behavior did.

We should, therefore, not worry about our enemies' declarations and decrees. Instead, we should intensify our Torah studies, and this will automatically remove the threat of those that rise against us.

Golus in Our Generation

We must realize that the terrible threat of assimilation of foreign ways is not just for non-religious Jews. This is due to the fact that their language is taken (for the most part) from loshon hakodesh, and because we are brethren with a common ancestry. Moreover, the mitzva to love our neighbor as much as ourselves applies to some of them. All these could create a potentially close relationship between us and we therefore have to be especially careful not to learn from them or to copy their pernicious way of life.

Some of us have in our homes their tool of tumoh (Ed: radio), which the Zionists use as a vehicle to disseminate anti-religious poison around the clock. Jewish children are fed with hatred for Torah and derision against religious people. They are told that we are strange "Diaspora Jews," and other messages full of anti-Jewish incitement.

Bnei Torah who have this tumoh tool are exposed to their way of life and their views and may, chas vesholom, end up associating and becoming friendly with them. Apart from the fact that this can eventually result in a total deterioration of Torah values and observance, the very exposure fills the soul with tumoh and filth. When such a person afterwards learns words of Torah, how can these be expected to penetrate the filth which has attached itself to his nefesh?

If you see an observant Jew, a ben Torah who also learns, with a certain coldness about his avodas Hashem, this is because his nefesh is already full of tumoh from this tool, making it impossible for the fire of Torah to penetrate it. We must realize that it is not feasible to listen to their views and outlook without our souls being corrupted.

The Rambam writes that the brocho velamalshinim which became part of our prayers refers to anti-religious people and apikorsim who are present in every generation. We have to be aware what we are praying for. How can we pray, "And let there be no hope for the malshinim," and then go home to listen to their views and become friendly with them?

We must remember the Rambam's son's (Rav Avrohom) admonition to despise vacuous people in our hearts. We have to understand the real value of our enemies, that they are sick people, and to despise them for their emptiness.

Apart from being obligated to separate ourselves from them and to hold them in disdain, we also have a duty to hate the anti-religious. The Brisker Rov zy"o learnt this from the posuk in Tehillim (139), "Do I not hate, o Hashem, those that hate You? And do I not strive with those that rise up against You? I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies."

He explained that Dovid Hamelech tells us three things here: 1. The actual obligation to hate those who hate Hashem and to fight against them; 2. The degree of hate, namely the greatest hate possible; 3. The fact that they have become our enemies. We have to stress that Hashem's enemies are our own private enemies.

We must also realize that it is not only the philosophy of the anti-religious that is considered apikorsus and kefirah. Even if someone is an observant Jew but agrees with their views, his outlook becomes kefirah and apikorsus.

When the yeshivot tichoniot [high schools combining limudei chol with limudei kodesh] started, some frum people sent their sons there. This phenomenon was damaging to the olom haTorah. A meeting was held which was attended by the roshei hayeshivos to decide how to react. One of the gedolei hador zt"l said that their main concern should be to detach the word "yeshiva" from the name of these institutions. It was not justified to call them that, just because of a few hours of limudei kodesh that were taught there during the day. If their name was changed, the confusion might be lessened and the differences between us accentuated.

After the meeting I went to see the Brisker Rov zy"o. He asked me what had been discussed at the meeting, and I told him about the suggestion of the godol. The Rov said to me, "What are they talking about? Whether they are going to call it a `yeshiva' or not is beside the point, we are dealing with a yeshiva with kefirah and apikorsus! How can bochurim be sent to such a yeshiva?"

Nowadays, people bring kefirah and apikorsus right into their homes by means of their tumoh tool. The Chazon Ish zy"o said that children cannot grow up to kedusha, R"l in a home which has this tool, because the walls have absorbed tumoh.

The only way to prevent ourselves from being affected by them is to walk only in the path of Torah, and to realize that it is not that their way is different from ours, but that it is diametrically opposed to the Torah and our outlook, and that their whole philosophy is nothing but anti- religious kefirah, apikorsus.

Following the ways of the Torah means not straying from the Torah hashkofo which has been handed down to us from generation to generation by our rabbonim, the transmitters of the Torah, which Hakodosh Boruch Hu, in His mercy, has bestowed upon us in every generation.

It says in Koheles (11:7), "And the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." In the Targum it says, "The light of Torah is sweet, and good to light up blind eyes." Thus Torah enables our eyes to see, without Torah we are blind!

End of Part I

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