Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Tammuz 5762 - June 19, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Beware of Bilaam and His Talmidim: Every Intention of a Rosho is for Evil

by the Tzanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, zt"l

This speech was given by the Tzanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, zt'l, at a meeting of educators in the year 5732 (1972). The Rebbe's yahrtzeit is 9 Tammuz. The Rebbe was a Holocaust survivor who had very extensive and bitter experience of the worst excesses of Israel's enemies.

The first rule for self protection is "know your enemy." This rule can be divided into two parts: 1) Knowing who the real enemy is; 2) Analyzing his plans and how he executes them.

If one ignores this advice, the war is lost. The Torah, having commanded us "Remember what Amolek did to you," added "Do not forget" alluding to the above: knowing the enemy and his schemes.

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah parshas Vayishlach, also cited in Rashi) tell us, "R' Shimon bar Yochai said the halochoh is that Esav hates Yaakov." Every non- Jewish idol-worshiper, no matter where he lives, how he dresses or looks, and in any situation, hates Jews [at least potentially]. The Jewish tradition has long taught us to respect the idol worshipers but to suspect them as well.

Dovid Hamelech a'h writes (Tehillim 139:21,22), "Do I not hate, Hashem, those who hate You? And do I not quarrel with those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; I count them as my enemies." We always understood that it is dangerous to become friendly with those who wish to harm us.

Our Torah (Devorim 7:2) warns, "You shall make no covenant with them nor show them favor." Chazal (Avodoh Zora) explain "Nor show them favor" as meaning "You should not say how beautiful that idol- worshiper is!"

What harm could possibly develop from remarking favorably about an idol worshiper's appearance? Nonetheless, we see the Torah has forbidden this.

Rabbenu Aharon HaLevi teaches us in his Sefer Hachinuch, mitzvah 426: "We should not have pity on an Akum and we should not consider anything an idol-worshiper does as being favorable. . . . We should not be pleased with him in any matter, as Chazal write `It is forbidden to say how beautiful this Akum is or how charming and pleasant he is.' About this the Torah writes `Nor show them favor' . . . and therefore we should refrain from thinking and talking of there being any benefit from idol-worshipers and neither join them nor pursue their love, and certainly not learn from their evil deeds."

The Rambam rules (Hilchos Rotzei'ach 4:10): "It is a mitzvah to kill the minim and those from Yisroel who worship idols, or someone who sins to spite. . . " The source of the Rambam is the gemora (Avodoh Zorah 26b): "The heretics, the informers, and the mumarim were lowered [into the pit] and not lifted out."

This can be compared to a snake about to bite someone. We must surely save ourselves before it is too late. The same is true with a kofeir be'ikar who does aveiros for spite.


We must distance ourselves as far as possible from such people since eventually they will try to destroy us and our offspring. This has been proven beyond all doubt. Looking at all the evil decrees placed on the Jewish Nation throughout history, the kofrim were largely to blame. Anyone familiar with Jewish history is aware of this.

During the period of the Greeks, the Jewish reshoim, the Hellenists, slandered the Perushim and handed them over to the enemy. This also happened when the Tzedukim helped the Romans gain control over Eretz Yisroel.

The same is true of oso ho'ish who caused an ocean of Jewish blood to be spilt like water. The first to be attracted to him were the Tzedukim, and so it continues until today: The Czars in Russia who made decrees against the Jews and Judaism frequently had reshoim, Jewish advisors, to help them. Hitler ym'sh had Jewish advisers who were close to him. Eventually he decided to liquidate them too, since Jewish blood flowed in their veins. Any thinking person will realize nothing has changed.

We are therefore obliged to educate our children to be aware of who are the Jewish Nation's real enemies. We must understand that these enemies are bent on plotting against our very existence. Only then will we know how adequately to protect ourselves against their schemes. Even if they dress in robes of "humanism" and of "seekers of our good" we must realize: "His mouth is full of cunning, deceit, and fraud; under his tongue is mischief and iniquity" (Tehillim 10:7, see the explanation of the Radak). [The initial disguise of their true objective] is a repetition of "Egypt made bnei Yisroel serve with rigor" (Shemos 1:13). Common sense dictates that no one is a bigger liar than one who denies Hashem's presence, a kofeir be'ikar. We must analyze everything he does or says, with this in mind.

The Rambam (Ovos 1:16) explains the different types of speech that are cherished by the Torah: "[Hashem] cherishes the fourth type [of speech] when a person praises intellectual virtues or character traits and degrades corruption . . . praises prominent people and admits to their great value so that others will better their ways and follow [those virtuous people]. We should degrade the evil, those who act corruptly, so that people will scorn their deeds and disapprove of them. As a result they will be kept at a distance and not imitated."

In his Shemoneh Perokim (ch. 5) the Rambam writes at length: "It is praiseworthy to denounce deficiency in behavior, if one's intentions are for the benefit of others. `Do not imitate conduct of the Egyptians among whom you dwell nor those of the land of Canaan into which I shall bring you, nor practice their acts' (Vayikra 18:3). Just as the Torah abhors the deeds of the Sodomites and all who act wickedly, so shall you.


"Bilaam answered and said to the servants of Bolok: If Bolok would give me his house full of silver and gold I cannot go beyond the word of Hashem my Elokim to do less or more" (Bamidbar 22:8). Anyone reading this posuk would be impressed at Bilaam's apparent righteousness. Bilaam announced to Bolok's servants that were he even to receive great wealth he could not defy Hashem. Rashi however explains this statement as greed and lust for other people's money [since Bilaam is implying that Bolok should offer him a lot of money].

From this we can understand the perspective of our Kadmonim zy'a on people. Although at first glance we might see a virtuous trait in the rosho, we must realize that it is superficial appearance and only intended to mislead us. Since Bilaam the rosho really wanted to curse Yisroel, and he advised the Moabite women how to cause Yisroel to sin (see Rashi, ibid., 24:14), we attribute neither his words nor his deeds to virtue. On the contrary, upon examination, we find them thoroughly disgraceful.


Conversely, though we may see no apparent benefit from the act of a tzaddik, we must judge him favorably [because that is the probable truth]. We find this principle in Rashi on the posuk (Bereishis 29:21), "Yaakov said to Lovon, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her." Rashi explains that "not even the crudest person speaks that way but [Yaakov's] pure intention was to have children." This lesson is included in Rambam's dictum: "It is a mitzvah to praise the tzaddik and denounce the rosho."

We must educate our children in the knowledge that all deeds and speech of a tzaddik in Torah and Chazal were solely with Hashem in mind. On the other hand, apparent virtues in reshoim are suspect.

In teaching or studying Tanach we must bear in mind that our limited intellect is unable to grasp many profound secrets that may be misunderstood. We must remember "the Rishonim are like mal'ochim." Someone teaching these perokim to talmidim must have an exceptional and developed understanding so he can transmit these matters without, chas vesholom, any thought, even the smallest, against the pure and holy mal'ochim who severed themselves from material desires.

All this is dependent upon the spirit and way it is transmitted. If we reach a certain perek in which the educator understands he cannot transmit it successfully, as is should be done, he should explain to the talmidim that this perek contains deep secrets that we are unable to understand and we cannot study it now. It is therefore necessary when teaching talmidim Tanach to search the commentaries of gedolei Yisroel who were zocheh to understand the profound and hidden matters of our Holy Torah for explanations to avoid any danger of slander of the tzaddikim who are the pillars of the world, and not chas vesholom to transmit the matters with the wrong spirit.

Of vital importance is an awareness of the many books of stories from Tanach and aggodos that, even if written factually but with impure intention, can chas vesholom cause apikorsus. They are forbidden to us. The Zohar HaKodosh warns: "Those who say the Torah is stories and not all secrets of the Torah should die."


Shlomoh Hamelech a'h, the wisest of men, writes in Koheles (7:8): "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it." Look in the commentary of Rabbenu Avrohom Ibn Ezra who explains, "A wise person will not love presents. In everything he does he should look at what will ultimately develop, since only that is important. A wise person will take a bitter-tasting medicine for a cure. He will refrain from eating sweet food if the taste is good but the result is harmful."

A novi was called "a person who sees" (Shmuel I 9:9). Yechezkel writes (Yechezkel 3:17, 33:7) "Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Yisroel, and when you shall hear a word from My mouth, you shall warn them of Me." The commentaries explain that a watchman stands at the top of a tower and looks into the distance to see if the enemy is approaching.

R' Shimon says that the most important trait a person should be careful to adopt is "seeing the future" (Ovos 2:9). HaRav Ovadia of Bartenura explains that "[the chochom looks into the future and makes a reckoning of losing a mitzvah as compared to its reward and the reward of committing an aveiroh in comparison to refraining from it."

We recognize that we are an eternal nation, "Also the Eternal One of Yisroel will not lie nor change His mind" (Shmuel I 15:29) and the hearts of our young children must be filled with the knowledge that the Torah is eternal. The yardstick by which we measure accomplishment or failure, gain or loss, must stand the test of time and continue to benefit future generations. Should it endure only ten years or more, we consider the loss greater than the gain.

To what do we refer? To all the enchanting ideas and "beautiful" slogans the non-Jews and the heretics have aired in recent generations. I will not specify here the type of ideas and "ideologies" but regard all in general. The proofs and examples to support what we have written are evident to all and there is no need to spend time on each one separately. Our principle is quite clear: Any ideology or any matter whose basis is not according to the Torah, whether the idea was initiated by non-Jews or Jews imitating them, cannot last long. It will eventually become bankrupt.

Chazal (Shabbos 104a) write: "Truth stands but a lie cannot stand" (truth endures but not falsity). Any idea opposing our Holy Torah, which is a Toras emes, is based upon falsity and cannot survive.

Sometimes we see "the way of the wicked prosper" (Yirmiyohu 12:1) and the heretics proudly wave their colorful and eye-catching "accomplishments" in front of us. But it should not excite us. They are only mortals: "You cast them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation in a moment" (Tehillim 73:19). Their accomplishments are only like the sweetness described by the Ibn Ezra that, although initially pleasant, will become extremely bitter. Some taste the bitterness sooner and others later. To the wise man who considers the long-term advantage this makes no difference. "The moment plays for them," that is, for the reshoim, who succeed for a few decades. But of what value is that for a world that has existed five thousand seven hundred and thirty-two years?

Even a hundred years is less than two percent of this total!

Our Holy Torah was given to us on Mt. Sinai about four thousand years ago. The same mitzvos, the same values, the same dinim and mishpotim, the same mussar and aims -- all exist to this very day without the smallest change. Only a Toras emes could thus endure. It is a Torah from Shomayim. "This Torah will not be exchanged nor will there be another Torah from the Creator, Blessed is His Name" (Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith).

Not so the non-Jews and heretics who are always inventing new ideas and ways and tell us: "This will save mankind. This will be a salvation for Jewry" and the like. These ideas change form and shape and eventually prove to be a vain hope. Not only do they not reach their objective but they also cause tragedy and sorrow for future generations.

It is no great feat to reveal the tragedy after it has caused so much damage, but unfortunately some reshoim do not repent even at the gates of Gehennom. Some, even after seeing what is happening in various lands, will not change. For example, in Communist China, hundreds of millions of people are terrorized and subjugated. Who knows how many millions have been murdered for no sin at all? It is a land where even the sins of the cruelest dictators ever known in history from the time of Nimrod the rosho, are nothing in comparison with the suppression and cruelty found there.

In other countries, even where antisemitism is overt, we find those who believe in their slogans and preach that this ideology [Communism] will save the oppressed workers from those who take advantage of them and will be a blessing for all mankind. It is no great accomplishment to see that instead of saving the individual, dictatorships have used these ideas to oppress the masses in a way never before witnessed in history.

What is the praise of chachmei Yisroel? They are commended for their ability to see the future. "R' Yochonon in the name of R' Shimon bar Yochai said: `The good of reshoim is bad for the tzaddikim'" (Yevomos 103a). Even when it seems to the reshoim that their way is good, the tzaddikim sense the aim is evil and warn against it: "Do not go in their way!" They understand no good will develop for humanity and surely not for the Jews. The tzaddikim of the generation therefore warned against Napoleon's Emancipation Law for France [that gave Jews political rights].

Rabbenu the Chasam Sofer zy'a said as a melitzah that: "The Torah forbids [all] chodosh [literally meaning anything new but in the original context referring to the issur of eating chodosh until the omer is brought]."

In those generations the Reformers chided the tzaddikim who opposed the new reforms. The Reformers claimed that the "Jewish ghetto" has become obsolete and now the gates of "happiness" have opened before them. Their children can receive an education in the universities and enjoy status equal to all nations. In this way, they said, the "Jewish Problem" would completely disappear.

Despite the opposition of the gedolei vetzaddikei Yisroel, the Maskilim worked untiringly for "equal rights" for Jews in Germany. When they succeeded they were drunk with success and boasted as though they had brought eternal prosperity to the Jews and saved their lives. When, decades later, many Jews held key positions in their country's culture and economy, it seemed to the naive person that the argument for saving the "Jewish Problem had proven" correct and the chareidim who opposed it were narrow-minded and not sufficiently versed in worldly affairs.

But let us analyze this. Let us examine the significance of this idea. Did the movement for equality help or bring prosperity to Jews? Was the "Jewish Problem" really solved in Germany during those "nice years" when most of the lecturers in the colleges were Jews and more than three thousand Jews who converted to Christianity served as Christian priests in Germany? Did this equality really put an end to the "Jewish Problem"?

Today when we feel the tragic results of the Wansee Conference called by Hitler ym'sh to decide on the "Solution" to the "Jewish Problem," it is not difficult to conclude negatively.

We often hear from various groups that the exaggerated attempt to be part of the society of the non-Jews, and the fervent desire to "be more German than the Germans" and "more of a pope than the pope," spoiled everything and caused, in this generation when "civilization" had reached its peak, the terrible churban of six million of our men, women and children who suffered strange and cruel deaths, and the whole world said not a word.

Our holy chachomim and tzaddikim, the pillars of the world, saw everything beforehand. They warned and pleaded: "You moan when your end comes, when your flesh and your body are consumed" (Mishlei 5:10-11). They understood that nothing is better for Yisroel than that which the Torah has destined for us: "It is a people that dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Bamidbar 23:9).

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.