Though a true hesped for Maran HaRav Shach,
zt"l, this is a work of hashkofoh in its own
"In all the mighty hand and in all the great terror, which
Moshe wrought before the eyes of the whole Jewish nation."
This is the last of three pesukim of words of
appreciation and hesped written in the Torah after the
death of Moshe Rabbenu. We do not find anything similar in
the case of the ovos hakedoshim and Aharon Hakohen:
only Moshe merited such statements.
The first posuk describes Moshe's level. In general,
there is the level of a tzaddik, of a baal ruach
hakodesh and of a novi. Moshe was a novi on
the level of dibbur ponim el ponim. The second
posuk describes Moshe Rabbenu's mission, and the third
posuk talks about acts of Moshe himself.
It is very possible that if we would have been asked to write
a hesped on Moshe Rabbenu we would have described his
hasmodoh and his tzidkus in Torah and mitzvos,
we would have talked at length about his acts of
chesed, his good middos and dedication to the
We would certainly have mentioned that he received visitors
around the clock without prior appointments to the point
where he would almost collapse from exhaustion. We may also
have pointed out the chesed he did with the Jew who
hit by the Egyptian. It was an act of incomparable valor to
risk being charged for the murder of a policeman exercising
his duties in order to save a Jew from being beaten. This was
chesed on an unlimited scale.
It is doubtful whether we would have mentioned Moshe
Rabbenu's concern for a sheep who had fled from the flock,
because this would have appeared to us as an insignificant
act. However, Chazal tell us that because of this act he was
chosen to be the leader of the Jewish nation, and other
Jewish leaders were also tested according to their behavior
The explanation for this is that a Jewish leader has to
foresee the future and evaluate all the possibilities and
risks inherent in every act and method of behavior. Based on
this he decides how to behave in the present. The public, on
the other hand, is not capable of looking into the future; it
does not understand a leader's actions and even criticizes
A leader will never be thanked for, or feel the gratitude of
others, for his actions. Anyone who expects a "thank you"
from the public will never be able to become a good leader of
The Jew who was saved from the blows of the Egyptian was
definitely full of gratitude to the man who saved him, but
the sheep was not. That was the real test: only someone who
does not expect to be thanked for his actions is fit to be a
leader of the Jewish nation. We have heard many
hespedim on the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l, but not many
people said those two simple words, "Thank you" for having
saved the generation and all of us!
Let us return to the Torah's words of appreciation on Moshe
Rabbenu. All the above virtues are not listed: there seems to
be a higher level. "In all the mighty hand . . . before the
eyes of the whole Jewish nation." What is the great act,
which Moshe did in the sight of the whole Jewish nation?
Chazal say that this is a reference to his smashing the
luchos. Rashi adds that Hakodosh Boruch Hu
with Moshe's opinion, as it says, "Which you have broken" --
"Yasher koach that you broke them."
The Rashbo asks, what made Chazal expound asher
shibarto in such a way? He replies that the broken pieces
of the luchos are in the Oron Hakodesh. In
words, in addition to giving us the Torah written on the
luchos Moshe Rabbenu also taught us the Torah and the
message of the shivrei luchos, everything lying
together in the Oron Hakodesh in one "package"!
We have to understand this concept of "Hakodosh Boruch
Hu agreeing with Moshe's opinion." Let's take the case of
someone undergoing a complicated medical procedure who
consults with a professor about what he should do. After much
thought he decides to act in a certain way. There is a boy
present at that meeting who had already said in advance that
he should act in this way. Would we say that the professor
agreed with the boy's opinion?
What the statement means, rather, is that Moshe Rabbenu took
into account all the considerations the Creator had with
respect to this matter and arrived at the truth in his
decision. It requires awesome gadlus for a human being
to be able to calculate all the risks and possibilities for
all future generations on such a high level that is almost
beyond our conception. This sentence encapsulates the special
greatness of Moshe Rabbenu.
Moshe came down from the mountain after forty days and he was
about to give the Torah to the am seguloh, thus
bringing the whole of Creation and the Jewish nation in
particular to the perfection for which the world was created.
He sees the worship of the eigel with his own eyes
without knowing about the possibility of any second
luchos, decides on his own initiative to smash the
maamad matan Torah into pieces.
Would it not have been more logical to go down to the nation
and attempt to put it back on to the proper path? After all,
the eigel was the result of "And the nation saw that
Moshe tarried," and now that he came back he could show them
their error in an instant!
However, Moshe knew the nature of the type of emunoh
that would result from the giving of the luchos
following the dancing around the eigel. He was capable
of considering all the ramifications for all future
generations, he knew that emunoh is not the purpose of
Creation. He knew that even after convincing the nation,
there would still remain a slight deviation, and it was
therefore preferable to cancel the luchos altogether
rather than have a false Torah.
Who is capable of weighing such a problem on the scales, if
not the Creator? Comes along a mortal man of a courageous
nature who weighs up the options and makes a decision based
on his strength of his spirit, and Hakodosh Boruch Hu
agreed with his opinion. All this is hinted at in the words
"before the eyes of the whole Jewish nation." Chazal knew how
to be doresh this phrase because a similar phrase
occurs in the context of the shviras haluchos: "And I
broke them in front of your eyes," the stress being on "in
front of your eyes," because Moshe did not give up hope for
the Jewish nation, he only wanted to teach them "in front of
their eyes" that kabolas haTorah is only possible when
emunoh and the willingness to dedicate oneself to
avodas Hashem are 100 percent and not 99 percent. It
therefore turns out that, from the point of view of handing
over the luchos, the maamad matan Torah took
place twice. The first time broken luchos were handed
over, and only after it learned this lesson was the nation
ready to accept the whole luchos. This is what Chazal
say: "The luchos and broken pieces of it lie in the
From the day that the first luchos were given until
today gedolim throughout the generations were often
faced with such tests and decisions. The Netziv closed down
Volozhin Yeshiva following a demand by the government that
the bochurim learn secular studies. The authorities
would have been satisfied with a brief period of studies
every day, not even heretical ones. They would have
compromised on Russian lessons. Would it not have been
worthwhile to save the only yeshiva in the whole country by
agreeing to half an hour of Russian studies every day?
No! The Netziv decided it would be better for the Yeshiva to
close down than to have a foreign language taught in it. We
may perhaps be permitted to say that the strength of spirit,
which led to this decision, has its basis in the first
luchos and the way they were "given" in the sight of
the whole Jewish nation.
We can be sure that those rabbonim who decided to set up
separate communities in Hungary and Germany also had to
struggle with themselves before taking these difficult but
courageous steps, which saved whatever was still able to be
The Rosh Yeshiva ztvk"l was faced with internal
struggles no less severe than these when he courageously
broke the luchos of unity of chareidi Jewry and set up
a separate kehilla and framework for bnei
Degel Hatorah, whose mouthpiece is Yated Ne'eman and
its kashrus organization Shearis Yisroel. I
attempt to explain what prompted the Rosh Yeshiva to these
actions and to reveal his mighty hand.
What is the nature of the eigel of which he was
Let me make some introductory comments.
The Rambam says in chapter 6 of Hilchos Dei'os: "It is
the nature of a person to be drawn towards his environment,
this is unavoidable. What should he do? He should leave his
environment and go to live in the desert."
The basis for this Rambam is already to be found in
parshas Nitzovim, "For you know how we dwelt in the
land of Egypt and how we came through the midst of the
nations . . . and you have seen their detestable things and
their idols . . . lest there should be among you a root that
bears gall and wormwood." We see that living in Egypt causes
gall and wormwood, and even passing through the desert and
seeing a non-Jewish town from the distance is already likely
to result in a severe deviation from emunoh.
We do not have the possibility of living in the desert, and
we live in a State full of abominations and idols, both on
the practical level and on the hashkofoh level. If we
do not live in the desert, we should at least distance
ourselves from them as much as we can. In other words, we
should have no cultural connection with the State as an
entity or with the majority of its inhabitants. We have no
connection to the ideology of setting up a State, an army
We, the chareidi public, are "a nation that dwells alone,"
and only we are the legitimate Jewish nation, a nation in its
own right amongst the surrounding population. Only this way
can we preserve ourselves. If, on the other hand, there is a
feeling that we are "one nation" with joint cultural
foundations, they will necessarily influence us and then we
would be lost. This is a most fundamental point for the
public that calls itself "chareidi."
It is well known that the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l opposed
living in Emanuel because he was concerned that the residents
may feel that they are related to the settlers in other
places and that condition may create a feeling of common
cause with the pioneering spirit (chalutziyut) and the
idea of a State. Through this connection, those people may
absorb all the ideas of secular culture and may
choliloh lose the supreme value of ein od
milvado. Settling of chareidim in the territories was
something he saw as very negative, and the Rosh Yeshiva only
grudgingly agreed to living in areas near the Green Line such
as Kiryat Sefer. Identifying with the settlers was something
that he considered crossing a "red line" in a matter of
emunoh, and someone who had crossed that line he
considered as having fallen and being actually on the "other
This was the position of all the gedolim who lived in
Eretz Yisroel (and also in chutz lo'oretz).
Once, shots were heard in the orchards around the Chazon
Ish's house. Some people came to tell him not to worry, since
it was just some shooting practice by "our" men. The Chazon
Ish replied that he was not afraid of shooting, but only of
the fact that religious people would be attracted to the
Once, during the Holocaust, the Rabbinate organized a prayer
meeting together with chareidi groups and, despite the
severity of the situation, the Chazon Ish held that the
chareidim should not hold joint prayer meetings with
religious Jews who had a [lukewarm/compromising attachment to
religion], but only on their own, since the foundation of our
existence is absolute segregation.
It says in parshas Vayishlach, "Save me from my
Eisov." The Beis Halevi explains that Yaakov davened
that he would be able to discard and be saved from the
brotherly feelings, which Eisov was trying to impart to him,
because if we have close feelings towards those who do not
walk in the proper path we will necessarily be influenced by
No argument about "mutual influence" can change the need for
absolute isolation, because the feeling of friendship
involves the recognition of additional values apart from
emunoh, and this in itself is a deviation from the way
of Judaism, apart from necessarily resulting in a situation
of "Lest he come and smite me, the mother with the children,"
i.e. in the course of time we would be annihilated altogether
from the spiritual point of view.
In the elections to the first Knesset a Joint Religious Front
was set up consisting of all the "religious parties."
However, the Chazon Ish staunchly opposed this Front and
ruled that people should vote for some ephemeral party, which
did not even receive the minimum amount of votes required for
a seat in the Knesset. He held that any cooperation -- even
of a political nature -- with non- chareidi groups was a
disaster, since this would present an opportunity for us to
absorb their ideas, and that would chas vesholom
in the destruction of Judaism.
End of Part I
HaRav Friedman is a member of the Vaada Ruchanit
of Yated Ne'eman.