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3 Shevat 5762 - January 16, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Luchos and the Broken Luchos are in The Oron -- Part I: We Must Live Alone

A hesped on Rav Shach ztvk"l given on the sheloshim, by Rav Zvi Friedman shlita

Though a true hesped for Maran HaRav Shach, zt"l, this is a work of hashkofoh in its own right.

"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, or we would have talked at length about his acts of chesed, his good middos and dedication to the tzibbur.

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 was 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 as shepherds.

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 them.

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 nation.

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 agreed 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 other 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 and, 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 Oron."

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 saved.

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 Torah, Degel Hatorah, whose mouthpiece is Yated Ne'eman and its kashrus organization Shearis Yisroel. I will 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 afraid? 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 etc.

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 side."

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 "State."

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 brother 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 them.

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 result in the destruction of Judaism.

End of Part I

HaRav Friedman is a member of the Vaada Ruchanit of Yated Ne'eman.

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