Dei'ah veDibur - Information & 

A Window into the Chareidi 

28 Cheshvan 5762 - November 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
We have to Recognize and Acknowledge what America has Done for Us

by Maran HaRav Shach, zt"l

The following speech was given on chol hamoed Succos, 5752 (1991) just half a year after the Persian Gulf War.

To the honorable teachers and rabbonim, including some that I can truly call my teachers and rebbes, and to the honorable audience that is here.

I want to say a few words. I do not have the strength to speak at length, but I feel that I must say a few brief words at this time.

Rabosai! We are now in the middle of days of simcha, the joy of chag Succos, but the general position of our people is not stable. It is not yet clear what the end will be. Who knows what will come of all the decisions of committees that meet to decide our fate? It is like clay in the hands of a potter, and it is impossible to know how things will eventually be decided.

But, rabosai! We are of an ancient people, Am Yisroel. Our people has weathered many such situations, from the time of Bayis Sheini unto our day. For a long time, even while the Beis HaMikdosh still stood, control of Eretz Yisroel was in the hands of foreign powers.

How many foreign powers ruled Eretz Yisroel! They made decrees of shmad, decrees against learning Torah, decrees against milah, and many other decrees, including one banning semicha of rabbonim. They decreed that anyone found learning or spreading Torah would be killed. Rabbi Akiva's flesh was torn by iron combs. Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon was found spreading Torah and he was sentenced to death by fire, and many others.

Many decrees were issued against Klal Yisroel. Throughout the time of the second Bayis and thereafter, there were many decrees against Am Yisroel. Despite this, rabosai, they managed to create things that were unprecedented. Their creations were bigger than anything that ever was or will be. I mean the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi.

Where and when was such a thing done? When was it all established? When was all this created? In the time of the Second Temple and thereafter. Davka then, when we were in golus, when they oppressed Klal Yisroel and decreed shmad, when they killed people for learning Torah, then they made all that, then they learned Torah. They created the Talmud Bavli, than which there is no greater intellectual creation. There never has been nor will be such an achievement of chochmah.

The Oral Torah as written down in the Talmud encompasses a person's entire life, from A to Z: how to behave, how to eat, everything. For every corner of life there is a halacha, for every facet of the life of an individual and the whole world, everything is written in the Oral Torah, and all this is the product of those times.

How did they know this? They knew it all from the Torah. When were all these great people? All modern wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom of those days. If we now have instruments, they are not the kind of equipment that enabled Rabi Yishmael Cohen Godol to go up to the Heavens and ask if a decree was passed! The Torah includes all kinds of wisdom. When did they learn all this? During the time of decrees. They learned Torah under pressure and Hashem helped them.

It is such great wisdom that a man could never reach it on his own. He could never, with all his wisdom, even begin to understand his own potential for good and evil had the Torah not revealed the secret of how great man is and his potential for good and potential for evil.

For example, man can be as deeply evil as it is possible to describe. Kayin and Hevel, two people in the whole world, and they cannot get along -- one murders the other. This shows how deeply evil a person can be, how powerful are the forces in him for evil.

On the other hand, we have Avrohom Ovinu, whose positive side was so great and deep as to be impossible to fully describe. Here was a sick man who, when he could find no passersby in the street, went and attended to the needs of simple Arabs, bringing them in and feeding them, just to do good for people. Also this Avrohom was so strong that he stood against the whole world: Avrohom HoIvri, he on one side and the whole world on the other, going up against them all. The entire world worshipped idols and he uniquely recognized the Creator of the world. What are the depths of man and his intelligence?

The Torah reveals to us that there was a man such as that, but without the Torah we could not imagine that one could stand up against the whole world, against his father and mother. How could one be so strong? This is what the Torah tells us, that such a thing is possible.

I merely cite a few examples. There were not many people in the time of Noach and the land was already full of theft. There were hardly any people in the world and they were already driven to steal from one another. Why? There was enough to go around! The truth is that the potential for evil in man is so great that even then they stole.

This is what Hakodosh Boruch Hu reveals to us: the depth and extent of a person's good and bad potential. Only the Torah tells us all this. We know it from no other source.

The Torah reveals so much. How do Chazal know all this? It is only from the tremendous depth of their wisdom, from the power of the Torah. They created an unparalleled work. In the whole world there is nothing like it, nothing with such wisdom. The world needs to use equipment to search and research.

For example, the Seder Zeroim. How did Chazal know all about the various plants, which are kelaim one with the other? [In order to know this they had to know which are biologically related and which are not. - Ed.] Only from the Torah! It all comes from the power of the Torah. And all this was accomplished in the Temple Period, in a time of troubles, exile, and under the yoke of decree after decree.

Yes, this is the path of Yisroel! Troubles do not lower the level of achievement. Even if there are troubles and suffering in the world, this does not affect the Ato bechartonu, the way Hashem chose us, nor the Ato kidashtonu mikol ho'amim, the way Hashem has sanctified us from all other peoples.

Therefore I say, that also today, we have a time of simcha, and we must still learn. Even though we are under foreign control. The uncertainty of our situation is frightening, but we have to be happy with the simcha of Torah.

This I also want to say to you, that we must not antagonize the peoples of the world. We are bound by three oaths, including a vow not to go up with force and not to antagonize them. Everything should be done peacefully. We need not be afraid or make a commotion. On the contrary, we should go with a smooth and pleasant policy.

We have to recognize and acknowledge what America has done for us and is doing for us, our whole lives. During the war with Iraq, she did much for us. We may have beaten them [by ourselves], but they certainly prevented the loss of many of our lives. Without American help we would not have been able to stand up to the rockets of Iraq. America fought and did us a big favor, and we must recognize and acknowledge what she has done for us, whether from pure motives or not. We must express our gratitude for the favor she has done us. We must not rebel and reject her; we must express our gratitude.

Also with regard to what America is doing now, we must understand that she has all kinds of alliances and obligations to others. Naturally we cannot agree to all the things she does. However we must realize that she has all manner of other obligations, and we must not reject her, and we must always remember what Chazal say, "Don't rebel against the nations of the world."

We learn Torah and we must now fulfill the mitzva of Vesomachto bechagecho. We must fulfill the mitzva of learning Torah and not be upset that we suffer. On the contrary, our sufferings strengthen and sustain us, they strengthen and sustain Klal Yisroel. Our troubles strengthen Am Yisroel. Am Yisroel strengthens itself all the more so to serve Hashem, and Hashem will help us.

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