Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5763 - October 16, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








"Throughout My Life I Have Been Educated To Teach The Tradition Handed Down To Us Without Any Alien Admixtures"

Daas Torah From HaRav Shach ztvk"l

The following are excerpts and quotations from the writings and speeches of HaRav Shach about various important issues. For someone as great and many-faceted as HaRav Shach, his words expressing his clear thought are the most appropriate memorial.

I have boruch Hashem lived for eighty years, and throughout my life I have been brought up and educated to understand, listen, learn and teach only divrei Torah as given and transmitted to us by Hakodosh Boruch Hu through Moshe Rabbeinu without any admixture of alien wisdom. And throughout my life I have observed the saying, `Sit amidst the dust of the chachomim's feet,' both by reading their books and by absorbing their Torah when watching their behavior and hearing it from their own words. I know that their opinions are pure daas Torah as given to Moshe at Sinai and transmitted to us from person to person without any alien admixtures.

According to my best knowledge and understanding, it is such conduct in accordance with daas Torah, which has guided the Jewish nation from the day it came into being until today. It has never failed us and it is only in this merit that we are boruch Hashem still alive despite everything that has happened to us over thousands of years, in which so many have tried to destroy us. Yet we, the smallest of all the nations, have survived and no trace is left of them.

(Letter 12, Michtovim Uma'amorim 1,2)

All My Statements Give Me No Honor, Only Criticism

As for what you wrote to me, the truth is that I did not initiate this, and by nature I am not interested in fame or having everybody talk about whether I am right or not. You should know that all the statements I make bring me no honor, only criticism, because they do not understand the leadership methods transmitted by our rabbonim ztvk"l.

Inside I ask myself: Who am I to stand in the breach? However, what can I do? This is how I was educated and what I saw with my rabbonim, the gedolim from 90 years ago. I studied their behavior and noticed how much they troubled themselves to stand in the breach and protect religious standards.

They say that HaRav Yisroel Salanter ztvk"l was once told by someone that there were 36 hidden tzaddikim who act righteously in secret. Rav Yisroel Salanter replied that he did not understand how it was possible in such an unruly generation to remain hidden and not act publicly to influence others. So too nowadays, our situation requires us to stand and do something, despite the critics.

(Michtovim Uma'amorim 4, Letter 354)

The Masses are Attracted by Nice Words

The truth is that I do not have much to add to what I wrote to you already, and we have spoken face to face about this matter several times. But I think that, generally speaking, it is worthwhile repeating this to oneself ever so often, because there are influences to the contrary and open incitement using distorted views has an influence on the masses who, on the whole, are attracted by nice words. And these things are absorbed by many people who have no personal powers of discretion to know what to draw near and what to keep away from, to distinguish the truth from falsehood.

Therefore, I consider it necessary to repeat everything again, with some additions . . . I am therefore writing to you that youngsters who have not seen anything else should not think that this is the right course that a person should choose for himself, while in fact the straight path, the derech haTorah is the opposite of this.

With respect to all of this it says, "Ask your father and he will speak to you, your elders and they will tell you." You should repeat this to yourself and keep away from false views unknown to our fathers and rabbonim. Let us hope that Hakodosh Boruch Hu will send his holy helper, that we may merit to see the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu."

(Letter dated motzei Shabbos, Parshas Tetzaveh 5740 [1980], Michtovim Uma'amorim 1,2)

Don't Be Impressed By The Views . . . Of Famous People Whose Outlook is Not Based on Daas Torah

I have decided to write all this to you and I have the impression that you are influenced too much by the views of people who do not give sufficient thought to this serious and responsible topic. Since they are "one of us" you are impressed by them, although I hope that you do not accept their views in practice.

I would also like to point out to you that you should not be impressed in this matter by famous people whose outlook does not derive from the eternal halocho and from daas Torah as transmitted to us from generation to generation. Of course, it is difficult not to give in to one's emotions, especially when they seem to be religious emotions. However, a person who decides on matters of pikuach nefesh is duty bound to elevate himself above his own feelings and to act only according to logic [common sense]: such an intellect is based on daas Torah.

(Letter 12, Michtovim Uma'amorim)

The Torah Obliges Us Not to Consider Events Superficially

We see then, that Torah study is not only a matter of mitzvas talmud Torah, but we are also obliged to make sure that this Torah will teach us "the laws of life" and guide us in all the events of our lives: how to live, how to behave, how to think and how to understand. [Also] not to look at everything with a superficial, meaningless approach, but to consider everything with penetrating depth.

This is a fundamental aspect of the essence of Torah, for it is only if we employ such a profound way of thinking that we will attain the true and sought-for goal.

However, unfortunately, we are living in a material world, which relates to all events only from an external point of view, without trying to get to the depths and reality of an issue. Superficiality reigns supreme and, as a consequence, human and moral standards have deteriorated, because the more humanity distances itself from the Torah and its profound thoughts, which show man the way of truth, the more it deteriorates to the lowest possible levels.

All those things, which in the past used to be such simple and self-understood matters for the human intellect, have lost their value and significance nowadays. Those traits of derech eretz, which accompanied the nation throughout the generations, have been forgotten. Unfortunately, since we are surrounded by people lacking the most minimal derech eretz we have also been infected by this disease, and strange winds have infiltrated our camp. Which of us can say that we are free of the influence of the environment?

(Yarchei Kalla speech, Michtovim Uma'amorim 4)

Those Who Strayed From The Path Were . . . Yereim

During the whole course of the Jewish nation's history, there were factions and groups who became detached from their source. We must realize that all these factions did not start off as secular groups; they were very religious [chareidi/ yereim] at first, but eventually strayed off the path and became very alienated from the nation.

However, those blessed with farsighted vision about whom it says that Hakodosh Boruch Hu planted them in every generation, immediately realized what these factions could lead to and warned about the dangers involved. Many people wondered about these warnings: "[Why are they saying that?] What do they have against them?"

Perhaps we can take an example almost from our own generation. I am referring to the Zionist movement. It seemed an innocent enough movement with its slogan of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. They brought proof for their theories from pesukim, from Chazal and from the Rambam who states that it is a mitzvas asei. What could be wrong with trying to improve the lot of Jewry and saving Jewish lives?

However, even in this case there were individuals about whom it is said, "He planted them in every generation" (Yoma 38b) [From the outset] they already detected a certain problem in this matter and opposed the Zionist movement.

What did they see? There is no doubt whatsoever that mitzvas yishuv Eretz Yisroel is a great mitzva for Jews, but it is quite another matter to turn it into a new Principle of Faith, a new ani ma'amin, arguing that this is the essence of the nation, that we are only a nation when we have a State, and that we cannot exist as a nation without it. They understood this.

There is no doubt that one can make a shevu'o deOraisa that those people who opposed this movement had a much greater ahavas Yisroel and ahavas Eretz Yisroel than the others!

It is amazing that this point which we see [clearly] today, the gedolim already understood sixty years ago when the Zionist movement was in its infancy. The gedolim understood this because their views are daas Torah. A godol who learns Torah understands things -- chochom odif minovi -- if he has a pure heart and his motives are lesheim Shomayim. They fought secular Zionism as much as possible, even though many did not understand their attitude, because there were many chareidi Jews who were not suspected of ever missing a mincha, who did not have this insight into the movement, since only selected individuals were capable of understanding the situation.

(Michtovim Uma'amorim, 5751 [1991])

The Greatness Of The Chachomim Who Foresaw That The Zionist Idea Had Infiltrated The Hearts Of Many Chareidim

Our way is the derech haTorah, for we are a nation that dwells alone and is not considered amongst the nations. We are not meant to stand out amongst them, and our ancestors throughout the generations acted accordingly. "Ask your father and he will relate to you; ask your elders, and they will tell you" (Devorim 32:7). Have you heard or seen our ancestors behaving differently? They are foreign ideas absorbed from other sources.

I can see the greatness of the Chachomim who saw that the Zionist idea had infiltrated the hearts of many chareidim without their realizing that any of their statements are contrary to daas Torah. They even clothe their statements in the cloak of halocho. After all, all the gedolim knew about mitzvas yishuv Eretz Yisroel and its sanctity, but we must not make an Article of Faith out of it, for we have no ikkarim other than those handed down to us.

(From a letter dated 15th Av 5739 [1979], Michtovim Uma'amorim 1,2)

The Danger Of Our Generation: False Views Infiltrating The Beis Hamedrash Itself

Chazal have taught us (Kiddushin 30b): "The school of R. Yishmoel taught, if this contemptible one (the yetzer hora) attacks you, drag him to the beis hamedrash." Nowadays we are cursed with a plague that the yetzer hora attacks inside the very beis hamedrash.

Throughout the generations we knew [could rest assured] that a Jew who learnt a daf of gemora bikedushoh would know that a Tanna is a Tanna and an Amoro is an Amoro with all their kedushoh and virtues. This Jew, who learned a daf of gemora absorbed a spirit of kedushoh from the Beis Hamedrash and this spirit accompanied him in all his actions.

Nowadays, however, a new spirit has arisen, teaching with new methods. According to them, a Tanna is a man like them, and subject to their criticism, choliloh like a human being. As far as they are concerned, the gemora is a "book of laws." In such a situation the option of "dragging him to the Beis Hamedrash" is no longer an effective one, since the yetzer hora himself has found an abode there. Therefore we have issued a prohibition on possessing these books.

(Yarchei Kalla speech 5749 [1989], Michtovim Uma'amorim 4)

Letter of Approbation

Let us express our gratitude to an exceptional individual, who is full of knowledge in Torah and pure yiras Hashem, one of the precious personalities of our holy land, a man of distinguished lineage shlita. He who has taken the trouble to select and collect sheaves from the threshing floor of the Rishonim and Acharonim gedolei hadoros and from the godol of our generation, the Chazon Ish zt"l, all their statements on foundations of the Torah, Hashgocho, yir'oh, methods of limud, and definitions of halocho and teaching, all of which should serve this orphaned generation as a guide on how to make use of all of these. Not everybody has the ability to know all this from their books and from what has been cited in their name.

(A letter of approbation dated 8th Iyar 5726 [1966], Michtovim Uma'amorim 5)

Ribono Shel Olom, Save Us From The Evils Of Our Time

Ribono Shel Olom, protect us and save us from the evils of our time, when two worlds are intermingled in a confusing way, when turbulence and disorder encompass everything, mitzvos are considered aveiros and aveiros are considered to be mitzvos and good deeds . . . Anyone who only opens his eyes to see and understand will realize that the tochocho of the Torah has become fulfilled in our time: "And you shall be mad from the sight of your eyes, which you shall behold."

This period when olom hazeh and olom habo are intermingled is more difficult than a situation of only olom hazeh, because then everybody knows that it is madness. However, when everything is intermingled in a strange way, light and darkness are mixed up, forbidden things are considered as mitzvos by some and sanctified with a brocho, everybody builds an altar for himself and makes his own rulings, everybody considers himself as if there is no one greater than him, saying, "I am, and there is none beside me" (Tzefania 2:15) -- such a period is an exceedingly difficult one, and it is at such a time that we beseech Hashem: `Protect us and save us.'

(Yarchei Kalla speech 5746 [1986], Michtovim Uma'amorim 4)

It Is Not Enough To Learn Torah, The Torah Must Guide Us

The Torah's aim is that "all your children shall be taught (limudei) by Hashem" (Yeshaya 54:13). It does not say "study" Hashem, but "taught" by Hashem. It is not enough for a person to study the Torah: with his toiling he should attain the level where the Torah teaches and guides him in the way of truth, this being the goal of Torah study.

It is not enough for us to learn Shas if we have not reached the stage where Shas teaches us. If we have not reached this stage, then we have not attained the level of limudei Hashem.

(From a speech at a cornerstone ceremony in the Divrei Shir Beis Hamedrash, 5746 [1986], Michtovim Uma'amorim 4)


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