Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5759 - August 4, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Opinion & Comment
Consolidation and Clarity Among Sephardic Bnei Torah
by HaRav Gavriel Toledano

This speech was delivered at a meeting of the Marbitzei Torah Sephardim Organization that took place before the last Knesset elections, but it is still relevant every day. The issues may be more prominent during election campaigns, but they are with us day in and day out. The issues discussed include the general need for unity and the specific tasks facing Sephardic bnei Torah.

I will begin with divrei Torah. When reflecting about the parshiyos Behar and Bechukosai and the connection between them, we find an essential lesson. In parshas Behar the Torah commands us to keep the mitzvah of shmittah. This particular mitzvah teaches us that a person's possessions in this world are not really his, but merely leased from the Ruler of the World. The real baal habayis is HaKodosh Boruch Hu -- "For the earth is Mine" (Shemos 19:5). For this reason the entire Torah is equated to shmittah: "Just as all the principles and details of shmittah were given on Sinai so was the entire Torah" (Rashi, Vayikro 25:1, citing from Toras Cohanim, Behar 1:1).

Actually all of man's belongings are owned by the Ruler of the World, Who resuscitates the dead. This lesson is also taught to us through other mitzvos mentioned in these parshiyos. The halocho of ono'oh (not deceiving another person, Vayikro 25:17) shows us that a person does not even have the right to decide which price to request from a customer. HaKodosh Boruch Hu sets the price limit and if the seller adds more than a sixth of its worth, the price is invalid.

The same is true with taking or paying interest on loans (Vayikro 25:36). Logically speaking, paying for using someone's money is quite acceptable, but since a person does not have "his own" money he cannot demand a payment for a loan but must lend it for free, without profit. The details of the mitzvos of sodeh achuzah (27:15-21, consecrating a field from one's ancestral heritage) and botei orei chomoh (25:29-30, selling a residence house in a walled city) also demonstrate to us that Hashem possesses everything. When He wishes He takes away a man's ownership, and when He wishes He returns it to him.

In parshas Bechukosai the Torah teaches us the importance of toiling over Torah: "If you walk in My statutes" (Vayikro 26:3) -- "You should toil over the Torah" (Rashi). According to the above we have gained a new outlook about such toil. All of a person's efforts, every drop of his life, is leased to him for the purpose of studying Torah. When a person uses his energy for other purposes he is misusing the pikodon Hashem has given him. Each ben Torah must be aware that all his physical and mental faculties must be used according to Hashem's desire. If Hashem's desire is that we should meet together [in an election rally] we are obligated to do so even when this involves bitul Torah.

Dovid Hamelech concludes Tehillim with the posuk: "Let all souls praise Hashem" (Tehillim 150:6). Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 14:9) expound from this posuk that a person should praise the Creator for every breath he takes. This is not mandatory praise to Hashem. The posuk is telling us that every single breath is given to man for one goal only: To exalt Hashem's name, for Him and for His benefit.

Let us now understand why it was necessary for us as bnei Torah to meet together. Everyone in whose veins the Torah of the yeshivos flows must unambiguously feel that without the Torah's brilliance having been radiated on us from the yeshivos kedoshos, not one of us would have remained loyal to the Torah. This is not ancient history. We ourselves have experienced this. Enlightenment, Zionism, and wanton permissiveness have penetrated into the cream of Sephardic Jewry. Only the brilliance of the simchas HaTorah radiating from the yeshivos elevates us, and the clarity of our mentors, such as Maran the Chazon Ish and the guidance of all gedolei Torah has saved us from spiritual destruction. We owe them our very souls!

Moreover, ever since becoming intellectually mature, our teachers have raised us to absolute obedience to gedolei Torah. How fortunate are we to have leaders occupied solely in kvod Shomayim and the benefit of Klal Yisroel. This principle of obedience to gedolei Torah has become deeply implanted. Likewise, in teaching our daily Torah classes we tell the audience that this is the only way to fulfill our obligations properly and achieve our life's aim.

Besides the eternal pertinence of the above, we are today in the midst of a dramatic campaign to differentiate between kodosh and tomei, between those who love Hashem and those who hate Him. Naturally we need to be active participants in this tremendous campaign of declaring Hashem's malchus.

Since we recognize the colossal contribution of chareidi Jewry to Sephardic Jewry we are interested in only a pure yeshiva education for our children. We want, and our aim is, that our children be educated in the educational institutions of chareidi Jewry (including chadarim, girls' seminaries, and the like), since our way of life is bound together with this wonderful group of avreichim engaged in studying Torah despite their meager means.

As everyone knows there is no difference between gedolei Torah of Sephardic Jewry and gedolei Torah of Ashkenazic Jewry as far as Torah outlooks are concerned. If so, our place with them is irrefutable. Every vote for the Gimmel slate (the UTJ list of Agudath Yisroel and Degel HaTorah) proclaims our acceptance of malchus Shomayim. This is the message being conveyed at this meeting.

Morai VeRabotai! Who initiated the consolidation of Sephardic bnei Torah with Ashkenazic chareidi Jewry? It was Maran the Rosh Yeshiva shlita, Rabbenu HaRav E. M. Shach, may HaKodosh Boruch Hu send him a full and speedy recovery. This is what the Rosh Yeshiva shlita wrote in his letter when this organization was founded: "It is a mitzvah for each one of us to work and influence others to work for the success of this holy organization. By doing so we will be zoche to an abundance of kvod Shomayim. The Torah's honor will be raised, and the previous crown [of Torah] donned by Sephardic Jewry will be restored." Maran HaRav Y. S. Eliashiv shlita, HaRav A. Y. L. Steinman shlita, and all eminent roshei yeshivos without exception, joined his appeal.

It is therefore evident that our present urgent duty is to unite all Sephardic bnei Torah. Although individuals who are ovdei Hashem can elevate themselves and succeed, as R' Shimon Ben Yochai said: "I and my son are from those" (Succah 45b), in this spiritually impoverished generation each person needs to be bolstered so he can remain steadfast in his principles.

Fighting against blurred concepts is the first objective of the Organization of Marbitzei Torah Sephardim which was founded for this explicit aim. The boundaries between good and bad have become totally blurred. Since we are at present building a foundation for Torah hashkofos, we must fulfill, "When others disperse we must gather together" (Brochos 63a).

It is worthwhile to peruse the passionate letter of the gaon and tzaddik HaRav Gershonovitz zt'l in which he enumerates the basic principle of the Organization of Marbitzei Torah Sephardim: "The entire desire of Hashem is to clarify the division between light and darkness, while the Satan always does the opposite -- it sows confusion."

Undoubtedly every group of Torah observers has its own advantages. Our aspirations concentrate in wanting clarity. Success in obtaining such clarity is only through clinging to gedolei Torah. Although this problem of blurred outlooks is the whole generation's biggest problem, our being Sephardic bnei Torah especially obligates us to join the fight for clarity. Our tactics in this war are to be proud of being bnei Torah and to believe in our way despite the mighty torrents and temptations confronting us. It is possible to say that our stand reinforces not only us, but to a certain degree all of chareidi Jewry.

Nonetheless, besides strengthening the Torah outlook, our uniting together is the guarantee of our remaining bnei Torah. Without fully identifying ourselves with a group, each individual is subject to alien influences. If you are part of a group and feel really at home there, you are protected. If the opposite happens: If you are only like an orphan buying a suit for yom tov, you are liable to one day slam the door and leave. If you do not slam the door, your son might do so.

Unfortunately there are precious avreichim, wonderful bnei Torah, among us who do not feel at home and do not feel that they are fully accepted as equals. This is not an inferiority complex -- facts and incidents have directly caused these feelings.

What should our attitude to these feelings be? How can we give a Sephardic ben Torah a warm home and answer his agony? How can we give him the feeling that we have made a serious attempt to reach a solution. For this reason a strong organization is necessary for all Torah scholars and marbitzei Torah. This is not only in the interest of Sephardic bnei Torah, but of the entire chareidi Jewry whose aim is not merely the war against the external enemy, but building a superior society whose energy is directed only for kvod Shomayim.

Some preach there is no necessity for such an organization and unity. It is enough for an avreich to be obedient to da'as Torah and live his life as an individual. Besides the fact that Maran's letter contradicts their outlook, and all gedolei Torah and roshei yeshivos have joined him, the above explains the necessity of uniting the Sephardic community through a strong organization that will serve as a home for lomdei Torah.

It seems to me that the outlook of those who deny the necessity of the organization is shortsighted and overlooks problems that with time will intensify. On the contrary, in direct proportion to the strength of this consolidation will we succeed to merge together on an equal basis and be respected as equals.

We do not demand a representative in Degel HaTorah who will procure favors for us. This is not our aim at all. Our entire aim is to build a warm home for the Sephardic ben Torah, and to gain the equality that will give each one the feeling of his not being an object only for chesed and being saved, but an equal. If we succeed in that, the merger [with Degel HaTorah] will be appropriate.

Although our strength is inadequate, we have no tradition of political activity, and we lack resources -- we do have a strength of direction and spirit. The results of blessed activity are already apparent. We now have full and active botei knesses, chadarim and top quality talmudei Torah. Everyone agrees that the buds of the first initiative was of Maran shlita, who started the Organization of Sephardic Marbitzei Torah. Surely the initiative is responsible for the success, but the thrust came from the aspiration to unite.

We do not have any other alternative. We must wage war within our homes, and Torah Jewry is our only home. Our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for this aim will advance it all the more. Boruch Hashem, we already see an improvement and unmistakable progress has been made. There is a written agreement and the Organization of Sephardic Marbitzei Torah is on the map thanks to the extraordinary efforts of HaRav Shmuel Auerbach shlita.

R' Yehoshua Ben Lokish said that when Moshe ascended to Heaven the mal'ochei hashoreis told HaKodosh Boruch Hu: `Ruler of the World! What is a mortal doing among us'" (Shabbos 88). We see that the mal'ochei hashoreis were apparently opposed to matan Torah for bnei Yisroel. On the other hand that same gemora tells us that R' Yehoshua Ben Lokish said that after each utterance of HaKodosh Boruch Hu, Yisroel retreated twelve mil but the mal'ochei hashoreis pushed them back to Mount Sinai. We see from this section of the gemora just the opposite: the mal'ochei hashoreis encouraged Matan Torah.

There is another saying of R' Yehoshua Ben Lokish: "After every utterance emitted by HaKodosh Boruch Hu, bnei Yisroel passed away . . . If they died after the first utterance how could they hear the second? HaKodosh Boruch Hu brought down the dew He will use in the future to resuscitate the dead and resuscitated them."

Apparently when am Yisroel approached to hear the first utterance they did not know their neshomos would leave them, and they would need to be resuscitated, so why then did they come closer again to hear another utterance? Is it permitted to rely on a miracle?

It seems that Klal Yisroel clung so tightly and with such enormous love to the Torah and to being near Elokim that they acted with genuine mesiras nefesh. They were prepared for their neshomos to ascend to their origins.

I once heard that according to this we can explain that when the mal'ochim saw am Yisroel had reached this level of nearness to Torah they changed their previous stand. They knew this was an even higher level than the mal'ochim and therefore they and the entire Creation immediately did their utmost to help Klal Yisroel come even nearer and ascend to the summit of the mountain.

Dear Mentors! The members of the Organization of Sephardic Marbitzei Torah were moseir nefesh to unite the Sephardic bnei Torah. We see that real mal'ochim like HaRav Shmuel Auerbach and HaRav Tzvi Karelenstein have done their best to promote the success of the Sephardic community of bnei Torah. I am certain that a great many Ashkenazic bnei Torah are awaiting to see the success of their colleagues, the Sephardic bnei Torah. We are all born from one father, we are united together in ideology and activity. May it be the will of Hashem that their hopes and our hopes be translated to actual results.

We are therefore obliged to work and influence others to work for the Gimmel slate, since we are chareidi bnei Torah, since we are submissive to pure da'as Torah, since in this way we are fighting against widespread confusion and blurred outlooks, and in this way we are consolidating our own homes.

May it be His will that Hashem pour on us a Divine spirit and we will soon be zoche to a revelation of malchus Shomayim!

HaRav Gavriel Toledano is the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Or Baruch.

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