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29 Sivan 5765 - July 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Sacrificial Avodoh Zorah and Avodoh Zorah Itself

by HaRav Aharon Yeshaya Roter

We have been fortunate that in the sea of licentiousness that surrounds us there are still valorous Jewish women who carry on the tradition established at the time of the Golden Calf of not worshiping idolatry. They were privileged to sanctify Hashem's name in public when they cast their `ornaments' behind their backs and donned the true Jewish ornaments upon their head. Even though garments are designed to distinguish their wearers, they gave up their pride for the sake of the honor of their Creator.

Thus does it say in Yirmiyohu, "Give unto Hashem your G- d honor before it grows dark." I have no doubt that the gates of heavenly mercy were opened, from which descended two angels bearing two crowns, one corresponding to the pronouncement of na'aseh, that is, the commandment for a married woman to cover her head, and the other, corresponding to nishma, that is, for obeying the directives of the sages. And these sages are the worthy messengers for a praiseworthy thing; whoever has yiras Shomayim is obeyed.

Incidentally, I would like to remind the public that what Chazal said that a tefach-measure showing from a woman is considered indecent exposure, does not refer to the hair. The measurement there is "even anything at all — even in his own wife." In other words, what R' Sheishes said (Brochos 22a) that the amount of hair showing by a woman that is considered forbidden exposure really means even less than a tefach: that is, anything. This is what is written in Shulchan Shlomo, Orach Chaim, siman 72:2, and his words are quoted in the abridged Mishneh Berurah, siman 75:10).

At any rate, women who expose some of their own hair over their wigs, even if it is only a little, have not gained anything by the wig covering. The Zohar in Nosso states that even one hair showing is regarded with stringency.

Avodoh Zorah Per Se

Whatever I have written up till now relates to sacrificial offerings to idolatry. I would now like to focus on the prohibition of practicing idolatry itself. I am referring to certain people in the secular camp who are `idolized,' as it were, by a great many chareidim. What I mean is that they believed in their heart of hearts, or even hoped, that the eventual salvation would come through them. This is virtual avoda zora, as Maran HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy'd wrote in his work, Ikvesa deMeshicha: Anything that appears to a person to be a factor independent of the will or knowledge of Hashem, which can accomplish something for the good or for the bad, is included in the definition of avodoh Zorah.

Woe unto us. All the various forms of idolatry have disappointed, fallen through. It is just as is written in Talmud Yerushalmi (Avodoh Zorah 2:2): "All the forms of idolatry are destined to come before their respective worshipers and spit in their faces and humiliate them."

Yeshayohu Hanovi said, "And they shall pass through it, greatly distressed and hungry; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves and curse their king and their G-d and look upward" (8:21). In other words, whoever passed along that road in order to pay tribute to the idolatry, shall suffer misfortune and hunger. And they shall curse their king and G- d, who disappointed them and forsook them. And then they shall turn upwards and seek help from Hashem.

This is what Moshe Rabbenu said in Ha'azinu, "And he shall say:`Where is their G-d, the rock in whom they trusted?" In other words, Hashem shall ask: Where are the idols in which they placed their faith, idols who, they hoped, would protect them? Let them rise up and help them.

These verses establish that before the Redemption, the Jews will embrace various idolatries and `isms', and for period after period in history, they will place their false trust in different things, only to be disappointed, time and again.

The truth is that were it not for our misplaced faith in this or that false G-d, and our hope and belief that they would bring around the redemption, we would have long seen the true Redeemer already.

The Sifsei Kohen on the Torah says: "It is written in Shemos (12:34): `And the nation carried its dough before it could leaven . . . and they baked the dough which they took out of Egypt, unleavened cakes, for they had not leavened, for they were banished from Egypt.' The simple meaning of the text is that the reason the Jews didn't bake bread instead of matzos is because they were banished from Egypt, or else they would have waited for the bread to rise."

The Rishonim ask: But they were commanded not to have any leavening in their possession altogether, that it "not be seen and not be found!"

And several answers are provided and are to be found in the commentary of the Ran, R' Yeshaya and the Ramban, etc.

I saw it written in Sifsei Kohen, a great kabbalist from a student of a student of the Arizal, that where it says that the nation lifted its voice . . . the Torah is referring to the rabble (eirev rav). This is according to the rule that when it says `ho'om,' the people, it is referring to the most base element, the rabble. The Jewish people themselves did not have time to occupy themselves in baking, for they were busy with the command of borrowing vessels and garments from the Egyptians.

The rabble, on the other hand, was not commanded against having leavening in sight, or in their possession, so that the reason they didn't bake leavened bread was because they were being banished from Egypt. Otherwise, they would have waited for the dough to rise . . .

He concludes his words thus: "And know that had the Children of Israel not eaten together with the rabble from the same pot, they would have been rewarded with manna before they complained. But that eating together compromised and entangled them. It made them consort and associate with them. This subsequently caused them much suffering in the desert — and this is what Chazal sought to prevent by forbidding a Jew to `break bread' together with a non- Jew."

I remember that in the War of 1967, I went for a walk with Maran HaRav Shach ztvk'l. We were all carried away then with an overpowering sense of euphoria, which he tried to cool off. "You have all become Zionists," he accused.

"How can it be different?" I countered. "Would we have wanted the Arabs to win? Every fool know what would have happened had they won!"

He then said to me, "I also wanted us to win, but not through their [the Zionist] hands."

I also recall another time following national elections, when one of the secular candidates won. Everyone knows that the winning party always holds a celebration late at night, attended by the winner's supporters and promoters, to commemorate the victory.

The following morning, I went to Maran and found him dissolved in real tears, just like a child. I was greatly alarmed but he said to me, "R' Aharon, didn't you hear the tremendous honor that they accorded the wicked last night?"

What difference does it make if the wicked honor one another? I thought to myself. And then I thought again: It doesn't matter who is honoring the wicked, or whether he be a leader from the Right or from the Left. It is still honor accorded to the wicked, in the eyes of the Rosh Yeshiva, and a manifestation of the Shechina in exile. This is why he was weeping copious tears.

This should be our view regarding their leaders. We are obligated to know that they seek only their own good; and if we are permitted to politically align ourselves with them, it is only under duress, to preserve whatever can still be preserved, no more.

HaRav Aharon Yeshaya Roter is author of Shaarei Aharon.

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