Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Sivan 5766 - June 21, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Obligation to Separate from the Irreligious

HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira ztvk'l

Part II

The first part discussed the critical importance of simply staying apart from the nations of the world. As far back as the exile in Egypt, the Jews tried to blur the differences between themselves and their Egyptian hosts so that the latter would hate them less. However, in every place that the Jewish people were exiled, the moment they began to draw close to the gentiles and try to be like them the storm winds began to blow and evil decrees were instituted against them until they were forced to leave. Yaakov feared that his brother Eisov might try to kill him, but he also feared that he would try to befriend him and influence him. We face the same dual threat in our time: our enemies on the outside seek to annihilate us physically, and our brethren seek to destroy Torah as a social force from the inside.


In truth, there are some who think that we need to speak to them and discuss all these matters with them, and to see where we have a common denominator. For after all, we are brothers. They think that drawing our hearts closer together is a great mitzvah.

However, we see an amazing thing in recent years. The more the chareidim draw close to them, the more their desire to uproot religion grows. In all matters that the chareidim entered into a discussion with them, their demands only increased. On the contrary, it is precisely in those areas that they know we have no intention of compromising about and would never enter into negotiations about, that we have had siyata deShmaya to succeed.

We must remain with ours and they with theirs. There is no place for kiruv and discussion in matters of Torah and mitzvos. Our life style is not a subject that is open for discussion, argument, or compromise. Our brothers who are erring in their ways have no way to understand our path in chinuch, which is according to the Torah. What can be understood from speaking with them about this? Only a negative influence could result from this, G-d forbid.

Even in the methods of educating for proper behavior and derech eretz, one could think — incorrectly — that there is no difference between the way of Torah chinuch and the secular educational system, and in this we may discuss things with them. However, this is a bitter mistake! Our derech eretz and our culture do not come from good chinuch in these matters. Rather, everything comes from the Torah and our erring brothers have no understanding of this at all.

We say to them: We are not a nation like all the other nations. We know that Yisroel "is a nation that will dwell in solitude" (Bamidbar 23). We do not want to resemble the other nations of the world. We know that we are in exile, and HaKodosh Boruch Hu will redeem us in the future. Then all the subjugation of the nations will cease.

We must know the words of the prophet Yirmiyohu: "And you, despoiled one, what can you do that you wear crimson, that you adorn yourself with golden ornaments, that you enlarge your eye with paint? In vain you beautify yourself; lovers despise you, they seek your life" (Yirmiyohu 4:30). The explanation of this verse is that the Am Yisroel, who are in exile amongst the nations, see that the gentiles hate us. We think it is because we are different, because we do not speak their language, and do not act like them or walk in their ways.

Therefore, we put on nice clothes like the gentiles. We put on adornments like them. But the prophet says to the Jewish people: "And you, despoiled one, what can you do? You wear crimson, you adorn yourself with golden ornaments, you enlarge your eye with paint."

The prophet admonishes us: "In vain you beautify yourself!"

And why? "Because the lovers despise you; they seek your life."

No matter what you do they will hate you.

I heard an additional explanation of this from HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik of Brisk (the Griz) in the name of his father HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik.

There are two types of hatred. There is the hatred one has for another because of a particular reason which was the cause of the hatred. When the reason is removed the hatred is automatically also removed.

However, there is also a hatred that is unconnected to any cause. Rather, the very existence of the other person bothers him and disturbs his calm. If we ask the hater why he hates, he will give one reason or another. He will say it is because the object of his hatred wears filthy clothing or the like.

Would it help that the object of his hatred changes to nice clothing? Certainly not. For we know that his hatred is not because of this reason or another. Rather, the very existence of the object of his hatred is like a thorn in his eyes. On the contrary, if the hated one begins to wear nice clothing and tries to speak in the language of his enemy and imitate his ways, this will only anger him and increase his hatred.

Therefore, the prophet says to the Jewish people: "In vain you beautify yourself!" And the reason is: "Because the lovers despise you; they seek your life." They do not hate us because of this or that reason. Rather, they despise our very essence.

In every generation this is so. There are always those who think that this generation is different from the previous generations, and that in this generation we have to beautify ourselves. But this beautification always results in the opposite reaction, and slaps us in the face R'l.

In fact, this generation is different from other generations in that this generation is orphaned and completely impoverished. Every movement is dangerous. On the contrary, it is precisely in our situation that we need to guard very carefully not to assimilate among the ones who have declared themselves "liberated" from Torah and mitzvos R"l. Precisely an impoverished generation such as ours, where there is so much confusion, has a greater danger to want to be like those who have removed the yoke of Torah and mitzvos.

Perhaps you will ask: This is a time of war with outside enemies of the Jewish people and we need unity among all the residents of Eretz Yisroel, not argument and division. The answer is that in fact this is the worry, as the Beis HaLevi writes, for the cause of hatred and decrees of war with the gentile nations is that the Jewish people forget their Creator and His Torah and seek to be like all the other nations.

Therefore, now is the time to strengthen ourselves in the belief that we are the Am Yisroel and our nation only exists in the merit of the Torah. We must strengthen ourselves in the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos without any fear, and we must realize that our holy yeshivos and the chinuch for our children according to the way of Torah which was transmitted to us generation after generation, are the only means of insuring the survival of our people.

This is apparent from the words of the prophet Asaf: "But as for me, my feet had almost turned away, in an instant my steps would have been swept away. For I envied the perverse . . . " (Tehillim 73:2-3). And why did he envy them? "I would see the tranquility of the wicked. For there are no fetters to their death, and their health is sound. In the toil of mortal man they are not . . . Behold these are wicked; yet they are tranquil in the world and have increased wealth" (Ibid. 4-5,12).

Because they see the tranquility of the wicked, they fall to the point where they ask: "And they say, `How does G-d know, and is there knowledge in the Most High?' (Ibid. 11). Asaf continues and says that this is only: "Until I came to the sanctuaries of G-d, and I understood their end" (Ibid. 17).

This demonstrates that one could be wise and holy, as Asaf the prophet, and yet envy the wicked and desire to join with them, as he said: "But as for me, my feet had almost turned away, in an instant my steps would have been swept away" (Ibid. 2) because he saw their success. However, this is only: "Until I came to the sanctuaries of G-d and I understood their end."

What is special about the sanctuaries of G-d? That is where the wise men, scholars of the Torah, are and they live in the light of the Torah. Where there is light, there is no room for questions. Therefore, he "understood their end" and he realized: "But I was brutish and I did not know; I was [as] a beast with You" (Ibid. 22). In this state, a man will be in constant joy, as the prophet continues: "Yet I was constantly with You; You grasped my right hand . . . But as for me — G-d's nearness is my good" (Ibid. 23, 28).

It is not a simple matter to be saved from the desire to join with the ones who cast away the yoke of Torah and mitzvos, because it seems as though everything is fine with them. However those of us who learn the Torah, who live in the brilliance of the light of the Torah, have no inkling of this desire. And why is that? Because we understand their end — and the one who learns Torah is the one who is happy and fulfilled!

We must know that although we are responsible for the spiritual welfare of our brothers, we do not need them. Our Torah, which is from HaKodosh Boruch Hu, contains the promise that it shall never be forgotten from our mouths forever. Our livelihood comes from no other than HaKodosh Boruch Hu. "And if you should say, `What will we eat...' Know then, that I will command My blessing..." (Vayikra 25:20-21).

We must only pray that the promise will soon be fulfilled: "They shall neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mount, for the land shall be full of knowledge of Hashem as water covers the sea bed" (Yeshayohu 11:9). Amen.

(This talk was given by the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Beer Yaakov about the danger of dialogue and connection with those who have cast away Torah and mitzvos. The Rosh Yeshiva ztvk'l saw the notes of his speech that were written by one of the listeners and they were first published in Yated Ne'eman in Teves, 5762.)

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