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30 Tishrei 5766 - November 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Poisoned by Shibud Malchuyos

by HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, zt"l

The non-Jewish way of thinking and way of life, which center around the aspiration for a life of comfort and luxury, have filtered into our midst. Every fad Parisian tailors invent is leaped at in Eretz Yisroel as well. And when New York Bohemians grow their hair long the trend is imitated here, too. All this is part of the secret of shibud malchuyos, our state of bondage to foreign rule. We consider ourselves independent but in reality Klal Yisroel is in a state of total concealment.

Today shibud goluyos is on the rise. It used to be more palpable in gashmiyus, whereas now it is felt more in ruchniyus. This bondage has penetrated our circles. We all sense it. And even those who conquer their yetzer and do not pursue it, still see beauty in it. We like their songs and their cheap secular newspapers are not muktzeh to us, even though everybody knows and feels how much damage can result from every glance at the lengthy descriptions of base crimes and heretical views. How much have we already been poisoned by spiritual shibud malchuyos?

It seems surprising that HaKodosh Boruch Hu found it necessary to warn us so many times to avoid idolatry. " . . . Be very careful not to fall into a deadly trap by trying to follow them. Do not try to find out about their gods, saying, Now, how did these nations worship their gods? I would like to try, too" (Devorim 12:30). And, "You know full well that we lived in Egypt and that we also passed through the nations you encountered. You saw the disgusting, putrid idols they have, made of wood and stone, silver and gold. Today there must not be any man, woman, family or tribe among you whose heart strays from Hashem Elokeinu and who goes and worships the gods of these nations. There must not be among you a root whose fruit is gall and wormwood" (Devorim 29:15-16).

How and why could a Jew consider pursuing their abominations and idols, which are "fetid like dung" (see Rashi Ibid.), and why should it be necessary to warn against such an unlikely occurrence?

My master and teacher R' Yeruchom, zechuso yogen oleinu, revealed a profound insight: Adulation of the wicked is not simply a matter of subjugation of oneself to them but rather a certain inclination to find favor in the eyes of everyone, even someone who is totally insane. When a person is in another's presence, he wants to be liked — even by a crazy man. And if someone, even at the other end of the earth, does not admire him, he will be unable to sleep at night and will search for ways to turn him into an admirer.

This is the power driving people to idolatry! If one merely passes in the vicinity of idolaters he already wants to find favor in their eyes. And how can one find favor? By subjecting himself to the bondage of their gods!

This is the terrible drive to accept fashion trends, to chase after every new product the fools of the world devise. People will do anything not to be considered a fool, but rather to be seen as one of the group and to be held in high regard.

This is the greatest danger taking hold of our souls and it has the power to drive one out of his mind and away from Yiddishkeit, chas vesholom, if he merely feels derided because of his belief and his pursuit of a life of Torah and mitzvas. This is the extent to which the external yetzer hora holds us in its grip and we must beware and flee from it, not accepting any fashions or mode of conduct that comes to us from sources of tumoh!

And in the short time remaining before the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days amen, we must buttress ourselves like a wall not to get dragged after tumoh or secularism or any foreign views and customs. We must temper ourselves to withstand all forms of humiliation and degradation and even to be considered fools by the whole world throughout all our lives, and not to be a rosho before HaKodosh Boruch Hu for even a single moment!

According to hilchos geirus the prospective convert is asked, "Don't you know that nowadays Yisroel is afflicted and oppressed?" And if he replies, "I know and I am unworthy," he is accepted right away, for he is a ger tzedek. He understands the penimiyus of Klal Yisroel and that for the sake of this penimiyus it is worthwhile to tolerate all of the degradations in the world. For what great profundity and penimiyus we receive as recompense for the degradations of the world!

And who is to say whether this is perhaps our task today, i.e. to come [ourselves as it were] to convert, saying "I am unworthy" of the joy. This is what it is to be a true Jew, even if we have to suffer all of the degradations in the world!

And this should be the whole of our perspective on our lives during these days of teshuvoh, to direct our fight against the outward yetzer in all of its manifestations, and not to get dragged down by it in the least. Thus we will merit the penimiyus of the heart, for HaKodosh Boruch Hu is called the heart of Yisroel!

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