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8 Tishrei 5771 - September 16, 2010 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Like Dung On the Face of the Earth

by HaRav Nosson Gestetner

Rav of Shikun Agudas Yisroel, Bnei Brak

The following address was delivered at Jerusalem's Kikar Shabbos in 1995-5755 at a demonstration protesting the disgraceful treatment of Jewish graves in the Holy Land. HaRav Gestetner poignantly sums up the main points of the protest and the goals of the public demonstration. It was first published in Yated Ne'eman in the edition of Yom Kippur, 5756.


When Yirmiyahu Hanovi prophesied that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed, he said: "`At that time,' says Hashem, `they will remove the bones of Yehuda's kings, its ministers, its prophets, and those who lived in Yerushalayim, from their graves. And they will spread them before the sun and moon . . .; they will not be gathered or buried; they will be like dung on the face of the earth.'" (Yirmiyohu 8:1-2)

We see here that one of the most dreadful punishments that one can suffer is for his bones to be cast out of their grave and thrown about like dung on the face of the earth.

Yirmiyohu Hanovi prophesied that this appalling deed would be done by gentile Jew-haters who came to destroy Yerushalayim. Perhaps the prophet could never have conceived of a time to come when Jews themselves would do such a sinful deed — deliberately tossing their own ancestors' bones out of their graves.

Unfortunately, today, due to our great sins, we see that people who call themselves Jews lack even a minimal sense of shame and are robbing graves in our own Holy Land.


For the last two thousand years many nations and races have ruled over our Holy Land. These people never touched any graves; at least they allowed the dead who achieved burial in the Holy Land to rest in peace. It is incredibly shocking that now, when Jews control Eretz Yisroel, the graves are being destroyed and the dead are being robbed.

Actually, throughout history there have been many ignoble people who robbed graves looking for gold and silver hidden within. They would, however, work secretly, and were considered sordid even by others who themselves committed unlawful acts. Today our grave robbers have donned the respected cloak of men of science — they are archaeologists. The Attorney General has even ruled that according to the State's laws it is permissible for them to destroy graves and steal the dead.

This was the sin of Sodom, according to the Akeidah (cited in ShuT Maharam Shick, Orach Chaim 306). The people of Sodom made all evils lawful; they found a paragraph in their law books permitting every iniquity. But legalizing sin is so abominable that Hashem overturned Sodom.

In parshas Re'ei (Devorim 12:31) the Torah writes: "You shall not do thus for Hashem your Lord; for they did for their gods every despicable act abominable to Hashem; for they even have burnt their sons and daughters in fire to their gods." Rashi (ibid.) explains that "even" comes to include fathers and mothers—the children even sacrificed their parents to their idols. "R' Akiva said: `I saw an idol worshiper who tied his father before his dog to feed it.'"

Do not think that those who burnt their sons, daughters, and parents, and fed their dogs with their father's flesh, were considered lowly, as if they had done some evil deed. On the contrary — those idol worshipers invented all sorts of sophisticated names to justify their diabolical deeds. Everything was done strictly according to the law. Today's "idol worshipers" do the same: they rob the dead under the guise of acting according to the law. "For they did for their gods every despicable act, abominable to Hashem."

It is written in Semochos (13) that one who finds a corpse in a grave should not remove it, since the earth where a dead person lies belongs to him. The Sifrei in parshas Shofetim infers this same halocho from: "You shall not move the boundary-marker of your friend" (lo sasiegDevorim 19:14). The Or Somayach (Semochos 14:15) remarks that one who removes bones from a grave where a corpse was properly buried with permission, transgresses the negative commandment: "You shall not move the boundary-marker of your friend." Besides not fearing heavenly punishment, and desecrating the dignity of the dead, such a person is also stealing the dead person's property.


We can realize the weighty significance of burying the dead from the gemora (Taanis 31), which writes that no Yomim Tovim were as great as the Fifteenth of Av for the Jews. According to one opinion, the reason was that 15 Av was the day when those killed at Beitar were brought to burial. On that day, too, the beis din of Yavneh instituted a fourth, additional brocho, Hatov veHameitiv, in Bircas Hamozone. They expounded that Hashem is Hatov (the Benevolent) in that the dead, unburied bodies around Beitar had not begun to stink; veHameitiv (and He does benevolent deeds) in that those dead were buried. Chazal decreed a brochoh for all generations because the dead of Beitar were buried.

"And you will worship Him and cling to Him" (Devorim 13:5). Rashi (ibid.) explains that to cling to Hashem means to cling to His ways (to emulate Him) by doing acts of kindness, such as burying the dead and visiting the sick, just as HaKodosh Boruch Hu did. Chazal (Yevomos 79a) write: "This people are distinguished by three signs: they have pity on others, are bashful, and deal kindly with each other."

For this reason, from the time the Jews became a nation, the mitzvah of burying the dead was one of the basic ones that all Jews were meticulous in fulfilling. Even those who were not Torah observant were careful to honor their dead. Within the heart of every Jew the significance of the mitzvah of kindness to the living and to the dead was deeply ingrained.

The contemptible Jews of present days have "educated" an entire generation, uprooting any Jewish feelings from their hearts. Once upon a time, even the non-observant had the typical Jewish feelings of pity, being bashful, and doing kindness; today the young generation is being educated to be like gentiles. Not only are their acts and external appearance similar to those of gentiles, but the educators are even uprooting from their hearts all Jewish feelings of pity and kindness. If any feeling for doing kindness or acting with pity is left in their hearts, they direct these feelings towards animals—dogs and cats. This has never before happened in klal Yisroel. Never was there an organized indoctrination to eliminate all Jewish traits and feelings.


The truth is that all their acts in robbing and destroying the graves are aimed at expunging from the Jews their faith in the resurrection of the soul. The Chasam Sofer writes (in ShuT Chasam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah 336) that one must respect the dead body of a Jew because this dead body once served as a repository for the soul and therefore retains some kedushoh. Thus, concerning such a body that is left hanging, it is written that "a hanged man is a disgrace for Hashem" (Devorim 21:23—see Rashi).

The vile people who are currently the leaders of this country are instilling wantonness in the present generation. Their disciples are being taught that there is no Divine power able to restrain or punish them. As a result they demean the dead, since according to their educational axioms there is no image of Hashem ingrained in man; they do not say about the dead "a hanged man is a disgrace for Hashem."

We can therefore understand that their grave-robbing, besides being a sin (namely stealing from the dead), also violates one of the foundations of Am Yisroel's faith—the faith in Him "before whom you will in the future report your deeds; before the King Of kings, HaKodosh Boruch Hu" (Pirkei Avos 3:1).


Many thousands have gathered together here in this rally in Yerushalayim, the Holy City, to protest against the desecration of the dead and robbing of their graves. One can ask about the benefits of protesting. What is the point? For, "slaves are ruling over us, and we cannot be redeemed from their hands," (Eichah 5:8) and "their numbers are far greater than ours; they surround us like a moat around a vine" (Brochos 6a).

Nevertheless, we must first of all protest and let Heaven know that Am Yisroel does not support robbing the dead and their graves. We are proclaiming here that those who perform these atrocities do not represent Am Yisroel; they have no relationship with Am Yisroel! Chazal write (Bovo Basra 38b) "This is how one should protest: `That person is a thief who stole my land, and tomorrow I will charge him before the Beis Din.'" Likewise we must announce that whatever they are doing is pure theft. "Our hands did not spill this blood," so therefore "atone for Yisroel your nation" (Devorim 21:7).


Second, we must protest because robbing graves in the Holy Land endangers all Jewish graveyards throughout the world. If in the Holy Land it is permissible to destroy Jewish graveyards, then is it at all possible to ask non-Jews to preserve and protect other Jewish graveyards scattered over the world?

Consequently, we are letting the entire world know that the destruction of graves in the Holy Land is an act of theft, even though it was done by Jews. We likewise demand that all the Jewish graveyards in the world be preserved at all costs from any harm.


Third, we are obligated to protest because Chazal (Shabbos 55a) tell that in a time of Heavenly anger the attributes of Truth and Justice argued that the tzadikim of that time had been able to protest the people's sins but had failed to do so. HaKodosh Boruch Hu responded, "I know that their protest would anyway not have been heeded." The attribute of justice retorted: "Ribono shel Olam! Before You it is revealed, but it was not to them!" From this we infer that if there is even a slim hope of our protests helping we are obligated to rebuke the sinners (see Tosafos, s.v. Ve'af al gav, and Rabbenu Chananel [ibid.], who write that one who can protest but refrains from doing so is considered as having sinned that same sin).

We are therefore calling to those who are in control of the country, in case a spark of integrity and humanity has remained in them. Even if they wish to copy the non-Jews, they do not have to be like the worst of them.

In every country rulers take the people's feelings into consideration. We therefore demand that our government immediately put an end to the grave-robbing and leave the deceased to rest in peace until techiyas hameisim, whenever the Creator brings it.

May Hashem help us to be redeemed from this exile, and may we merit seeing the redemption of Klal Yisroel with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, may he come speedily in our days.

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