The following speech was given on
chol hamoed Succos, 5752 (1991) just half a year after the Persian
To the honorable teachers and rabbonim, including some that I can
truly call my teachers and rebbes, and to the honorable audience that
I want to say a few words. I do not have the strength to speak at
length, but I feel that I must say a few brief words at this time.
Rabosai! We are now in the middle of days of simcha, the
joy of chag Succos, but the general position of our people is
not stable. It is not yet clear what the end will be. Who knows what
will come of all the decisions of committees that meet to decide our
fate? It is like clay in the hands of a potter, and it is impossible
to know how things will eventually be decided.
But, rabosai! We are of an ancient people, Am Yisroel.
Our people has weathered many such situations, from the time of
Bayis Sheini unto our day. For a long time, even while the
Beis HaMikdosh still stood, control of Eretz Yisroel was
in the hands of foreign powers.
How many foreign powers ruled Eretz Yisroel! They made decrees
of shmad, decrees against learning Torah, decrees against
milah, and many other decrees, including one banning
semicha of rabbonim. They decreed that anyone found learning or
spreading Torah would be killed. Rabbi Akiva's flesh was torn by iron
combs. Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon was found spreading Torah and he was
sentenced to death by fire, and many others.
Many decrees were issued against Klal Yisroel. Throughout the
time of the second Bayis and thereafter, there were many
decrees against Am Yisroel. Despite this, rabosai, they
managed to create things that were unprecedented. Their creations were
bigger than anything that ever was or will be. I mean the Talmud
Bavli and Yerushalmi.
Where and when was such a thing done? When was it all established?
When was all this created? In the time of the Second Temple and
thereafter. Davka then, when we were in golus, when they
oppressed Klal Yisroel and decreed shmad, when they
killed people for learning Torah, then they made all that, then they
learned Torah. They created the Talmud Bavli, than which there
is no greater intellectual creation. There never has been nor will be
such an achievement of chochmah.
The Oral Torah as written down in the Talmud encompasses a person's
entire life, from A to Z: how to behave, how to eat, everything. For
every corner of life there is a halacha, for every facet of the life
of an individual and the whole world, everything is written in the
Oral Torah, and all this is the product of those times.
How did they know this? They knew it all from the Torah. When were all
these great people? All modern wisdom is nothing compared to the
wisdom of those days. If we now have instruments, they are not the
kind of equipment that enabled Rabi Yishmael Cohen Godol to go up to
the Heavens and ask if a decree was passed! The Torah includes all
kinds of wisdom. When did they learn all this? During the time of
decrees. They learned Torah under pressure and Hashem helped them.
It is such great wisdom that a man could never reach it on his own. He
could never, with all his wisdom, even begin to understand his own
potential for good and evil had the Torah not revealed the secret of
how great man is and his potential for good and potential for evil.
For example, man can be as deeply evil as it is possible to describe.
Kayin and Hevel, two people in the whole world, and they cannot get
along -- one murders the other. This shows how deeply evil a person
can be, how powerful are the forces in him for evil.
On the other hand, we have Avrohom Ovinu, whose positive side was so
great and deep as to be impossible to fully describe. Here was a sick
man who, when he could find no passersby in the street, went and
attended to the needs of simple Arabs, bringing them in and feeding
them, just to do good for people. Also this Avrohom was so strong that
he stood against the whole world: Avrohom HoIvri, he on one
side and the whole world on the other, going up against them all. The
entire world worshipped idols and he uniquely recognized the Creator
of the world. What are the depths of man and his intelligence?
The Torah reveals to us that there was a man such as that, but without
the Torah we could not imagine that one could stand up against the
whole world, against his father and mother. How could one be so
strong? This is what the Torah tells us, that such a thing is
I merely cite a few examples. There were not many people in the time
of Noach and the land was already full of theft. There were hardly any
people in the world and they were already driven to steal from one
another. Why? There was enough to go around! The truth is that the
potential for evil in man is so great that even then they stole.
This is what Hakodosh Boruch Hu reveals to us: the depth and
extent of a person's good and bad potential. Only the Torah tells us
all this. We know it from no other source.
The Torah reveals so much. How do Chazal know all this? It is only
from the tremendous depth of their wisdom, from the power of the
Torah. They created an unparalleled work. In the whole world there is
nothing like it, nothing with such wisdom. The world needs to use
equipment to search and research.
For example, the Seder Zeroim. How did Chazal know all about
the various plants, which are kelaim one with the other? [In
order to know this they had to know which are biologically related and
which are not. - Ed.] Only from the Torah! It all comes from the power
of the Torah. And all this was accomplished in the Temple Period, in a
time of troubles, exile, and under the yoke of decree after decree.
Yes, this is the path of Yisroel! Troubles do not lower the level of
achievement. Even if there are troubles and suffering in the world,
this does not affect the Ato bechartonu, the way Hashem chose
us, nor the Ato kidashtonu mikol ho'amim, the way Hashem has
sanctified us from all other peoples.
Therefore I say, that also today, we have a time of simcha, and
we must still learn. Even though we are under foreign control. The
uncertainty of our situation is frightening, but we have to be happy
with the simcha of Torah.
This I also want to say to you, that we must not antagonize the
peoples of the world. We are bound by three oaths, including a vow not
to go up with force and not to antagonize them. Everything should be
done peacefully. We need not be afraid or make a commotion. On the
contrary, we should go with a smooth and pleasant policy.
We have to recognize and acknowledge what America has done for us and
is doing for us, our whole lives. During the war with Iraq, she did
much for us. We may have beaten them [by ourselves], but they
certainly prevented the loss of many of our lives. Without American
help we would not have been able to stand up to the rockets of Iraq.
America fought and did us a big favor, and we must recognize and
acknowledge what she has done for us, whether from pure motives or
not. We must express our gratitude for the favor she has done us. We
must not rebel and reject her; we must express our gratitude.
Also with regard to what America is doing now, we must understand that
she has all kinds of alliances and obligations to others. Naturally we
cannot agree to all the things she does. However we must realize that
she has all manner of other obligations, and we must not reject her,
and we must always remember what Chazal say, "Don't rebel against the
nations of the world."
We learn Torah and we must now fulfill the mitzva of Vesomachto
bechagecho. We must fulfill the mitzva of learning Torah and not
be upset that we suffer. On the contrary, our sufferings strengthen
and sustain us, they strengthen and sustain Klal Yisroel. Our
troubles strengthen Am Yisroel. Am Yisroel strengthens itself
all the more so to serve Hashem, and Hashem will help us.