Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Elul 5765 - September 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
The Man With the Gun in Hand

by HaRav Aharon Yeshaya Roter

"If my spirit was stormy within me, I said: I shall tell it and I will be eased."

On my way to shul in Bnei Brak one morning, I noticed an ad on a billboard. I am quoting it verbatim:

"You've been waiting, you've been waiting . . . And now you can run to the best shops. Hatzaleket Films—Sparks of Kedusha presents a breathtaking suspense drama: the story of Yehuda, who dreams of redeeming his ancestral land and becomes entangled with the underworld. The drama spans dozens of action-packed years. The audience that viewed the first showing declares that this is the best film to have yet been produced."

This ad is accompanied by many pictures, the first depicting a man holding a drawn gun, another of a sweet boy with a cap on his head, a Shabbos candle and so on.

My initial reaction was that I had made a wrong turn somewhere and unwittingly reached Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv. But I have a tradition from HaRav Mordechai Pogramonsky that, "A Jew never gets lost," which is corroborated by Hagar of whom the Torah writes, "And she wandered [lost] in the Beer Sheva desert." Rashi there states that "she returned to her father's idol worship." In other words, had she not reverted to idolatry, she would never have gotten lost.

Based on this, I concluded that I had not lost my way and, since I did come upon that advertisement, I was obligated to share my thoughts about it with others.

We are accustomed to saying about secular Jews that when they fall, they fall to the bottom of the chasm. I think that we can apply this observation to ourselves as well, that we are the cause of the `big storm' . . .


I would like to explain this. The movies produced by the secular film industry are comprised of two basic elements: murder and sin. This particular movie was composed of murder and "holiness." Let us see which is worse.

In Parshas Shemini it says, "And this is the beast which you shall eat . . . whichever has a split and cloven hoof and chews its cud." The Torah then goes on to enumerate four species which are impure: the camel, hare, rabbit and pig.

This is puzzling since there are thousands of impure species; Why then, were just these singled out? The Ramban and R' Bechaye answer that these are the only exceptions in the world that possess exactly one of the two signs of purity. Had the Torah written generally that one could only eat animals which possessed both signs and not only one, we might still err with these four examples since they do have one out of the two. It was, therefore, necessary to explicitly mention these four by name.

Further on it says: "But these you shall not eat . . . the camel, because it chews its cud but does not have a split hoof. And the pig, which has a split and cloven hoof." The wording, it seems, should have been different. It should have said: The camel, because it does not have a split hoof, and the pig because it does not chew its cud. Why did it say not to eat camel because it chews its cud if this is, indeed, a sign of purity? Furthermore, it even preceded this kosher sign before mentioning its impure sign.

The Kli Yokor explains that the sign of purity by all these animals only compounds their impurity, in the same manner that Eisov is likened to a pig. Why? Because it thrusts its hooves forward as if to show that it is kosher, while its essence is pure evil and deceit.

Thus is it with hypocrites who attempt to deceive others into thinking they are kosher, which is far worse than the consummate sinners who make no pretense and are evil through and through.

Rashi also explains why Yosef's brothers were unable to speak to him in peace — that would have belied their inner feelings of animosity towards him. And this is why the cloven hoof is truly a sign of impurity by the pig, since it can mislead people into thinking it might be kosher after all. Similarly with the rumination of the cud by the camel, hare and rabbit.

It is stated that one should not house lambs and camels in one pen since it causes a great mix-up, a shatnez and kilayim hybrid. The crux of the danger lies in the very sign that the kosher and non-kosher animals share, which is deceptive.


When I told someone how terribly shocked I was by the ad, he replied that if one did not permit movies like these, the public would go to the treif movies. I was suddenly reminded of how HaGaon R' Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ztvk'l interpreted the verse, "And then a man from the Children of Israel came and brought forth the Midianite woman . . . " He asked: What did this man want to show? Hadn't all the people left the same camp as he?

The answer is that he came to Moshe Rabbenu with a self righteous plea. When one leaves the camp of the Israelites, he said, it is the beginning of sin, which eventually ends in idolatry. But if we bring this Midianite into our camp, he argued, we will at least be protecting our people from idolatry.


The very idea is shocking and abhorrent that in our times, people are so sunken into the morass of heresy that all of their actions are tainted with it and they trample the most stringent mitzvos of the Torah without a twinge of compunction.

We bemoan the fact that many of those faithful to the Torah in our midst are sunken in this very sorry state. My heart weeps and breaks at the thought of how we can protect our tender sheep, how we can disseminate Torah, how we can create a strong barrier to guard them from the abominations without.

How terrible is the pain to see our pure, modest sons and daughters, products of such a noble heritage, being subverted and enticed to leave our holy compounds and gaze upon forbidden sights, to smell forbidden incense. Shall not every eye tear, every ear ring in horror, every heart break?

In the previous generation, when the Maskilim arose and preached their bitter heresy, striking at the very foundations of our Torah, our Torah leadership declared a full-fledged battle against them. How much more so must we declare war in this generation, as Chazal said, "The evil inclination dominates where the eye sees [forbidden things]" (Sotah 8).

Our own latter sages, the Avi Ezri and the Kehillos Yaakov, wrote that one who accustoms himself to look there, becomes drained of every spark of emunoh and yiras Shomayim. Every good portion already acquired, especially by children, is destroyed, for the desire to imitate and to be part of the crowd, is very powerful with them.

Every scene of crime or violence becomes something to copy, all the more so since it is designed to make a deep impression on them. It becomes a model for their behavior, deeply engraved in their memories, imaginations and subconscious minds.

And even if he is privileged to study intensively in a good Torah institution, nevertheless, his mind is already tainted, his soul is blemished and his Yiddishkeit cannot help but suffer from the abominations embedded in his imagination, which it can reconstruct in his mind very vividly. Forbidden sights can only confuse a child and cause him to vacillate in his emunoh, G-d forbid.

Try to imagine the tremendous impact that sight has. It is written in Ponim Yofos that Moshe Rabbenu said: " . . . and you saw their abominations . . . Lest there is one in your midst . . ." The fact that they merely gazed upon the abominations of the nations, even while convinced that they were disgusting and worthless, led them to doubt, G-d forbid, or lean towards idolatry.

We find a similar situation by Amatzya, who conquered Edom. At first, he seized their idols and brought them to him in order to abuse them and ridicule them for not having come to the rescue of Edom. But eventually, he came to worship them himself.

We can verily understand that it is inadvisable to take a book written by a gentile, throw out what seems to us invalid and evil, and keep what remains — for whatever is impure, remains impure. This can be compared to a punctured lung where the shochet neatly cuts all around the hole so that it cannot be detected. And even if he were to put meat from kodshim, it would not change the status of the treif lung and he would be merely attempting to deceive the public.

The very idea of a suspense story is counter-educational, for we aim at serenity and peace of mind, as is written in Chovos Halevovos Chapter III, "Those who omit the accounting one makes with one's soul are heir to scattered, confused thoughts."

The opposite of this is Shabbos: comes Shabbos, comes rest. Surcease of driving thoughts. One must enter Shabbos feeling at peace, as if all his work is completed. There is much more to say on the subject but I will do as Boaz said to the harvesters, "Enough."

I would like to conclude with a story I heard: at one time Hebrew University decided to become eclectic and it erected three statues on its campus: one depicting Yoshke, another Mohammed, and a third depicting — lehavdil — Moshe Rabbenu. When one of the roshei yeshiva of the time heard about this, he went to President Zalman Shazar and said, "Zalman, do us a favor and remove Moshe's statue . . ."

On the following morning, all three had disappeared.

It is in this vein that I beseech you: Do a good turn to Jewry and remove those sparks of holiness and leave only the man with the gun, and all will be well.

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