Sometimes we read the Chumash and the words shake us
with the immediacy of newspaper headlines. (We spent last
Shabbos shaken up and did not think that the insight bears
waiting until next year.)
Vatishocheis ho'oretz lifnei ho'Elokim, vatimolei ho'oretz
According to HaRav Hirsch, the idea of hashchoso that
appears here three times is destroying something that should
work. What should be successful is instead sent to failure.
Also the word carries clear overtones of arayos as
The Torah has very high standards for family life, and
keeping them is the pride of Klal Yisroel. These high
standards were never meant to be applied to the rest of the
world. But there is a basic principle of the world, that it
was created to be settled (losheves yetzoroh). This is
not part of the modern consciousness in the Western world.
The modern consciousness is saturated with arayos, but
it has nothing to do with families and children. It is
concerned only with pleasure, each person cares only about
his or her interests and not about establishing a family and
having children. Everywhere one turns there are
arayos: in the streets, in the offices, in
entertainment, and even in the news. Thoughts of
arayos are the background of everything that people
do. Society is saturated with arayos -- all of it to
no good end.
But, the modern pundits argue, these are all private matters.
If these are crimes (as they once were, not so long ago) they
are "victimless crimes." They do not affect anyone but those
involved in the acts. Why does society care?
But these pesukim show us how experience teaches us
otherwise -- and by now modern experience already verifies
this. HaRav Hirsch explains this posuk as it
"First there was moral decay. There were sins and crimes that
secular, civil society does not concern itself with. If the
youth is licentious and family life is rotten, the economy
can still flourish and business can be conducted honestly --
or so think the people. However, once the land is corrupt
before Hashem, no amount of legislation and regulation
can save it from doom.
"The land will not fill up with open theft; with its powers
of punishment and imprisonment, society can protect itself
against thieves. Society will be lost to chomos, to
crimes that are abetted by sophistication. There is no
defense against chomos if a person's personal
conscience does not bring him to task before Hashem. Moral
corruption destroys the conscience, and with the passing of
conscience, social peace and stability are also
Chomos is subcriminal theft. It is stealing less than
a prutoh at a time so that the courts will not do
anything. It is stealing millions by packing corporate boards
with your friends who vote you -- legally and for services
rendered -- hundreds of millions of dollars with the unspoken
understanding that you will do the same for them tomorrow,
based on "independent" studies of executive compensation that
show that everyone is getting the same pay. The head of the
New York Stock Exchange was paid $145 million. The officers
of the Federal National Mortgage Association were paid $245
million. An officer of a public corporation was paid $140
million as he was being fired.
We cannot explain all the problems in detail. But we can list
additional issues that show the eagerness to take other
people's money in legal ways. They include stock options,
mutual fund abuses, accounting fraud and "structured" finance
in large companies such as Enron, spending US Social Security
assets, passing tax cuts with expiration dates that are then
repealed, fake bids and collusion among insurance companies,
tolerating huge budget deficits at a time when the population
is aging, proposing and implementing new government programs
without explaining how to pay for them, the spread of
gambling: Americans lost $68 billion last year, an amount
that is growing by nine percent each year.
What does this have to do with us? After all, we are not
corporate officers or US politicians.
We should resist any temptation to participate, and be sure
to seek independent and competent halachic guidance whenever
any questions arise, even and especially in issues of
The most important lesson for us is to strengthen our own
Teivas Noach -- the holy yeshivas and our communities.
We should know very clearly that there is a raging flood
outside and that we must be extremely vigilant to close any
incipient leaks. Our firm and uncompromising allegiance to
every detail of halochoh is our best -- and only -- tool to
ensure that we are not swept away by the strong currents.
Finally, we must be sure to engage in Torah and gemilus
chassodim, the recommendations of Chazal against the
storms of the world.