In the first part, HaRav Horowitz noted that we find for
the first time in parshas Shemos that the Egyptians
hated the Jews, without any apparent cause. This sets a
historical pattern, as Chazal say, "It is a halochoh that
Eisov hates Yaakov," meaning that just as halochoh is
immutable, so is the hatred. Similarly we find that there is
a gap between the uneducated and talmidei chachomim
and we see that Chazal took steps to keep a distance from
am horatzim since they designated their clothing to
impart tumoh. If the Jews do not make kiddush,
Rav E. Wasserman said, the goyim will make havdoloh.
This we saw in Egypt, when Hashem caused the Egyptians to
hate us as Jews became closer to Egyptians and their way of
Chazal categorize people into three different categories:
talmid chochom, person or soldier.
Talmid chochom — The Tosafos (Sota 21a) explain
that the yetzer hora cannot control a regular
talmid chochom because he "is constantly engaged in
Torah and Torah thoughts, and does not walk dalet amos
Odom — Elsewhere (Brochos 11b) the
Tosafos asks why one who leaves a succah must recite
another brochoh upon his return, while one who resumes
his Torah study does not have to make a new brochoh.
Then it proceeds to explain that one who leaves a
succah forgets the mitzvah he was engaged in creating
a hefsek, whereas the mitzvah of Torah learning
applies at all times and there is no hefsek because
one does not put it out of mind. This principle applies to
Jews who fall into this category.
Chayol — Referring to a regular Jewish army, the
Torah says, "When you go out to encamp against your enemies,
keep away from every evil thing . . . And you shall have a
spade among your equipment . . . therefore shall your camp be
holy" (Devorim 23:10-15). This is not a description of
a beis medrash but of the general army camp. Rashi
adds that the camp must be holy because Am Yisroel is
constantly contemplating divrei Torah (Shabbos
Thus we see that in theory — not just talmidei
chachomim but — all Jews are engaged in Torah at
Although this may seem a far cry from the present reality, in
essence it contains a salient message regarding Am
Yisroel. According to the Yalkut Shimoni on the
verse" . . . is Hashem among us or not" (Shemos
17:7), "R' Yehoshua says: Said Yisroel, `If He is the
Sovereign over all worlds, if He has sovereignty over us we
will serve Him, and if not we will not" (262, s.v.
Hineni). This medrash demonstrates that the
world contains Hashgochoh protis and Hashgochoh
klolis, both of which have various levels— one for
animals and another for goyim, one for reshoim
and another for tzaddikim, and so on.
Following an investigation of sublime matters at that point
in the Chumash, Am Yisroel wanted to know whether
Hakodosh Boruch Hu watches over the Jews the way he
guards His other creatures, or whether a special grade of
Hashgochoh is reserved for Jews alone.
This unique Hashgochoh places special attention on
human action, requiring zehirus on the part of those
being guarded over. The closer they are to Him, the more they
come under scrutiny and the more severe the punishments they
receive for misconduct.
Am Yisroel did not want a special tie to Hakodosh
Boruch Hu because they did not want to be under greater
scrutiny than the rest of Creation. And if avodas
Hashem demanded more exacting Hashgochoh, they
preferred to do without it.
Within the bounds of human understanding, the Torah and
mitzvos are a sort of contract between Hashem and Am
Yisroel. In exchange for adhering to Yiddishkeit,
Hashem promises a good life, but really the essence of
life is gashmiyus — enjoying one's children,
eating, and such — and the "tax" on this enjoyment is
the 613 mitzvos. People want to live their lives, but in
order to live one must keep the mitzvos.
This understanding can be compared to marriage (just as
Chazal compared the bond between Am Yisroel and
Hakodosh Boruch Hu, following the model set by Shlomo
Hamelech in Shir Hashirim) according to those who
think that marriage involves role distribution. When asked
what marriage means, typically one would agree that life
cannot be enjoyed alone, and certainly raising a family alone
is out of the question. Therefore in order to enjoy life, for
practical reasons, one must marry even though marriage is not
the primary focus in life.
This, of course, is a skewed understanding of marriage since
by definition a couple is not a team whose members are
assigned different tasks. Says the Torah, "Zochor unekeivo
bero'om . . . vayikro es shemom Odom" (Bereishis 5:2).
Only male and female are called, collectively, "Odom."
Thus life, by definition, is only when they are together as
one, and the obligation to distribute the load is merely a
means of maintaining a union.
The same applies in Judaism: Hakodosh Boruch Hu
considers matan Torah a marriage (see Yalkut
Shimoni, Parshas Yisro, Remez 247, 279). Thus the
definition of this marriage is closeness to Hashem. As Chazal
say, Hakodosh Boruch Hu and Yisroel are one. This is
the essence of Judaism and Am Yisroel — clinging
to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Says the Torah, "Vo'eso eschem al kanfei neshorim, vo'ovi
eschem Eilai" (Shemos 19:4). Hashem promises to carry
Am Yisroel on the wings of eagles — not in
pursuit of worldly pleasures, but to bring the nation to Him
("Eilai"). Thus life is called life only as long as
one cleaves to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and the life of a
Jew without this closeness is not truly living.
This is the difference between Yisroel and the nations. The
goyim live a life rooted in This World and pay minimal
"taxes" in the form of mitzvos Bnei Noach. Meanwhile
Bnei Yisroel do not just pay "taxes," albeit in a different
quantity or form. Rather their lives are entirely
The whole purpose of their lives is to achieve nearness to
Hashem. The life of a Jew is measured according to how
closely he clings to Him. For example, everyone wants to be
healthy, but the real purpose is in order to be fit as a
servant of Hashem, and therefore preserving one's health is
also a way of cleaving to Him.
The Jew does not have "free time" to do as he pleases. There
is a bond of matrimony between Him and us. Therefore we must
cling to Him in everything we do. For some this means
learning Torah and for others it means determining that all
the energy expended on business affairs is an act of
chesed toward one's family members and being careful
to avoid ribis and ono'o and similar
Thus every Jew engaged in learning (or similarly in working)
is engaged in a different mode of learning, for his learning
becomes the very focus of his life rather than a peripheral
endeavor. Although not at the same level of the talmid
chochom, every "odom" and every "chayol" as
well is constantly striving to carry out Hashem's will, never
straying from the marital-type relationship of "vo'ovi
Because it can be hard to live this way, Am Yisroel
was apprehensive over the prospects of "yeish Hashem
bikirbeinu" — total unity with Hakodosh Boruch
Hu on the model of marriage — for the entire world
of the goyim and of gashmiyus leads and pulls
towards the opposite direction.
However, even if Am Yisroel did not remain vigilant He
would watch over them, for they cannot be allowed to part
from Him under any circumstances. A Jew's entire life is
Torah and mitzvos and the rest is merely a means toward those
ends. Thus there is nothing to be gained by pursuing Olom
Hazeh. The pursuit of worldly pleasures is not
necessarily a specific aveiroh, but it can be even
worse for it may ruin a Jew at the core. If he does not,
Rachmono litzlan, subsequently elect to distance
himself from such pursuits the goyim will do it for
Upon their reunion, Eisov asks Yaakov, "Mi lecho kol
hamachaneh hazeh" (Bereishis 33:5). Writes the Baal
Haturim, "When [Eisov] encountered [Yaakov] and saw his sons
and daughters he said, `Who are these sons and daughters of
yours? This is not [consistent with] how you spoke when we
were in our mother's belly battling over two worlds. There
you chose the World to Come where there is no "be fruitful
and multiply." So who are these children of yours?'"
Since Yaakov was supposed to receive only the World to Come
and Eisov This World, why did Yaakov have silver and gold,
women, children, servants and maidservants?
Yaakov replies, "The children G-d granted your servant," i.e.
all of this is a part of avodas Hashem, whether it be
learning Torah or eating. The difference between a talmid
chochom and other Jews is the ability to engage in
learning unceasingly, for to think about Hashem's will in
every action is not beyond anyone's ability, and this is what
it really means to learn all the time.
The fundamental distinction between Am Yisroel and the
nations is neither in quantity or quality, but in their
respective natures. Every Jew is not just an individual with
the potential to be a "priest" and Hashem's people is not
merely the nation that carries out His will, for the
goyim are required to do so as well. The tie between
Am Yisroel and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is a bond of
marriage, and as such the Jewish people keep Torah and
mitzvos with more desire, superior quality and greater
quantity. And only such an education can produce a soldier
who needs a holy camp.
In order to remain at this high madreigoh,
chachomim distanced themselves from amei
ho'arotzim. As long as the am ho'oretz felt envy
and aspired to be a talmid chochom, he did not hate
him. But the moment amei ho'oretz chose completely to
live worldly lives, they began to detest talmidei
chachomim who chose a very different existence.
To bring about a situation in which each and every person in
Am Yisroel wants to be a talmid chochom, or at
least to live like a true Jew, such a framework must be made
available. For everyone, there are two paths to follow:
either a life of Torah and mitzvos or, chas vesholom,
a life of persecution and harsh decrees, trials and
calamities. But some type of framework must exist, for all of
Am Yisroel must be a mamleches kohanim vegoy
kodosh, not merely a conglomeration of individuals.
Maran HaChazon Ish said that kollelim must exist if
only so that baalei batim will know what questions to
ask. In other words to preserve the form of Am Yisroel,
a framework of yeshivos and kollelim must be
present to support bnei Torah for a number of years.
He who is not within the realm of the Torah world and in
close proximity to talmidei chachomim places his
personal future as a Jew at risk.
According to Rav Yissochor Meir the rosh yeshiva of Netivot,
today the yeshiva is the individual's Teivas Noach,
and whoever wants to save himself from all the evil in This
World must enter the ark, because outside there is a deluge
of kefirah and other maladies. He cites the following
parable told by the Ponevezher Rov zt'l: Just as the
re'eim (an extinct animal) was unable to board the Ark
due to its bulk and therefore was tied to the outside with
just its snout on the inside, so too the Jew must ensure that
at least his nose is inside the yeshiva. Even if he leaves
the yeshiva to live a common life, he must maintain at least
a minimal tie to the Torah world.
Of course if everyone just sticks his nose in, nobody will be
living inside the ark and it will cease to exist. But as long
as the yeshiva remains intact, he who wants to be spared must
retain at least some connection to it.
HaRav Yaakov Horowitz is rosh yeshivas Ofakim. This essay
is reprinted from Doleh Umashkeh.
See also Part I.