Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 20, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
A Wall of Fire
by A Rov

Many are the different titles and names by which the Torah is referred to throughout the verses of Tanach and as commented upon by Chazal. They explain that each name comes to illuminate a different aspect of Torah, a unique attribute incorporated within the Torah, even though some titles may even seem exclusive or self-contradictory. The Torah is likened to water, as well as to fire, to wine and to milk, and also to bread.

To be sure, there is no contradiction at all, only an exposition of a different one of the myriad facets of Torah and the ways which it affects those who delve into it. All are included, in dynamics and in potential, overtly and covertly, and each, in turn, as the need arises, comes to the fore to affect the necessary impact of current need.

One reason behind this multifaceted nature is that all the souls of Jewry, throughout all the generations, are included and represented within the Torah. Torah is revealed to each and every one according to his level, merit, goal and mission in life.

Just as there are a multitude of names and a multitude of effects of Torah upon those who apply themselves to its study, disclosed respectively according to the need of the hour and the season, so is there a range among those who teach and transmit Torah in every generation. Each person exhibits a different nuance of Torah, revealed and expressed somewhat differently than by his colleague, even among the disciples of the very same master, the godol who nurtures them spiritually in his particular way, while they absorb the rest of the Torah in a latent, not so active, manner, all the same.

Every great Torah scholar derives his individual strength and power in Torah from what he ingests and toils over, though it emerges to the fore with his particular variance of emphasis and expression; he illuminates a certain aspect or shade and reflects it in his unique manner. And when he disseminates his Torah strength and sheds the light of Torah upon his surroundings, disciples and all of his generation, it highlights a special, specific aspect of the Torah light which he produces because of his particular fortes.

"A Wall" -- This Refers to Torah

When one studies the particular spiritual prowess and power of Maran Hagaon R' Yehoshua Leib Diskin ztvk'l, how he was able to affect the generation which he graced with his dynamic presence and what he bequeathed to the coming generations, we are able to discern and state that particular facet of Torah referred to by Chazal as `a wall.' Says the gemora in Bovo Basra 7b, "A wall -- that is Torah."

In other words, it is not sufficient to study and teach, but to study in an exalted manner, with a total adherence and steadfastness in Torah. Not sufficient is it to uncover and add to the revealed portion of Torah that which was previously hidden and latent, but it is important to transmit to the generation the very power of Torah in a buttress-like, adamant and immovable force of Torah-as-a-rampart.

R' Yehoshua Leib's was the power of defending and fortifying Torah in a manner so mighty as to be almost inconceivable in man. Defense and protection against any infiltration, any detraction, any subversion or permeation of anything non-Torah within the Jewish community. A defensive protection for the manner of Torah study, from the infant stage of formal Jewish education inclusive, to the study of those who grow hoary in age through lifetime study.

His protective bulwark also encompassed Torah observance of an unyielding, uncompromising caliber: everything intact, impregnable, perfectly whole and pristine, transmitted unblemished like a fragile vessel handed down as from Sinai, whole and perfect, undamaged by the handling of the many interim generations.

"A Tower of Silver"

The attribute of "fortifying wall" denotes surveillance without allowance for giving in or detracting an iota from the majesty and dominion of Torah upon Jewry, as it imposes its lifestyle upon the whole and the individual. This bulwark proved strong even in the face of powerful foreign elements which attempted to dominate even a small fringe element of the Jewish community, or to water down a small aspect of Torah study or mitzva observance.

His was the immovable power of a bulwark to prevent any foreign insinuation, infiltration or change. He bequeathed this tremendous force, this wall-like attribute of steadfastness, of choma; upon it a "tower of silver," the Torah, could be built and preserved, a tower of purity and adherence and loyalty to the Creator.

"A Wall of Fire"

There are walls and there are walls. There are walls of stone, of iron or of other durable materials, whose common function is that they serve as a divider, a defensive barricade for whatever is within its boundaries. To protect what is inside and keep out what lies beyond.

But there is yet another kind of wall, superior to a regular barrier, that is the one mentioned in Zecharia 2:9, "And I shall be to it a wall of fire surrounding, and for honor shall I dwell within."

"A surrounding wall of fire' is not only a defense against the enemy seeking to fight and to conquer a city by penetrating and defeating it. It is much more. Fire consumes all that attempts to approach or pass through it. It burns and neutralizes the power of the enemy by causing it to maintain a safe distance. Any attempt to draw near will reduce the enemy to ashes, total nullification.

Fire has yet another advantage: it is the source of heat and light. One who knows how to be wary of its danger can reap the utmost benefit from fire. This is alluded to by the continuation of the verse, "And for honor shall I dwell within." Here it does not only serve as protection from outside forces but as a source of light for within, that is, an increase of heavenly glory, the glory of Torah and the advantage of those who study Torah and cleave to it and preserve its totality. This is the power of a "wall of fire": a protective wall against outside forces and a source of light and glory for what is contained within.

"And For Honor Shall I Dwell Within It"

This was the secret, exalted power of Maran the Maharil Diskin. When he came to Jerusalem after having left the Diaspora, he added a dimension of glory to his new home. Jerusalem was now additionally graced, not only the population as a whole, but each and every element separately: the Torah scholars, the ovdei Hashem who lived in purity and sanctity -- all gloried in the added honor and were exalted and uplifted immeasurably. He stood at their helm and shouldered the yoke of leadership; he was their captain, their support and staff, both materially and spiritually.

"A Wall Surrounding It"

His protection was pronouncedly felt; it encompassed and surrounded and embraced the Torah; it preserved it intact, pure and whole.

The yishuv then was puny in number and power; it lacked sufficient "flour" to move the grindstones of Torah, to sustain its scholars and their large families at even a bare minimum of survival of body and spirit. The ground was all too ripe for those elements who sought to sabotage the vineyard of Jewry by introducing Haskola and such foreign elements which are the antithesis of Torah, to pry open a breach and to suck the population through it, gradually at first.

The secularists established educational institutions which appeared ostensibly as places of study and prayer but which were rotten at the core with the wormwood of modernity and a denial of Torah values in exchange for false culture.

With the large funds at their disposal, the Maskilim sought to entice Jewish children to their institutions through educators who did not lack the outer trappings of religious Jews. Their power of attraction was magnetic; who could stand in their way? Who could stem the spread of their power and influence upon the entire city? Who could expose them and their nefarious goals and show them up in their false colors?

Who would listen? Who would raise the banner of defiance, of battle? Who would lead and who would follow? Who would define the battle and determine its tactics? Who would fearlessly stand up against the strongmen in Eretz Yisroel and their wealthy backers abroad directing the battle and undermining the only support which the Yishuv had -- the paltry sums which kept the wolf of hunger from their door?

"The Voice of Hashem is in Strength"

Here was revealed the powerful element of "wall" in Maran. It was he who raised the hue and cry of, "The voice of Hashem is in strength," to delineate and publicize the presence of infiltrators and saboteurs within the Holy Land and the Holy City. Their purpose, he exposed, was not to help and improve conditions, but to destroy and contaminate.

He opened the eyes of the community at large and of individuals to the imminent danger and threat to Torah and its adherents. He unmasked the villains, exposed them for what they were, pulled off their sheep's clothing to expose the fangs with which they sought to breach Torah's walls. And he established himself as the barricade, the bulwark against any breaches.

The power of his Torah was a wall of fire, to consume to ashes all the thorns in Hashem's vineyard, to nullify their power. His fire was not only destructive; it also had the properties of light and warmth and fiery glory extended over those who withstood the trial and temptations, who chose to continue to endure in poverty and deprivation so long as they were rich in spirituality, wholesome in Torah, pure in their faith. He served these stalwarts as a wall of support, of constant chizuk, as a glorious crown to exult in forevermore.

Thus it was in his generation, in his times, over a century ago. And that generation bequeathed his strengths to the succeeding ones -- the power and the obligation to remain in the protective shade of the wall, the wall of Torah, and to make sure that "a fire would burn eternally upon the altar" of Torah, to prevent destructive invasions of thorns and thistles so that the chain of Torah tradition continue unbroken from Sinai, from generation to generation until the coming of Moshiach!

"I Shall Approach and Look"

More than one hundred years. That is the distance in time and level which we find ourselves from that generation in which Maran toiled, taught, led, and which he affected. One century! How can we deem to study his impact, to view his ways and practices, to try to follow in his footsteps and learn from his example? Can we presume to see?

Distance does afford a certain advantage; we can better view the brightness and broadness of the light from afar. We see this when Hashem first revealed Himself to Moshe Rabbenu from the burning bush. Moshe sought to approach and view this wonder from close up. The Kli Yokor ponders on the use of the word "Osuro no," since this denotes distance rather than approach. He says that the further one recedes from a place, the better a perspective he gains of it.

Note the example of the sun: the closer the sun approaches, like at noon, at its zenith, the more difficult it is to view it because of its great intensity. Only when it sinks westward or rises from the east can one gaze upon it fully, because of the greater distance.

We are very far removed, but we must fix our eyes and hearts upon this Wall of Fire which we, too, must erect in our generation against the forcible infiltrators of our halls of Torah study and our very homes. We must not allow the thorns to grow in our vineyard. We must consume them with the fire of Torah and nullify them totally. "A surrounding wall of fire" and also "for glory within it." To increase and uplift the value and superiority of Torah scholars, of Torah leadership, and crown them with the suitable glory and honor, for only then will we merit the advantage of Torah as a wall, which we are guaranteed will enable the `silver tower' to be erected upon it.

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