Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5759 - Feb 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
The Torah's Laws are a Barrier Against the `Laws' of the Yetzer
by Yisroel Spiegel

Right from the beginning, right after Hashem revealed Himself in the Cloud of Glory to instruct His people in Torah and mitzvos, "civil" laws were given. This is the beginning of all what was to follow in creating a nation of G- d which would know and absorb that there is no distinction between commandments and legislations. "And these are the laws: and it was on the third day, at dawn: the Torah was transmitted in the morning and in the evening, the ordinances were given" (Shemos Rabba 30:11).

Just as the commandments of the Torah are an expression of the Divine sovereign command, so are the civil laws. The road from Sinai leads to Eretz Yisroel, but one cannot conceive that the sovereign will of a people should be separate there, G-d forbid, from the overall Divine design. Or that the people should convene to establish a separate code of national laws, a legal and judicial system according to the needs of the nation as seen in the eyes of its elected representatives, with a built-in mechanism for effecting changes, according to the changing times, styles and mores. This is untenable.

"The Jewish nation is Hashem's Chosen Nation, and Eretz Yisroel is His Land. Hashem bequeathed His land to His people so that they would keep His statutes and maintain His ordinances, for the Torah is the blueprint of Creation; it is its ultimate purpose and design. Hashem verily created the world for the sake of the Torah, and the mission of His people in His land is to be: `The prime of its produce -- reishis tvu'osa' (Yirmiyohu 2:3). Hashem's harvest will be all of mankind, all of its nations, in the End of Days. His people will reside in His land and will constitute the prime of its produce" (Rabbi Dr. Yitzchok Breuer z'l, Nachliel, p. 309).

There is a significant difference in the angle from which one approaches law: if from its divine source, i.e. the commandments of the Creator as the expression of His will, or, G-d forbid, from the common, private will of the people, or the collective will of all the individuals comprising the nation as a whole.

Hashem delivered us from Egypt to become His people, and gave us Eretz Yisroel so that we would keep His statutes and teachings. This was the whole purpose of the exercise. And in this light we can thoroughly understand the words of Rashi from the beginning of this week's parsha, "And these are the laws which you shall place before them -- and not before idolaters. And even if you know that regarding a certain matter, the secular law is identical to that of the Torah, do not bring [your case] before their courts, for whoever brings Jewish matters before a non-Jewish court is desecrating Hashem's Name while consecrating the name of their gods to favor them, as it is written (Devorim 32, `For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies being judges' -- when our enemies become our judges, this indicates our preference for their gods."

The Sfas Emes explains in the name of his grandfather, the Chiddushei HaRim: "Rashi wishes to teach us why this is specified by judicial ordinances -- to teach us that the very laws that one realizes must exist for the sake of order in society, are different when they are divinely ordained through the Torah, and one must not bring civil matters before secular courts even in matters where the judgment is identical to the Torah, for justice belongs to Hashem, and even the rationale behind it, and the logic and reason which man's intellect accepts cannot be valid cause for a Jew to prefer those courts to his own, where Torah reigns supreme and justice is the expression of the Divine will" (reish Mishpotim).

Therefore, let not the rationalists rise up to take any action, to establish a legal system of their own, according to the dictates of their own intellect, be it the product of the most straightforward reasoning -- for "Torah was given in the morning and laws were given in the evening," as the Midrash teaches. There is no separation between them. "He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and ordinances to Yisroel" (Tehillim 147:19). It is unique onto Israel, for "He did not do so to any other nation, and the statutes they did not know." Such a design for a people, wherein everything follows the Divine word, has no parallel by any other race or people.


Just as "And these are the laws" directly follows the Giving of the Torah, so is this evident in our daily prayer, "Restore our judges as of yore" in the Shemoneh Esrei, which immediately follows the blessing for the ingathering of the exiles and precedes the other blessings which relate to the renewal of royal sovereignty, the reconstruction of the Mikdash and the restoration of the sacrificial service therein. "And remove from us all agony and sighing" is a prerequisite for the restoration of the kingdom of Hashem. "And rule over us speedily, You, Hashem, alone."

Secular civil law is a stumbling block for the reinstatement of the Jewish nation. That -- and the legal code of the Torah -- cannot coexist. "See, I have taught you statutes and laws as Hashem, my G-d, commanded me to do in the midst of the land which you will be going to inherit. And you shall heed and do them, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations which have heard of all these statutes, and who say: How wise and understanding is this great nation . . . And who is so great a nation that possesses statutes and laws which are so just, like this entire Torah which I am giving before you today" (Devorim 4:5-8).

Keeping and executing the statutes and laws of the Torah is a precondition to inheriting the land. Only thus can we hope to exist here, and when the very opposite is being done, it is an explicit violation and contradiction -- a threat -- to our possibility of inhabiting the land and existing within it. We are explicitly warned, "I have hereby called upon the heavens and earth as witnesses in warning you today that you will surely speedily perish from the land to which you are crossing the Jordan for the sake of inheriting it. You shall not last long upon it for you shall surely be destroyed" (Ibid., 25).

It is not the content of the legal code which is under contention for, as Rashi notes, "even if the law is identical to that of Jewish law in a certain matter . . . " The root of the matter lies in the source of authorization, in our case the Divine source of our legal code. If we recognize this divineness in the midst of the Jewish nation, we will be able to return to our original status, to our source, and the way is then paved to our ultimate sublime aspiration, of imposing Divine kingship upon us.

"Understand well and make no error! We are not concerned with the actual content of secular law. Many times `the laws of the Kusim are identical to those of the Jews'! They also deal with laws involving money loans, rental, sales, civil marriage, inheritance and so on. It may be that the laws coincide in certain areas, and that for reasons of their own, they may intentionally decide to rule like us. But this is totally irrelevant, since we must realize that they do not judge thus in the name of the G-d of the world, but simply for their own practical purposes. They do not use these laws as divinely transmitted ones, but as pragmatic codes whose purpose is to maintain order through law and justice. The content does not determine: Hashem is the Determinant. Governmental benefit as opposed to Divine justice equates to evil. Pragmatic political law versus true Divine justice, again equals evil! Rebellion there, rebellion here! `And ordinances which they did not know!'" (Nachliel, p. 313).


Sometimes only a very thin line separates truth from falsehood, justice from injustice. And that selfsame thread finds expression in pleasant, palatable words. "Oh, yes, we also recognize the value of Judaism, but one must remember that Torah has seventy faces, correct? Is that not what Chazal, themselves, stated? Why, then, do the chareidim ignore that and refuse to allow us our own interpretation?"

They attempt to stuff everything into that seventy-faced idiom, including secularism, and the fashion of "a Jewish bookcase" which represents a showcase Judaism without any bookmark strings attached, the disobligation of Reform and its colleagues, the Conservatives, the idolizers of the Hebrew language and all the rest. Not surprisingly, those who use the teachings of Chazal, out of context and content, those teachings which were bequeathed to us through the Oral Tradition which is one solid bloc, use them to distort and refute the historic truths, to fight against them. Because all of those `seventy facets' are true faces of the Torah, while theirs is a misnomer, a mutation, a nonexistent seventy- first facet, if you wish, which negates all the true seventy ones. It is a face of the kind referred to as "revealing a face/t of Torah contrary to the halocho."

Is not one of the fundamental rules of "seventy faces to Torah" the very fact that they all comprise one perfect whole, and are all interdependent upon one another? The Midrash Rabba, one of the very sources of this saying, states: "One silver bowl -- corresponding to the Torah which is likened to wine, as it is written, `And drink of the wine which I have mingled' (Mishlei 9:5). It was customary to drink from special bowls, as it is written, `Those who drink from wine bowls' (Amos 6:6). This is why the nosi brought a bowl for the dedication of the Mishkan.

"Why a value of seventy shekel in holy coinage? Just like wine has a numerical value of seventy, so does Torah have seventy facets. Why in one vessel? Just like Torah must be one complete entity, as it is written, `One Torah and one law shall there be for you' (Bamidbor 15:16). Why in one vessel? To show that both the written and the oral traditions have a single source, come from one Shepherd, from one G-d Who taught them to Moshe at Sinai" (Bamidbor Rabba 13:15).

This Midrash, as all other teachings of Chazal which refer to the seventy faces of Torah, teaches us that we cannot be selective. Rather, it is all one. "Both the written and the oral traditions have a single source, come from one Shepherd, from one G-d Who taught them to Moshe at Sinai." One cannot take anything outside of these `seventy faces' of Torah and pretend that it is Judaism. Indeed, this is Reform Judaism on one foot. Whatever the `rabbi' invents is his brand of `Judaism'; whatever he institutes in his temple is his own religion, inclusive of his mixed swimming pool, Sunday services, organ and so on.


Not only are these removed from the seventy faces of Torah, but they are contrary to it and to the survival of the Jewish people. These cultivated and produced religious anarchy, destruction and desolation. Why? Because they played up the human intellect, self determination, materialism and gratification, while downgrading the Torah and the Divine will implanted in all of creation as a whole and in the Jewish world in particular.

The saintly Yid HaKodosh of Pshischa zy'o explained, "And these are the laws which you shall place before them -- that the laws of Hashem should come before vital things of man; they should precede them in importance." The Admor of Sadiger, R' Shlomo Chaim zt'l, brought another verse in this context: "And the land became corrupted before Hashem" -- the greatest corruption of all takes place when `the land' comes before `Hashem' [in importance], when earthiness and materialism reign supreme.

Man has such a tremendous power of destruction that he can overturn the routine of nature as established in the world by his evil deeds. If the entire world was destroyed because of evil deeds, then a small part of one nation can also be destroyed through evil deeds.

The Divine Torah established clear cut boundaries between Jew and non-Jew, and when one follows the laws of the Torah, everything is clear. But when one bows to the human intellect and lets it lead the way, one can only become hopelessly entangled. Witness that unfortunate incident with the young man from Russia, son of a non-Jewish woman, whose fate captured the attention of half a nation last year. He immigrated to Israel, was drafted into the army and sent to the Lebanese front, where he met his death. A human tragedy, no doubt, but even more astonishing was the fact that his gentile mother sought to have his remains brought to burial where she still lived, in Caucasia.

The media went into detail in describing the impoverished living conditions of the father and sister in Tel Aviv, who had come in the wake of the son's immigration. There was a general self flagellation for the government having allowed such negligence of subhuman conditions, and hinted expressions of blame and hate towards the `rabbinical establishment' which would surely have placed impediments to his being buried as a Jew if circumstances had been different. What a topsy-turvy world -- instead of looking to blame those who do not adhere to the boundaries established by the Torah, they prefer to blame those who do safeguard those boundaries.

The episode was hushed up after it was learned that the father lived in such abject poverty out of choice, so that he could send back the money he had received from the government for his immigration needs, the unemployment benefits he gained and all the money he had ever earned -- so that his wife could buy a home in Russia to which they would all eventually retire. The naive young man apparently thought that by serving in the army, he could `earn' the right to call himself a Jew. And a Jewish state distributed money for absorption needs -- so that a gentile family could buy itself a home in Russia -- at the expense of genuine Jewish immigrants trying to make a go of it in their true homeland. What a ridiculous, perverted situation!


"And I also gave them statutes that are not good and laws by which they could not survive" (Yechezkel 20:25).

The commentators are divided in their interpretation of this verse. Some say that since the Jews did not heed the statutes of Hashem, they were delivered unto an enemy which imposed harsh statutes by which they were unable to live.

The Targum, however, explains this in a manner which can be fully appreciated in modern day circumstances, and Rashi follows suit: "I have delivered them into the power of their evil inclination so that they will stumble in their sins." Targum Yonoson says: "And I delivered them into the hands of their foolish yetzer and they went and followed laws that are not viable and customs by which they cannot survive."

Neither Saddam Hussein nor the PLO, not Hamas, nor the Islamic Jihad, not Syria or Iran threaten our survival in the land. Rather, it is our distancing ourselves from "these are the statutes," the laws of Hashem, a terrible sin which causes harsh punishment of deliverance into the hands of evil. This is truly a punishment measure for measure -- "And I, too, gave them statutes which are not good, and laws by which they cannot live."

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.