Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5761 - November 8, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
What Will We Eat?

By HaRav Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part II

This article discusses shmitta and the deep lessons that it has for us about Hashem's conduct of the world and our consequent attitudes. In the first part of this article, Rabbi Grossman explained that the modern world is intensely concerned with material affairs and food in particular. However, he explained that one who is a true ben Torah and adopts the Torah attitude towards material life and its sources, will not be unduly disturbed by this question.

Rabbi Grossman quoted a very important insight from the Chofetz Chaim about how Hashem conducts the world. There are three ways, says the Chofetz Chaim in the Kuntrus Nefutzos Yisroel. There is the general, natural conduct in which things run according to the rules. There is the supernatural mode of conduct such as in yetzias Mitzrayim. A third, important and intermediate type of conduct is called middas habrochoh: through Hashem's Hashgocho a person succeeds in a way that is not altogether natural, but is also not blatantly supernatural.

A Jew can rely on the middas habrochoh that am Yisroel received through accepting the Torah and fulfilling it. "Today, when suffering has increased and we almost have no natural source for livelihood, we can only seek protection from the Name of Hashem. Is anything impossible for Hashem to do so that we may be saved? Surely because we seek shelter in Hashem's Name He will send us His brochoh from His holy dwelling. Also the novi has hinted to us that it will be so at the end of our golus, as is written, `I will leave in your midst a poor and lowly people and they shall trust in the name of Hashem' (Tzefania 3:12). The novi did not write explicitly what will happen when we trust in Hashem, but that is explained in Tehillim (118:26): `Blessed is he who comes in the name of Hashem; we have blessed you out of the house of Hashem.' This means that our coming in the name of Hashem brings us a brochoh from Hashem, since Hashem is the source of all brochos and all material abundance."

Maran the Chofetz Chaim teaches us that this Divine conduct of middas habrochoh is not considered an overt miracle, about which we are warned "not to rely on miracles." This is a conduct that we can pray for, aspire to, and rely upon, since it is a foundation for the existence of am Yisroel.

There is an obvious conclusion about the hoary argument about how bnei Torah can devote their lives to the four ammos of halocho although they "lack a source for livelihood" and "have no economic prospects." These arguments start from a deeper and more fundamental question: Does one believe in a Creator of the World, in Torah from Shomayim, and in "Behold I have set before you this day a blessing and a curse, a blessing if you obey the mitzvos of Hashem your Elokim" (Devorim 11:26)?

Anyone who reflects on how our world survives from the viewpoint of heretic materialism is unable to understand how tens of thousands of lomdei Torah, immersed in the four ammos of halocho, can live. It is no wonder that our brethren who were not zoche to the light of emunah are amazed and remark that "these people have no economic prospects." From a limited, earthly outlook, there are absolutely no prospects.

Those who have thrown off the yoke of Torah must remember that there were some "kushyos" before that were no less severe. Is our existence, as a sheep among seventy wolves, logical? Does our remaining alive throughout the golus have a "natural" explanation? Why, then, does the existence of the Torah World and that its continued development "lacks an explanation," arouse a question?

The reality that in golus, according to the Chofetz Chaim, "we have almost no natural source for livelihood" is a fact with which no one disagrees. We trust in Hashem and rely on His brochoh, the foundation of the Jewish People's existence.

Indeed, in our days too Torah scholars have survived for decades through supernatural ways. When yeshivos and kollelim began to multiply, those lacking emunah warned that "there is no hope for them" and that "they cannot exist in this way." Nonetheless tens of thousands of families, bli ayin hora, of bnei Torah have been built.

The truth of the matter is that you do not have to be overflowing with emunah to realize brochoh enwraps those who observe the Torah. No one expects that every avreich who, chas vesholom, abandons studying Torah will become rich. Rather the expectation is that he will earn an average salary. But how can the father of a large family, who receives an average salary, possibly provide for his family and marry off his children "in a natural way"?

The clear conclusion is: "in a natural way" a large family cannot possibly provide for its livelihood and marry off its children without having hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reality, though, has shown that when Hashem wants He fills our granaries with a brochoh and we can manage even with a meager kollel stipend. On the other hand, a person working for a living and trying to save up a lot of money to provide for his needs may sometimes feel that his money is slipping between his fingers. As a non-religious leader once said: "In the State of Israel to be rational you must believe in miracles."

Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l once said that the gap between chareidim and secular Jews is so great that we talk two different languages. The same is true on this topic. Someone whose outlook is alienated from every spark of emunah and who analyzes everything from a materialistic viewpoint cannot help but conclude that things will come to a dead end.

Those studying Torah never survived by natural means. They always relied on the portion of monn that can be found in every generation. Someone who presents "natural projections" leading to "questions" on this issue must remember that by objective historical reasoning the Jewish Nation itself has no chance of surviving.

The Maharam Shik writes (in his commentary on Pirkei Ovos 5:9) that the explanation behind Chazal's statement that we are sent into golus when we do not observe Shmitta is that this is "measure for measure." Other commentaries write that the reason for the mitzvah of Shmitta is to strengthen the emunah of Klal Yisroel to be aware that the land is not ours, that the whole world belongs to Hashem.

Indeed, everyone readily understands that the conquest of Eretz Yisroel after we left Egypt was a clear sign that the Creator is running the world. We vanquished the nations living in Eretz Yisroel neither with the power of our sword nor with spears, but through miracles. "We can discern from this that not through our own power did we take over the Land. It belongs to Hashem and because He wished to He handed it over to us."

It is easy for anyone who believes in this, writes the Maharam Shik, to accept and fulfill the mitzvah of Shmitta. But if he does not believe that the land belongs to Hashem he also does not believe that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will send us a brochoh for three years, and will refrain from fulfilling the mitzvah of Shmitta. The Torah therefore tells us, "When you come to the land which I am giving you, then shall the land keep a Sabbath to Hashem."

Your coming to Eretz Yisroel, inheriting the land and conquering it through miracles, strengthens within you the realization that the land belongs to Hashem, that Hashem gave us the land. However, "if someone does not fulfill the mitzvah of Shmitta for the land and believes that the land belongs to him, Hashem exiles him from this land that he thinks is his. Through this process of `measure for measure' he will clearly understand that the land is actually not his, that it belongs to Hashem."

Indeed, belief in Hashem's brochoh is neither some sort of sublime "spiritual level" nor a "fine point in emunah" only possessed by a select few. This recognition is the foundation of our people's existence. Through the supernatural conduct of Am Yisroel we inherited Eretz Yisroel and outlasted all nations of those days. Someone who believes in this does not have any kushyos. Someone who does not believe in this will not be helped by any teirutzim.

This is the reason for the sharp approach of our Torah Sages to any claims at all about "difficulties in livelihood" and "economic problems" for those studying Torah. The question of "if you should say, What will we eat" in this case damages the foundation of the Torah's existence. We will cite, as an example in case, what two former gedolei Torah wrote, one who was the founder of the "mother of the yeshivos" in Lithuania and the other a godol of Chassidus.

Rabbenu Chaim of Volozhin zt'l (in Ruach HaChaim on Pirkei Ovos 6:2) explains the statement by R' Yehoshua ben Levi that "a Bas Kol emerges every day from Mount Chorev and proclaims `Woe to people that the Torah is being humiliated.'" According to Chazal in maseches Shabbos Mount Sinai is called Mount Chorev since, because of it churvah (devastation) descended to the non-Jews during Matan Torah when they refused to accept it. The Nefesh HaChaim explains that this is an answer to the arguments aired in previous generations that we should abandon the Torah because we are occupied with making a living. "The truth is that this is also what the idol worshipers argued at Matan Torah. They said they could not accept the Torah, since it obstructs their gaining a livelihood with the issur to kill and the like, as the Midroshim cite. Yisroel, who answered unanimously, `We shall do and we shall hear,' accepted the Torah even if it impairs their livelihood. If so, how can we abandon the mitzvah of talmud Torah, which is equivalent to all the others together, because of the need for a livelihood? The Mishnah mentions Mount Chorev to indicate that the humiliation of the Torah consists of our arguing that we need a livelihood; then Mount Chorev demands of us to fulfill the Torah and not be like the non-Jews who refused to receive it because of arguments about losing livelihood."

No less sharply, the Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk deals with these arguments. He writes about what occurred in his time: how people would occasionally pressure their sons-in-law, who were immersed in Torah and avodas Hashem, to depart from the four ammos of halocho and look for a living because "Torah is good with derech Eretz" and other such grounds. In his commentary on the Hagoddoh, the Tiferes Shlomo rebukes those who even suggest to avreichim to abandon their studies. He writes resolutely that they are acting like Lovon, who wanted to take Yaakov away from his Torah through arguments about the need to provide for his big family. About this Chazal make the statement: "Go and learn what Lovon wanted to do to Yaakov Ovinu."

"Lovon sought to uproot everything. After marrying off one's daughter to a talmid chochom who studies Torah, who is immersed in avodas Hashem and travels to stay with the tzaddikim of the generation, the yetzer hora awakens and prods the father-in-law to divert his son-in-law from this way. In the beginning the father-in-law suggests politely: `My dear son, it is not good that you always sit in the beis midrash studying Torah and davening. You must also pay attention to matters of olam hazeh. It is only proper that you take care of your family members and it is a great mitzvah to do so. Remember,' he says, `Torah is good with derech eretz.' And he also cites other proofs that the yetzer uses in its attempt to win over people.

"This is how Lovon tried to make Yaakov swerve from his tzidkus to matters of olam hazeh. Lovon even changed his salary dozens of times so he would be occupied by these thoughts. This is what Chazal allude to: `You,' the avreich whose father-in-law is trying to persuade him to stop studying Torah, `go out and learn'--abandon your thoughts about olam hazeh and learn Torah. Do not pay any attention to his argument. Lovon too advised Yaakov Ovinu that since he had four wives and eleven children he must find a way to furnish them with a livelihood. Yaakov, however, did not listen to such suggestions, since he knew Lovon wanted to uproot all the kedushah in the world through this plan. Hashem said to Lovon: `Beware not to speak to Yaakov either good or bad' (Bereishis 31:29). The `good' refers to your argument that `Torah is good with derech Eretz,' since that is what the sitra achra advises when it tries to deflect the tzaddik from his righteousness."

It is especially important to internalize the foundations of emunah in the year of Shmitta, so that we will know how to value and strengthen the giborei koach who with mesirus nefesh fulfill this mitzvah strictly according to halocho. Simultaneously we must remember that the principle being taught to us in this mitzvah is relevant to every Jew and especially to those studying Torah.

The arguments of "What will we eat" have increased lately. In the same measure that the darkness of materialism spreads over the modern world, when productivity has become a supreme value and pursuing money an avoda zorah, likewise the kushyos against those who study Torah have strengthened. We must remember that those studying Torah are nourished by Hashem's brochoh, as Maran the Chofetz Chaim explained. This is an intermediate conduct between miracle and nature, with which HaKodosh Boruch Hu conducts the whole Jewish Nation.

This principle is the reason the posuk emphasizes a connection between Shmitta and Mount Sinai. We should remember that the brochoh of Hashem that is promised to those who keep Shmitta is the secret of the continued existence of the Torah given at Sinai. All the arguments about "economic reality" are not new. They are only a new edition of what the non-Jews said at Mount Chorev when they refused to receive the Torah, since it seemed to them "unrealistic" and a contradiction to their ability to make a living and go on existing.

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