Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Teves 5761 - December 27, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Ani Hu -- I am He

By HaRav Aharon Yeshaya Roter

Part I

There can be no doubt that the Jewish people is going through a very trying period at the moment. We are being attacked from all sides, and the only neighbor giving us no trouble is the Mediterranean ocean which, despite its stormy waves, is still our calmest and most pleasant neighbor, compared to all the others.

It must be said that the latest events have not taken chareidi Jewry by surprise, since we knew that it would be impossible for someone who rebels against Hakodosh Boruch Hu, Whose name is Sholom, to make peace with anybody, and we sent out warnings to that effect. Nevertheless, we are still obliged to examine our own deeds carefully because, as we know, even if Sdom only has fifty tzaddikim, Hashem protects the whole city for their sake.

I would like to point out at the outset that I do not profess to know the absolute truth, and certain sections of this article are to be taken as suggestions only.

We first have to consider why Hashem is punishing us in this way, as Yosef's brother said (Bereishis 42:21), "Indeed, we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he cried out to us, and we would not listen; therefore has this distress come upon us." After Shimon was taken from them, and they were told to bring Binyomin, the brothers, realizing that Hashem punishes mido keneged mido, attributed their punishment to their behavior towards Yosef.

We must act in a similar way. If our roads are being blocked and they also want to take our country away from us, this must mean that we have sinned in those same areas.

I think that the timing of the outbreak of the unrest provides us with a clue as to why Hashem has decided to punish us in this way. Chazal said, (Shabbos 118b) "If the Jewish people would observe two Shabbosos properly, they would immediately be redeemed." Why are two Shabbosos mentioned, why is one not enough?

I would suggest that the "two Shabbosos" refer to Shabbos Bereishis and Shabbos Ho'oretz (i.e. the shmittah year), because together they make up one complete Shabbos "unit." The Malbim derives this from the fact that regarding both it says "Shabbos LaHashem." Says the Malbim, "Both of these are testimony that Hashem rested on the seventh day. Since, when we are told about the commandment of Shabbos, it says `in order that your ox and ass may rest,' we might have expected the earth to rest too, and not to grow fruit on the seventh day, but nature takes its own course and `works' as much as during the week. Therefore, Hashem chose to have the earth rest once every seven years (shmittah), so that it can compensate for the six years during which it did not rest. That is why in parshas Mishpotim (Shmos ch. 23) the commandment to keep Shabbos follows straight on from the mitzvah of shmittah.

"This also explains why it says in parshas Behar, `Six years you shall sow the field, but the seventh year shall be a Shabbas Shabboson for the land.' In other words, because the earth is sown and its produce gathered for six consecutive years, and the earth does not rest on Shabbos, the seventh year becomes a Shabbos Shabboson, compensating for all the Shabbosos of the previous six years.

"In the tochocho (Vayikro 27:35) it says, `As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest; the rest which it had not in your Shabbosos.' This refers to the rest which the earth did not have during the previous cycle of seven years containing all those Shabbosos Bereishis. This, then, is why shmittah is distinguished from all the other holy units of time by being compared linguistically to Shabbos Bereishis, because shmittah really is a Shabbos Bereishis, testifying as it does to the constant renewal of the world, and that Hashem rested on the seventh day."

Chazal tell us, "If the Jewish people would observe two Shabbosos properly, they would immediately be redeemed." We can assume that the opposite is also true, and if the Jewish people chas vesholom profane two Shabbosos, they will immediately be punished chas vesholom. Proof of this is provided by Yirmiyohu Hanovi, who rebuked the Jewish people with his wrath, and witnessed the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdosh. He is the only one of the prophets who had nevuos about Shabbos and shmittah, warning that failure to observe them would result in the churban, chas vesholom.

In chapter 17, the novi warns about Shabbos Bereishis, "But if you shall not listen to Me, to sanctify the Shabbos day, and not to bear a burden and enter the gates of Yerushalayim on Shabbos; then I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Yerushalayim, and it shall not be quenched."

In Chapter 34 he talks about Shabbos Ho'oretz, warning that because the Jewish people had not liberated their slaves in accordance with the halocho, Hashem "would proclaim a liberty for the sword, the pestilence and the famine."

The troubles this year started on Shabbos, which also happened to be the first day of the shmittah year. Both Shabbos Bereishis and Shabbos Ho'oretz have been desecrated, resulting in punishment. Roads became blocked because of the desecration of Shabbos Bereishis that takes place on them, and they want to steal Eretz Yisroel from us because of the desecration of Shabbos Ho'oretz.

It may well be objected that several shmittah years have already been desecrated and nothing happened during those years. I would answer this by citing the Baal HaAkeido's answer to the question why Sdom was singled out from other countries in the world, which also contained wicked people, and yet were not destroyed like Sdom.

He says that the sin of Sdom was that its inhabitants legalized evil. If an individual Yid commits even a major sin in private, without the public's knowledge, the sin is attributed to him alone, and he will be put to death because of it by the beis din shel mato or by the heavenly tribunal. In this situation, the Jewish people as a whole is considered innocent, as would have been the case with the sin of the pilegesh begiv'oh if their beis din would have handed over only the transgressors to the Jewish people.

If, however, even a minor sin is committed with the knowledge and consent of the public and the legal approval of the courts, it becomes an abominable sin for which the whole community is held responsible, and it can only be atoned for if the public as a whole is punished. That is why members of the tribe of Binyomin were punished for their part in the sin, and also why the inhabitants of Sdom were punished, because charity was made illegal. "It is preferable", concludes the Akeida, "that the sinners be cut off, burnt, or stoned than that one letter of the Torah be uprooted with the consent of the public. Whoever does not accept this, has no part in the Divine Torah."

Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch zt'l writes in a similar vein, that as long as individuals sin, and the public as a whole upholds the Torah, those individuals will receive Divine punishment and be blotted out from the community, whereas the rest of the nation, which observes the Torah, will continue to be blessed in its country. If, however, the whole public adopts a sinful way of life, which even becomes institutionalized in the organs of the State, the collision between that society and the Torah also becomes a collision between the Eretz Hakedosha and the Torah, with the result that the country spews out its inhabitants the same way that a body vomits up a foreign substance.

As long as Shabbos was legally observed in public, as long as there was legal backing for the so-called "status quo," punishment was withheld. But as soon as they decided to breach this arrangement by declaring support for lifting the prohibition of public transport on Shabbos, combined with the desecration of Shabbos Ho'oretz, the situation became very grave. Let it also not be forgotten that the Rambam rules at the end of Hilchos Shabbos that a mechalel Shabbos bepharhesia has the din of a goy and a goy has no part in Eretz Yisroel.

Still, we must not despair. If we strengthen our emunoh and improve our deeds, we can certainly have a positive influence on our secular brethren regarding both matters in which they are sinning, and then we will be redeemed. Lest I be misunderstood, I would like to elaborate somewhat on these thoughts.

A careful observer of our history in golus amongst the nations over the last two thousand years or so, will notice that we have always lived with the knowledge that we were exiled from our country because of our sins and, as the Rambam rules in Hilchos Teshuvah (7:5), "the Jewish people will only be redeemed through repentance." The whole nation, learned as well as unlearned, possessed this awareness.

Many nations wanted to destroy us, and did their utmost to encourage us to give up our faith, but we survived all the persecutions, as it says (Yeshaya 26:13), "Hashem, our G- d, other lords beside You have had dominion over us, but we make mention only of Your name." We also saw fulfilled the prophecy, that "no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper." (ibid. 54:17). During our golus in Spain, our ancestors held high governmental positions and still resisted all temptations. It was obvious to them that it would not be worthwhile to give up a life of eternity for some temporary existence. This was how we lived for many generations.

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