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22 Teves 5761 - January 17, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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by HaRav Moshe Man

Part II

The first part of this essay describes the connection that there is between all Jews and discusses the importance of working to bring the light of Torah to those who are unaware of it.

The Rambam writes describing Rebbi in his introduction to his Commentary on Mishnayos: "He also expanded the number of wise men and those searching wisdom. He disseminated Torah in Yisroel, compiled the halochos and the teachings of the Sages, and the differences of opinion that we have accepted from the time of Moshe Rabbenu until his time. He was also among those who received [the tradition] . . . and after he culled all these opinions and matters he started writing the Mishnah, which includes the interpretation of all mitzvos written in the Torah, those that are accepted traditions from Moshe Rabbenu, o"h and those that are opinions reached through logic about which no difference of opinion exists." Nonetheless, we see that Rebbi himself went to the cities to see whether he could bring someone closer to Torah, just like R' Chiya used to do.

"Rebbi traveled to the place of R' Elazar bar Shimon. He asked him: `Does that tzaddik have a son?' He answered: `Yes, he does, and he is a sinner' " (Bava Metzia 85a.) The gemora tells us that he encouraged him to study Torah in various ways.

"Likewise, Rebbi traveled to the place of R' Tarfon. He asked whether that tzaddik has a son. He answered: `He had no son but his daughter has a son who is a sinner.' " Also in that instance Rebbi persuaded him to do teshuvah.

The gemora (see Rashi) asks: "Why did Rebbi need to do so much, to ask about the children of others?" The gemora answers: "Rav Yehudah says anyone who teaches another person's son Torah merits to sit in the yeshiva of Heaven, as is written, `If you return then will I bring you back and you shall stand before Me' (Yirmiyahu 15:19). Someone who teaches the son of an am ho'oretz even when Hashem effects a decree He annuls it for him, as is written: `If you bring out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My Mouth (ibid.).' "

This is simply amazing! The Rambam in his introduction to Mishnayos praises Rebbe in a way he does not praise others: "He was peerless in his generation and since then. He was a person who possessed all the virtues and good character traits until people living at his time called him `Rabbenu HaKodosh.' He reached the peak of wisdom and spiritual level until people said, `From the time of Moshe until Rebbi we did not see Torah and greatness in one place.' He was the summit of piety and modesty, someone that rejected pleasures, as people also said, `When Rebbi died, modesty and fear of sin became nonexistent.' He could speak eloquently and was more knowledgeable than any person in loshon hakodesh. He was wealthy and had the ability to do much, as people said, `The person responsible for the stall of Rebbi's horses was richer than the King of Persia.' " Nonetheless, Rebbe found it proper to ask whether there is a need to bring someone closer to Torah and did all he could.

We must surely go in the way of Rebbi: be active in helping those who have fallen by the way, or those who, Rachmono litzlan, have never ascended to the way of the Torah. The same reason that the gemora gives about why Rebbe acted like that is relevant to us as well. "Rav Yehudah says anyone who teaches another person's son Torah merits to sit in the yeshiva of Heaven . . . . Someone who teaches the son of an am ho'oretz, even when Hashem makes a decree He annuls it for him."

The Maharsha explains (ibid.): "The zchus is similar to his teaching another person's son Torah and causing him to sit in a yeshiva, as is written here, and he, too, merits to sit in the yeshiva of Heaven. The son of an am ho'oretz is someone who, according to his gezeiroh, should not know Torah, since a person gives birth to someone similar to him. But if he studies with him and annuls that boy's nature and gezeiroh he merits that Hashem annuls His gezeiroh for him."

This is a wonderful segulah through which we can annul gezeiros. Each person's acting like Rebbe and being active in kiruv and teaching Torah to those who without him would not study it can annul gezeiros.

When am Yisroel was in Egypt and suffered from unbearable slavery, the Torah writes: "Moshe grew up and went out to his brothers and saw their suffering" (Shemos 2:11). Rashi writes, "He employed his eyes and heart to be sorrowful about them." The Midrash Rabba writes that he "saw their suffering" means he would cry and say, "I have pity on them. May it be that I should die for you." Moshe Rabbenu would help each one of them and Hashem said to him: "You put aside your matters and went to see how Yisroel suffers and acted like a brother to them; I will leave the elyonim and tachtonim and will talk with you, as is written, `Hashem saw that he went away to see.' " Hashem saw that Moshe strayed from his matters to see how his brothers suffered and therefore called to him from within the burning bush.

The Alter of Kelm in Chochmah Umussar (I:99) writes that we see from Moshe Rabbenu, who was full of sorrow for bnei Yisroel, the virtue of "bearing the yoke of another person," one of the forty-eight ways necessary to acquire Torah wisdom. This level is when the sorrow of another person bothers us as if it were our personal suffering.

The Alter explains that because of Moshe's actions and feelings, he caused bnei Yisroel to become nearer to their Father in Heaven and to bring them to Mt. Sinai where they received the Torah, and eventually they would receive Eretz Yisroel and build the Beis Hamikdash.

All this was because of his sensitivity to, "He saw them suffering." In this zchus there was a Divine awakening as the Torah writes, "Elokim saw bnei Yisroel and Elokim knew (Shemos 2:25)." Rashi explains, "He directed his heart to them and with his eyes he did not overlook them." (What Rashi writes here fits perfectly with what he writes about Moshe Rabbenu: "He employed his eyes and heart to be sorrowful about them." As a result of how Moshe Rabbenu related to bnei Yisroel, HaKodosh Boruch Hu related to bnei Yisroel in the same way).

This is a cardinal principle. Each of us wants Hashem's help; to receive Divine encouragement to reach higher levels. A person can merit this if he acts like Moshe Rabbenu, who forsook all other matters, concerned himself with the suffering of Yisroel. Moshe Rabbenu behaved like a brother and paid close attention to them. This is surely also applicable when someone is suffering spiritually and is remote from studying and observing Torah since, "Someone who causes another to sin is worse than if he killed him." Through his concerning himself with them he is zoche to Divine awakening, namely, that also HaKodosh Boruch Hu pays close attention to him and does not overlook him, and he will ascend in Torah and yiras Shomayim.

Let us have pity on our brethren who are alienated from Torah and mitzvos. Let us help them in all they need like Moshe Rabbenu helped his brother Jews in Egypt. Through this we will all be zoche that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will also help us and give us all that we need.

It is fitting to cite here what the Chofetz Chaim wrote more than eighty years ago about the great decline of those in Eretz Yisroel who strayed from the Torah and sinned revoltingly against Hashem and did not fulfill His mitzvos. The Chofetz Chaim stresses the great obligation we have to rebuke those who sin, to stop them from sinning, and to show them the correct way.

The Chofetz Chaim writes (Michtevei HaChofetz Chaim II:48): "We have declined tremendously in comparison to the previous generation in Russia . . . How great it pains us about our Jewish brethren who are persecuted because of their religion. . . . How painful it is to hear that in our Holy Land, settlements and groups exist that have strayed from the way of Hashem, have lost their emunah and faith has been severed from their mouths. There is chillul Shabbos, people eat neveilos and treifos and do not observe taharas hamishpochoh. All of these fundamentals of religion have become, chas vesholom, hefker. Due to our many sins they commit these aveiros revoltingly. Also, secular education increases daily. It is a pity that we see and hear such things. If we, chas vesholom, disengage ourselves from responsibility after seeing this terrible occurrence, if we do not take care of this as soon as possible, if we do not pay attention to what is happening among us, who knows what will eventually happen. I therefore call out to my brothers . . . We should stand together to stop. . . "

In letter sixty-five the Chofetz Chaim writes: "The heads of the community and other yirei Hashem in every city, each one whose heart aches about the profaning of Hashem's Name and is concerned about the continuation of the Jewish Nation is obliged to do all he can for Hashem's honor. For this purpose we have been born, as is written, `Everyone that is called by My name, for I have created him for My glory; I have formed him; yes, I have made him' (Yeshaya 43:7). About such a time the Torah says, `It is a time to act for Hashem' (Tehillim 119:126). Every person, no matter what age; anyone who has the power to do something for the honor of the King of the World. Anyone who can extinguish some of the fire, to save what he can from the treasury of the King of the World, which is His religion and nefesh with its singular qualities, must do so with what remains of his strength. We are required according to halocho to rebuke them and separate them from issur, to show them the correct way, to scream bitterly about the great chillul Hashem in which fundamental Torah laws have become abandoned and are trampled upon. The Torah has warned us to return lost objects: a person's ox and his donkey. If the Torah had so much pity on a Jew's money, even on his donkey, surely we are obliged to return the Israeli nefesh that has strayed from the true path.

"Actually, in our times even the greatest sinners do not mostly sin out of spite, chas vesholom, but have strayed from the way because improper leaders have misled them, and they are truly like lost lambs that do not know how to return home. It is a great mitzvah to have pity on them, to show them the correct road, as is written, `You shall show them the way in which they must walk' (Shemos 18:20). This is similar to someone who sees another person drowning in a river or experiencing another danger, in which it is a mitzvah to save him. We are forbidden to be inactive, as is written, `You shall not stand aside when mischief befalls your neighbor' (Vayikro 19:16). It is evident that we should act the same when we see someone who has become dreadfully sick and because of his grief wants to eat things that will, chas vesholom, cause his death. When that happens we undoubtedly need to do all we can to prevent him from doing so.

"We, too, see people who because of their grief and immense preoccupation in the vanities of life have forgotten Hashem's Torah and the importance of fulfilling His mitzvos and have transgressed something that severs their souls from the Land of the Living. It is surely forbidden for us to be lethargic and not to prompt them to fulfill Hashem's will so that Divine anger will not, chas vesholom, descend on them, since although HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not punish immediately, punishment eventually arrives either in olom hazeh or olom haboh."

The Chofetz Chaim also wrote a letter to certain eminent rabbonim: "I heard the news that the heads of our holy nation are gathering together for the honor of Hashem to consider ways to increase Torah among the young boys, many of whom, due to our numerous sins, have been delivered into the hands of alien elements who educate them as non-Jewish children. How important and sacred is this matter that is relevant for all of the Jewish Nation. How fortunate you are to have the merit to act in this holy matter that is the foundation of our Torah and our nation. Believe me that if I could, I would fly on the wings of eagles to save Jewish children from foreign elements so they will not be caught in the net of heresy. I would very much want to be counted amongst you in your work to increase Hashem's honor and His Torah in the world, but my present health prevents me from participating in this great mitzvah. I ask Hashem that He strengthen you to finish this mitzvah perfectly and may Hashem be with you in all matters."

In his Ma'amar Chinuch HaBonim (53) the Chofetz Chaim writes, "It is known to all that the foundation of the nation, the Torah, and religion, is education for our children, to teach Hashem's Torah and to educate them to do mitzvos so they will continue doing mitzvos their whole life. Due to our many sins, in recent years the yetzer has toiled with all its strength to make Torah forgotten from Yisroel and has incited many of Yisroel not to send their children to kosher and chareidi schools where they study Chumash and Tanach according to the way of the Torah and our tradition, the ancient way of our fathers. They are exchanging the kosher cheder for secular schools of different sorts that are full of heresy vis-a-vis the foundations of Torah and faith, Rachmono litzlan.. Without Torah and mitzvos they will eventually deny also Hashem, and we cannot be sure they will not assimilate, Rachmono litzlan. Due to our numerous sins, we have seen the bitter experience in many countries abroad where children have forgotten the Torah and have completely intermingled among the nations, and the name of Yisroel is not evident on them.

"Each person who is truly G-d fearing and bothered by the suffering of Jews should therefore not remain silent at such a time. He must strengthen with all his might the founding of kosher chadorim for our children. This is a pillar of Judaism. Everything is dependent upon it. He must awaken all our brothers who are loyal to Hashem and His Torah not, chas vesholom, to deliver their children to [the avodoh zora] Molech, which are the secular schools."

It is proper to cite the appeal of maranan verabonon HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, zt"l, the Steipler Rov, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt"l, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, and ylct'a HaRav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, shlita, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponevezh, who spoke of our obligation to awaken "our brethren who have gone astray" that want to study the foundations of Judaism and come nearer to the Torah lifestyle.

"We attest to the encouraging situation that awakens hope to see many of our brethren do teshuvah, throw away respectable positions and go study in yeshivos.

"In meetings with our strayed brethren, tinokos shenishbu, children akin to those who had been imprisoned by non-Jews, who were educated in heretic education, we hear reflections of teshuvah. They ask to study the foundations of Judaism and to come nearer to a Torah lifestyle. These Jews are found in our neighborhood, in every city and every place, from every community, and we can awaken their spirit. This is especially so during the days of rachamim and rotzon, when each Jewish heart awakens to come nearer to Hashem.

"Woe to us from the Day of Judgment. Woe to us from the Day of Rebuke if we stand aside and do not go out to our brothers to awaken them to do teshuvah. When the sinners will be charged with their sins they will blame the heads of the community and the yirei Hashem in every city, since anyone who can protest about how the people in his city are acting and does not protest is blamed with the sin of the people in his city, as is written in maseches Shabbos.

"It is, therefore, a great obligation for all those who observe the Torah and mitzvos and who are concerned about Hashem's honor to strengthen what needs repair in Jewry, and especially to teach those who have gone astray from the Torah and to bring Jews closer to the bosom of Judaism. Organizations headed by rabbonim throughout all Jewish communities should see to it that each person devotes at least one evening during this period to visit nearby areas, to call on a few families who have drawn away from the Torah lifestyle, to hold friendly conversations motivated by pure love, and to explain to them the foundations of emunah and the principal mitzvos. Each person should do this to the best of his understanding and awaken them to do teshuvah. Hashem will surely help us to disseminate Torah, and be sealed for good life, for a year of redemption and yeshu'oh."

HaRav Moshe Man is the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Be'er Yitzchok.

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