Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Adar 5761 - February 28, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
An Ordinary, Exciting Life

Last week the U.S. F.B.I. announced the arrest of Robert Philip Hanssen on charges of spying for the Soviet Union (and later Russia) for over 15 years. Hanssen was a trusted and high- level FBI counterintelligence agent with access to almost every intelligence secret that the United States government possesses. He used his trust and his access to turn over tremendous amounts of very secret, high quality information in exchange for money and diamonds.

Hanssen is not the typical picture of a master spy. Though highly intelligent, he did not lead a flamboyant life. He was a devout Christian and attended church regularly (the same one attended by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and FBI head Louis Freeh, though the latter said he had only met Hanssen casually) and often went to church during the week as well. He sent his six children to private religious schools. Except possibly for the tuition at those schools, he spent nothing that was not comfortably covered by his $100,000 salary as an FBI special agent.

Mr. Major, his former supervisor, said that he believed that Hanssen felt, ". . . that it was just a game. It's too simple to say thrill, but I do believe that he was in for the game, not the gain."

Rusty Capps, a retired counterintelligence agent who worked with Mr. Hanssen at F.B.I. headquarters in the early 1990s, agreed that Mr. Hanssen was a "brilliant guy" who may have needed "the thrill -- this is a guy who needs stimulation, who liked to walk on the razor's edge."

"I probably recruited 50 or 60 people over the years to provide information to the United States, and the vast majority of them did it because their lives weren't all that exciting," Mr. Capps said. "Certainly money is always there, revenge, disgruntlement, ego gratification. But it's also excitement."

It is fascinating and stunning to think that someone who lived so simply and solidly would do something that could cause such devastating damage to his family and himself (Hanssen may get the death penalty because two Soviet double- agents that he betrayed were executed as a result.) Moreover, he was very anti-Communist because of the atheism that is part of their system. Nonetheless, he offered his services to the Soviet Union of his own accord.

There is a presumption in modern society that life should be exciting. When people see that their lives do not have the drama that they see in the media, they sometimes take drastic steps to liven things up.

This is not the way of Torah and one place this is most evident is in the story of Purim. The megillah is a collection of fairly ordinary, apparently unrelated events in the life of the Persian court. Yet we know that they all reflect the definite guidance of Hashem in history.

Everything that we do, no matter how mundane, is under the direct supervision and guidance of the Ribono Shel Olom. When we do right or, chas vesholom, wrong, it has consequences throughout the material and the spiritual world. For true and positive excitement in life, one should concentrate on davening with greater kavonnoh or learning more and better or on being more honest or on helping his fellows.

If we find a novel way to help someone in our family, that should provide all the excitement that we need for that day.

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