Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Iyar 5762 - May 2, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Our Inner Enemy

by Yisroel Friedman

Weakening the Effects of Our Prayer

The yishuv is presently going through one of its most difficult periods. We need plenty of Heaven's mercy. Yishmoel's sword is still gleaming. He has not yet surrendered his age-old weapon. When an individual is in need, he pours his heart out to his Creator. Troubles of the Klal, also happen because HaKodosh Boruch Hu desires their prayers. Reb Yeruchom zt'l, tells us that "the reason for all misfortunes is that they are a means of attaining, `and they cried out' (Shemos 14:10), whereby Hashem's Name is invoked," (Daas Chochmoh Umussar, vol.1 pg.7). Now is such a time, a time for "they cried out," a time for communal prayer.

HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman mentioned to me however, that the first priority is to banish the scourge of divisiveness from our midst. Communal prayer is more than the prayers of a large number of individuals who happen to be praying together. A thousand people may pray in the same place, at the same time, but their prayer will not be communal if the factor that binds them together as a community is lacking. The plague of discord dissolves the bonds between us. Certainly, communal prayer is never turned away without a response but first and foremost, it has to be true communal prayer.

If we wish to emerge from the current troubles in the merit of our prayer, we have to uproot every instance of this despicable phenomenon. We must be united, untainted by quarrels and divisions, for our prayers to be guaranteed acceptance. Then, even with each of us praying in his own place, our prayers will coalesce to become the prayers of a community, a collective outcry that is certain of evoking a merciful response.

The Antidote

Busying ourselves with Torah study and with acts of kindness is one way of preventing ourselves from being swept towards involvement in arguments and quarrels. The Kli Yokor writes that, "the sefer Akeidoh mentions a play on the words of the posuk, `You shall not kindle a fire' (Shemos 35:3), taking them to mean, `You shall not ignite the fire of discord on Shabbos,' when people are at ease from work and there is greater danger of sparking the fire of discord amid the purposeless pursuits [that people engage in]."

Learning Torah, rather than remaining idle, is protection from becoming involved in arguments. Empty time is a spiritual hazard. If it is not filled with genuine content, it beckons an array of negative pursuits, among them quarrel- picking and discord.

Furthermore, viewing others favorably and being unstinting in one's good opinion of them, is more than just a way of avoiding the pitfalls of divisiveness; it is actually a tactic for victory in battle. "Gid'on the son of Yo'osh, was neither righteous himself, nor the son of a righteous man, yet because he pleaded Klal Yisroel's cause, HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to him, `Proceed with this strength of yours and you will save Yisroel' (Shoftim 6:14)."

HaRav Steinman showed me the following excerpt from the holy Zohar (cheilek I, addendum to pg. 67): "For seven years, Gid'on and his father fattened a calf to [sacrifice to] Ba'al. When HaKodosh Boruch Hu looked for some merit in which to save Yisroel, He found that Gid'on used to plead Yisroel's cause."

"Rabbi Abba bar Cahana said, `In Dovid's generation, they were all righteous, yet because there were slanderers among them, they would go out to fight and would fall . . . Achov's generation on the other hand, were idol worshipers but because there were no slanderers among them, they went into battle and they were victorious'." (Yerushlami Pei'oh, perek 1)

We see clearly from Chazal that looking upon others favorably and being forgoing, are merits that help Klal Yisroel win in battle. We need the unity that will give us this merit now.

Closeness to Hashem

Speaking in his home following the September 11 attack on America, HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira discussed Torah's ability to protect and save and then said, "There is also another point that needs great improvement among bnei Torah . . . One of the first things that Rabbeinu Yonah lists that prevents people from doing teshuvoh, is loshon hora and talebearing. Chazal said fearsome things about these sins, which are worse than all others, and one should flee from loshon hora literally as though from fire. Our teacher the Or HaChaim zt'l, writes that nothing distances a person from his Creator more than loshon hora.

"Now, at a time when we beg for Hashem's favor for both collective and individual troubles, and are in such need of His closeness and of a connection with Him, we must find ways of protecting and distancing ourselves to an even greater extent from this serious sin. Foreseeing the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, Yirmiyohu Hanovi said, " `Will I not visit [judgment upon] them for these sins?' says Hashem, `Shall My soul not be avenged against a nation such as this?' " Why? Because, `every friend goes talebearing . . . ' (9:3- 8). HaKodosh Boruch Hu cannot let this pass. Let us undertake to strengthen our Torah study and to avoid loshon hora and tale bearing in particular and improve all our interpersonal behavior in general and with this, we shall merit Hashem's mercy and kindness."

HaRav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz also stressed this point in his public letter on Sept. 12. "The only answer is to strengthen prayer -- one's prayers should be wholehearted and with clear faith -- also to strengthen Torah study and do kindness and to distance oneself from hatred and divisiveness. In this way, HaKodosh Boruch Hu should deal with us in the same way. As we see in Rosh Hashonoh 17, `because he does not insist on his word, you should not hinder him,' and Rashi explains, `he is forgoing so, do not be particular with him. And his life was thus spared.' "

Our Responsibility

The responsibility of learning Torah and doing chesed and of avoiding dreadful patterns of behavior that can choliloh vechas have tragic consequences, rests first and foremost upon the Torah community. The gaon and tzaddik HaRav Moshe Araner zt'l, writes that [failings in] Torah and interpersonal relations are among the things that can delay the Redemption. This must be our contribution to the nation's safety. "Our strength and the might of our hand" are not what will protect us. Our only protection -- and our only hope of rescue -- lie in the pursuit of these ends: Torah and improvement in our dealings with others.

The Torah world holds the true keys to Klal Yisroel's defense. They are the Jewish nation's real army. This is a tremendous responsibility, especially in such times. We have the power to save but at the same time, whoever wields this power can also fail, R'l.

In his introduction to Chumash Bereishis the Netziv zt'l writes, "`G-d of faith and of no injustice; He is righteous and [it is] upright' (Devorim 32:4). The praise `upright' is written to justify HaKodosh Boruch Hu's judgment at the time of the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdosh, when the generation was stubborn and crooked. We have explained that they were righteous and pious and that they toiled in Torah, however they were not straight in their behavior. Thus, because of the groundless hatred that was in their hearts, they suspected anyone who behaved differently from themselves in matters of yiras Shomayim of being either a Sadducee or a heretic. In this way they reached the point where bloodshed resulted (i.e. not directly by their hands, for all they actually did was disgrace others and slander them to the gentile authorities), as well as every other evil in existence. Hashem's judgment is therefore acknowledged as having been `upright' for Hashem cannot suffer such `tzadikim.' [He] only [tolerates] those whose behavior towards others is also straight, not crooked, even if it is for the sake of Heaven, for that destroys Creation and leads to society's destruction."

We have the power to save ourselves and others. We are able to bring our Redemption closer. By being careless, by not paying attention, by allowing ourselves to be swept along in sullied streams, we will deter salvation and endanger ourselves and everybody else too. The responsibility for defending our nation is ours; the time to act is now.

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