The following is based on the address of HaRav Shach,
zt"l, given at the opening session of the Ponovezh Yarchei
Kallah in 5752 (1992). In those days HaRav Shach often used
this opportunity to give a public speech to address various
current issues. However, he never strayed far from the basic
issues that were near and dear to him. This report includes
the remarks he made that year on basic issues that are always
relevant and important, including some allusions to the
political situation then. It was several months after the
election of the Rabin government, and HaRav Shach explained
why he was against joining that government.
Sholom to you, to all the important rabbonim, all the
honorable people assembled here, may they all be blessed.
As every year, I feel compelled to recall that this entire
project that so displays kovod haTorah is all in the
merit of the Ponevezher Rov, zt"l, and his son,
ylct"a who continues with mesirus nefesh. Their
tremendous zechus is indescribable.
I want to say some simple, basic things. I will not say
anything new, but simple things that everyone can understand.
Still each one must pay attention to them and not just pass
over them superficially but must stop a minute and
contemplate the things that I will say.
Customarily, I quote the posuk that the Ponevezher
Rav, zt"l, used to cite: "Sakosa leroshi beyom
neshek." King David requests of Hashem that he protect
his head on the "yom neshek." Chazal, in the Yalkut
Shimoni, explain the posuk in various ways. One of
these is that it refers to the time in which two worlds come
together ("kiss"). The olom hazeh, this world, is on
its way out, and olom haboh, the world to come, is on
the way in. I want to explain this.
The Basic Mitzva of Emunah
The mitzvah of emunah is the first in the Torah. It
applies to man, woman, young and old -- all are obligated to
fulfill this positive mitzvah, to believe that Hashem created
the world. It is something simple that everyone can grasp and
in practice, it is impossible to think otherwise.
A person goes to sleep at night. While he sleeps, he does not
hear, he does not see, he is not aware that he breathes and
generally, he does not know what is being done to him.
When he opens his eyes in the morning, he feels that he
breathes, he sees the light, he hears voices. He gets up from
his bed and he can walk, but he should stand and ask himself:
"Who gave me all this? How is it that I can see, hear, stand,
Does anyone imagine that he got such gifts by chance (from
hefker)? Does anyone think that these things were just
cast into the street by themselves, without a guiding hand?
It is clear to anyone with a brain in his head that we are
not dealing with chaos. Every intelligent observer must ask
himself: "From whence do I have all this?"
Then he must reach the obvious conclusion that Someone gave
him all this. Is that so hard to understand? Only a person
totally without critical judgment can fail to reach such a
conclusion. An intelligent person must consider: I breathe,
why do I breathe? Who gave me the air to breathe? I see, who
gave me the sun? Who gave me permission to enjoy its
Whosoever does not ask himself these questions, whoever takes
these pleasures without giving any compensation, is a thief
and a crook. Whoever is no thief or crook must know that for
every pleasure that he receives, he must pay compensation. If
he sees the many gifts he receives throughout his life, he
must consider: Who gives him all this? Who is the owner of
all this, who gives him these gifts, and what must he pay in
At the age of three, Avrohom Ovinu already recognized his
Creator. His father sold idols but the young lad of three
thought about it all. He saw the world, and understood that
there is a Creator. Chazal said (Midrash Rabba, Lech
"R' Yitzchok said: It is like someone who was going from
place to place, and he saw a lit-up building. He said, `Can
this building be without an operator?'
"The owner looked at him and said, `I am the owner of this
"In the same way, Avrohom Ovinu used to say, `Can this world
be without a Supervisor?'
"HaKadosh Boruch Hu looked at him and said, `I am the
Owner of the world.' "
When he was only a small boy, Avrohom Ovinu looked around. He
saw an orderly world, with a sun, moon and stars. A world
that has air, water, bread, a world with all manner of good
things. Avrohom Ovinu asked himself, "Where is the owner of
the world? Can there be even a building, a palace without an
From this great question, Avrohom Ovinu realized that there
is a Creator of the world.
Everyone who looks at the world, at the wonderful order that
prevails, must perforce be bothered by the question: Who made
it all? As the question becomes stronger and stronger, it
becomes more and more clear that there is an Owner of the
whole world. It is impossible that there be a building
without an owner.
It was about this that our rabbis said, "The Owner looked at
him," that from the force of the powerful question that rose
inside him it became clear that there must be an Owner to the
building. It is impossible otherwise. If a person does not
see Him it is because He is so great and elevated that not
everyone is able to see him. Man is so small that he cannot
understand or see the Owner of the building.
Contemplation of the world leads to the unequivocal
conclusion that it is impossible that the world be without a
Leader. This is the mitzvah of emunah and it is, in
fact, the simplest line of reasoning in the world. There is
no more rational thought than emunah.
It is simply impossible otherwise. We see tens of thousands
of living creatures: were they all made by themselves? It is
enough to consider a small creature, like an ant. Did it make
itself? Isn't it clear that Someone made the ant?
It is something that every small child can understand. Every
child who sees a table realizes that a skilled person made
it. Every child who sees a house realizes that the house did
not make itself, but that someone must have built it. Is
there anything more rational than this?
Even though basic emunah is simple, there are many
levels. It also involves great wisdom, with tremendous depth.
Even the holy forefathers did not reach the ultimate depths,
and of Moshe Rabbenu it even says, "Because you did not have
emunah in Me to sanctify Me before the Children of
Israel." This origin of emunah is rational and simple,
but its subsequent and ultimate aspects reach the heights of
. . .
Emunah must be deeply-rooted in everyone, so that even
the most difficult test will not budge him from it in the
slightest. Avrohom Ovinu, that great believer, stuck with his
faith against the whole world. He was called "HaIvri."
[Note: the word means "the Hebrew" but it is related to the
Hebrew word for "opposite."] All the world was on one side,
and Avrohom on the opposite side.
Then, when his only child was 37, he was ordered by
HaKadosh Boruch Hu, "Take, please, your son, who is
special and that you love, namely, Yitzchok . . . and bring
him up as a sacrifice." HaKadosh Boruch Hu commands
him to go and slaughter his son.
How many questions and contradictions he must have had when
hearing this commandment! This deed was a complete
contradiction to his whole way of life, to the philosophy
that he advocated and to the light that he spread during the
many years of his life. Avrohom Ovinu used to convert the men
and Sorah used to convert the women. What did they teach
them? They used to teach them to stay far away from idol
worship, to do good for people, to invite guests and
generally to do chesed. Even when it was difficult,
when he was sick, he persisted in acts of kindness.
Now Avrohom Ovinu was to take his only son, born to him at
the age of a hundred, and to go to slaughter him. Could there
be a greater contradiction than that? Could there be
something more foreign to everything he lived for and stood
for? Surely Avrohom Ovinu knew that other people would think
he had taken leave of his senses. It was clear to him that
they would say, "All your life you have taught people to be
kind to others, to be good to people, and now you are going
to slaughter your son!"
Chazal (Midrash Rabba Parshas Vayeiro) say that
Avrohom Ovinu did encounter such questions. "Samael came to
Avrohom Ovinu and said to him,`Old man, old man, have you
lost your heart? A son was given to you at the age of a
hundred, and you are going to slaughter him?'
"He (Avrohom Ovinu) answered, `Yes, I am going despite
"He said to him, `And if you are tested an even greater test,
can you withstand it?'
"He answered, `And even more than this.'
"He said to him, `Tomorrow I will say to you, "You are a
killer. You killed your son." '
"He answered, `Despite that.'
"Samael asked Avrohom Ovinu, `Is it permissible to spill
blood?' You have a "heter" of pikuach nefesh
that overrides a commandment of Hashem. Maybe even tomorrow
you will be held accountable for killing."
But Avrohom Ovinu understood correctly that this was all the
advice of the yetzer hora. It was clear to him that if
HaKadosh Boruch Hu commanded, then he must fulfill the
command of Hashem without any questions. Without any lenient
rulings. If HaKadosh Boruch Hu commands, then the
command must be carried out without questions, without
sophistry, and without succumbing to the seduction of the
yetzer hora. One who has strong emunah knows
clearly that he must heed the command of Hashem, and whatever
HaKadosh Boruch Hu says to do, he must do, even if he
does not understand it.
You should know that in our day we also have such tests.
There is a din Torah and we must follow that
din even if it contradicts common sense. We have our
way and our approach and we must follow it without turning to
the right or the left. They say that we can save something,
if we turn just a little; that if we approach the
reshoim we can save a lot. They say to us: If you
compromise just a little, you can, as it were, benefit from
it in many ways. But you should know that it is an enticement
of the yetzer hora! It is a bribe offered us to get us
to become close to the reshoim, and thereby,
cholila, we would come to hold like them.
Avrohom Ovinu understood that, when it comes to the tzivuy
Hashem, then the din can even cleave a mountain
and one may not budge from it in the slightest, even if it
seems that there is a "heter." HaKadosh Boruch
Hu, as it were, also knows the "heter" and he
commands us nonetheless. If we have a question, HaKadosh
Boruch Hu will eventually answer it.
Whoever is worried that we may lose because of this, he is
mistaken. We should know that we will lack nothing. We will
get back everything that it appears that we would lose. If we
stand strong on our position, then we will lack nothing.
Some fool themselves and think that if we give in a little
and go close to them, we will get more. Oy va'avoi to
such gains. We must be strong in our position and not give in
on the slightest thing. When they see that we are faithful to
our way, they will eventually be the ones to give in.
Any benefit that we get from them, any job, is only a bribe
to entice us to come close to them. But it is forbidden to go
close to reshoim, al pi din. What will we tell our
children when they ask us how we could have associated with
such reshoim, whose only goal is to uproot our
religion? Indeed, if they could, they certainly would uproot
it all. If we give them the power, if, cholila, we
give them a hechsher, who knows what they will do to
us in the future.
It is osur to give in to any enticements! We must not
give up any ground! Avrohom Ovinu also did not give in to the
enticements of the yetzer hora and in the end he lost
nothing! If anyone thinks that there is a difficulty, that
this is a test for us, he is mistaken. If we stand up for our
position we will lack nothing. In the end we will get
everything. If not from them, then salvation will come to the
Yehudim from another source.
You should know that we really need not worry about what
everyone thinks. We are as distant from the world as East is
from West. Need we worry about a world that is full of murder
and killing? Look how the world goes about making a peace
policy. Is that peace? They are making war! Peace agreements
provide that each side will get more arms. Saudi Arabia gets
billions worth of arms. The Jews get arms. What are all these
arms for, if not for war. Should we rush to such a peace? Can
such a peace bring us security?
Our only security is that we are Jews, and that is the secret
of how we persist. The State does not guarantee our survival,
nor the arms. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the other Arab
states have much more weaponry than we. And where there are
weapons, there will be war, if not today then tomorrow or the
In what is our security? The State has no importance. The
important thing is that we are Jews and that we will remain
Jews. We have suffered periods much more difficult than
today, and we withstood them. Avrohom Ovinu rooted in us the
trait and showed us how to stand up against the most
difficult trial that he had in binding his son Yitzhak,
despite all the wiles of the yetzer hora, without any
These are fundamental things, that every Jew must know. A Jew
is dependent on nothing save the Torah! If we keep the Torah,
then Am Yisroel will survive. Without Torah, we will
cholila, not survive.
Even if there is a State and it survives for five years or
ten years, can anyone be sure that it will continue to exist
forever? We are already used to such situations: we have had
a state and then gone into exile. That is not what guarantees
our survival; only through our closeness to Torah have we
survived and will we survive.
It is about this that Chazal say of the posuk Sakosa
leroshi beyom neshek, that it refers to the time in which
two worlds come together (kiss). When honest, chareidi Jews
"kiss" olom hazeh, then olom hazeh is not, for
them, far from olom haboh. And if it is not far, it is
close! If they are not careful about the distance that
separates olom hazeh from olom haboh, then one
must pray that HaKadosh Boruch Hu protect us so that
we will not be damaged by this, so that olom haboh
will not be damaged from this. Whoever comes with an argument
that by a link with reshoim we will get something,
should know that everything that we get is insubstantial.
Indeed we give up much more than we get. We are asked to give
up our whole way of life, our whole philosophy, and we get
back only a job here or there. So, at a time like this we
should pray to HaKadosh Boruch Hu that He protect us
and save us from this.