Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Av 5762 - August 7, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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

Opinion & Comment
To Preserve the Intellect

by Yisroel Spiegel

Part I

The message that the leader of Agudath Israel in Eretz Yisroel, R' Moshe Blau z'l, expressed in one of his articles printed in Adar I, 5706 (1946), is as relevant and timely today as it was then. Among other things, he wrote:

"`Grant us wisdom from You' -- it is vital that this short prayer be said with great concentration by all the residents of Eretz Yisroel. The situation is dire for all of Jewry and no less so for those who live in the Land. Our people has been tested by very difficult trials. The situation deteriorates from one day to the next. We are still feeling the dreadful loss of six million of our ranks and if the quantity is difficult to absorb, the quality of those missing is immeasurable. Our great leaders in the diaspora are gone forever, together with their communities. We lost almost everything -- but let us not altogether lose our wits, our minds, the intellect with which Hashem has blessed us. Let us at least not forfeit this heritage intentionally and consciously. For this is our last stronghold."

It is not so simple, for how can a person legislate the preservation of his own sanity? Is there any formula for this? Is this, then, like money or any other tangible article of value which one can stash away in a bank safe?

R' Blau does not ignore this question and writes: "Small wonder if one's intellect becomes confused, if people find themselves at a loss, completely befuddled. The trials are too difficult; the disappointments are too terrible... but Chazal have already foreseen this and instructed us in this area: If you have acquired wisdom, you have it all. If you lack it, what have you acquired? If we preserve our wisdom, we can hope for better days, for improved conditions; but if we've lost our wits, our senses, all is lost."

It's a good thing that man has common sense, and even better if he guards it wisely. But how? R' Blau adds a key sentence which we would be wise to review at all times, especially during such difficult, confusing times as we find ourselves in. "The source of the disease is the loss of daas Torah, the wisdom of Hashem. This wisdom, in which we were raised, in which we gloried, has been lost from a great number of our ranks, and this is greatly distressing."

Two years earlier, in the middle of 5704 (1944), the gaaved of Ponevezh, HaRav Yosef Kahaneman zt'l, a personal example of that crystal clear wisdom which is embedded in the wisdom of the holy Torah, addressed this in the course of one of his famous speeches at an Agudath Israel convention. Those were one of the most trying times for Jewry in all of history. The blood of millions of Jews was being spilled like water; the Rov's entire family, save his oldest son, was `there' and he had no way of knowing how they were faring. But he did not stand and bewail his harsh lot, nor did he serve any criticism against the community at large, or rail at his audience, who seemed far too complacent. On the contrary: he was able to extract an interesting aspect of encouragement:

"Hitler ym'sh," he noted, "is determined to annihilate us, G-d forbid, and has already destroyed thousands of Jews, with the entire world abetting him and his genocide . . . And we are complacent, calm and secure. We find the time for all kinds of activities as in times of yore, and perhaps, in some measure, we are even more serene. This shows that we are indeed secure and sure of ourselves, and in the same measure that we are sure of ourselves, so are we secure with Eretz Yisroel. There is nothing in the world that can shake us out of this serenity.

"Wherein lies the secret and foundation for this? Apparently, both belong together. They share a common factor which reveals the very essence of Jewry. The soul, the national instinct -- the eternity of Israel and the eternity of Eretz Yisroel for Jewry. How is this? It is an ingrained nature. `And now, thus says Hashem, your Creator, Yaakov, and the One Who formed you, Yisroel -- have no fear' (Yeshaya 43:1). At the onset of the Genesis, when the heavens and the earth and all of their hosts were created, when the laws of nature were established as immutable, when the heavens and earth were formed, then was Yaakov-Yisroel established as an integral part of the work of Creation and, together with the world, the Land of Israel was also created. Eretz Yisroel is a distinct creation, part of the Genesis, and just like no one fears at night lest the sun not rise the following day, just as no one is concerned lest the moon not reach its fullness in the middle of the month, so need we not fear for the continued existence of Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel. That question is therefore inconceivable. We must understand that Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel are fixed, established entities incorporated into Creation; they are an integral part of the universe."


These days, especially following the tragic bombings and acts of terror in which many lives of men, women and children were brutally claimed, there are some who cannot help asking: What will be? How will we be able to survive this?

The only advice is that wise piece of counsel: "Preserve your senses." Keep your wits about you. And the only thing that makes sense, the only wise counsel that has proven itself viable in all situations, under all circumstances, at all times, is the wisdom of Torah, as transmitted in the written Torah itself and through the words of the prophets as handed down from generation to generation via the Torah sages through the ages, our guides and leaders, the illuminators of our paths.

That marvelous counsel of not losing our bearings, our true sense of direction, is what stood by our leaders in the generation of the last holocaust, that of Hitler. They did not succumb to the inevitable depression of bereavement, on the one hand, and paid no attention, on the other hand, to the propaganda campaign directed against them by the secular hegemony and its lackeys which was designed to silence them and prevent them from continuing their vital spiritual activities on behalf of the Jewish people. They rose above all this and mobilized their whole intellect and heart during those difficult times for one purpose only: the rescue and resurrection of the Jewish people, the rehabilitation of their people so that it could again fulfill its mission on earth as the people of Hashem, the people of the Torah, with all that this entails.

The storm of heresy raged without. This was the heyday of leftist politicians, products of the Bolshevist dictatorship regime. They had a single purpose, both here in Eretz Yisroel and in every other place in the world where there existed concentrations of Jews: to eradicate Torah altogether, to establish new generations devoid of all Jewish knowledge. In Communist Russia they, regretfully, were colossally successful. The notorious Yevsektzia enlisted itself completely to the atheistic, vicious and oppressive regime. Jews who persevered in religious practice, who opposed them in any way, were forthwith expelled to the no-man's-land of Siberia, to hard labor and harsh suffering. Many of them were brutally put to death without any trial or reprieve of exile. In Eretz Yisroel, the suppressors of religion operated with other tactics, ostensibly `democratic' but with the identical goal of `proving' that the world no longer had any need, or place, for the eternal Torah of Jewry.

Torah leadership had a farther-reaching vision and was not fazed by the obstinate determination of its opponents. Torah leaders kept their heads and therefore knew that if they persevered in planting spores and seeds of Torah and Jewish education, these would eventually overcome the powers of evil. This was surely the hidden meaning behind the Ponevezher Rov's words that the Jewish people is an integral component of Creation, everlasting and immutable like the heavens and earth, which no mortal power can oppose. This, as he said, applies equally to Eretz Yisroel. His words were especially encouraging during those times when the domestic situation was so volatile and so shaky.

End of Part I

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