Wednesday, August 31, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Summertime is nearly over and with it, the leisurely pace of life that brings us so many gifts. One of these is the ability to really listen to someone and not get by with simply being courteous.

During the year, people tend to go through the motions of listening without really absorbing the other person’s message. We nod perfunctorily to our children, our spouses, our parents, friends and neighbors as they talk. We follow the amenities and say the right things to convey the impression we are paying attention… but are we really?

Even when we are paying attention, often it is with impatience. We can’t wait for an opening to seize the floor and put in our own two cents. We are far more interested in what we have to say to others than in hearing what they want to say to us. We hear the lines but not what’s between the lines, the text but not the subtext.

Perhaps one of summer’s blessings is that in slowing down our hectic lifestyle, we suddenly find the time to look into the eyes of the person we are talking to and really tune in to what they are telling us. It’s startling how much one can learn, and accomplish as well as how much we can help someone if we have a genuine interest in connecting.

Many years ago, I took a trip with Rav Yehoshua Fishman of Torah Umesorah to raise money for the organization. Fundraising is one of the most difficult professions and in those days—our trip to Detroit took place before the days of cell phones—it was even more grueling. The weather was freezing. We sat in the car by the 7-11 pay phone making calls, trying to get people to let us in so that we could solicit them to help support Torah Umesorah.

Neither of us remembers how much money we made, if any, but there is one visit we made that stands out. We ate supper at the home of my grandfather, Rav Leizer Levin zt”l. The scene is still fresh in my memory. We were sitting at his small kitchen table and Rabbi Fishman asked my zaydeh how it was that he succeeded in the rabbonus for so many years.

My zaydeh was a far greater person than I can ever aspire to be. He was greater in Torah, in mussar and in bein adom lechaveiro than I and many others will ever be. He set a shining example for me and for so many who knew him of an adom gadol who was as humble as he was great.

He was zoche to learn for seven years in the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l, and to live in the Chofetz Chaim’s home for over a year. He recounted to us on that frigid Detroit night that when he left Radin to go learn in Kelm, the Chofetz Chaim said to him, “Leizer, gei redt mit Yidden, go speak to Jews.”

Though I had heard that story several times before, the way he said it that night lit a fire in our hearts. We took little account of what happened during the rest of that trip, but kept repeating to each other, “mir redden mit Yiden.” It no longer mattered to us whether the people we visited and spoke to wrote us a handsome check; we were on a mission to speak to Jews.

My grandfather would often tell me, “Pinchos’l, der rebbe didn’t say to speak at Jews, tzoo Yidden. He said with Jews, mit Yidden. Gedainkt men darf redden mit menchen, you have to talk with people, not at them.”

My holy grandfather carried out his rebbi’s mandate for over seventy years; it virtually became his life’s mission. He was mekadaish sheim Shomayim every day of his life listening to other people and talking with them. Hearing them out, absorbing their pain and their problems, and then, responding and trying to help them.

I miss him more and more each passing day. I try to follow his path. I usually fail. But the message he passed on to us from his holy rebbe merits repeating until we have made it a part of our daily lives: Redt mit Yidden, nit tzoo Yidden.

That year at the Torah Umesorah convention Rabbi Fishman repeated the story and in his masterful drasha, exhorted the mechanchim to “redt mit di talmidim.”

Rav Fishman’s words resonated deeply with the audience of devoted educators. The words of the Chofetz Chaim evoked the highest aspirations of every Rebbi and teacher – to connect with their students, to understand what makes them tick and to tap into their latent enthusiasm for learning. The tale has been often repeated since.

If we want to reach other people and touch their souls we have to be able to speak to them, not at them. We have to look at the entire picture, not just at a part of it. Before pouncing on anyone for an infraction, we have to remember what the person did yesterday and the previous day that might mitigate his offense.

How we speak to people is very important. If we put ourselves in the other person’s place we can be more sensitive to his or her situation and can then be so much more effective in reaching the person.

Children begin the school year with an amazing desire to learn. They come to school the first day with a new briefcase and all new supplies. They are enthusiastic to meet their new rebbi and teacher. They are bubbling with excitement. Everything is so new and so fresh. They get new books, new desks and new classmates. They meet up with their friends who they haven’t seen for a while. Coming home, they have so much to say about the first day of school.

The trick of a good parent and educator is to maintain that enthusiasm as the year continues and the work piles on.

Did you ever hear about a pre 1A child who didn’t want to learn the Aleph Bais? When they begin school, their learning is exciting and interesting, the teachers are vibrant, every day they look forward to learning something new. They know morah loves them, and they love her. Every day they color something; they learn and review a new letter every week. How exciting it all is.

In their daily foray into the classroom, our teachers work hard to make the subject come alive, and to not allow the learning to turn into simple rote repetition. Learning can be a fun and exciting experience. Look around and see the successful rebbis, moros and teachers, who are excited about what they are teaching and who can convey excitement to their charges.

As children age, their teachers strive to maintain their delight in mastering a new skill, in gaining knowledge, reaching a new milestone. Mechanchim work hard to ensure that the thirst for knowledge and accomplishment and the zest for learning that they infuse children with at the start of the school year should not be allowed to dissipate.

School and learning has to be more than words. Children [as well as adults] need to constantly have their attention charged. It is said that our generation has a shrinking attention span and that is probably true. But no one tires of hearing good stories; no one gets bored when held enraptured by a master speaker. If we want kids to learn we have to make the subject matter come alive and we have to keep it interesting. All the pontifications and all the speeches about chinuch cannot replace that simple fact.

Take a closer look at those teachers who breathe life into their lessons, whose own love of learning is contagious, who build incentives and motivation into the fabric of their teaching. Watch how they inspire and stimulate their students by, above all, caring about them and believing in their ability to succeed. Observe how their students revere them and exert themselves to the utmost to win their praise and approval.

These outstanding mechanchim make an art out of winning minds and souls. They invest huge amounts of energy in creating special projects, assignments, trips, contests—they are masters of motivation. They practice that dictum of the Chofetz Chaim; they speak to children, not at them. They understand their charges and are thus able to reach their neshamos.

This is no less true of gifted and dedicated teachers in the general studies department who utilize the rich opportunities that come their way to impress young minds with the niflaos haborai, who teach our children how to think and articulate and how to use the written and spoken word effectively.

As any educator will tell you their true reward is in seeing the enthusiasm in their students’ eyes when the lesson comes alive, when the message gets through and actually touches the hearts and souls of the their charges. We can never properly compensate these mechanchim for the gifts they pass on to our children—the lifelong love and excitement of learning.

To stir up appreciation for their efforts, we need to take a look at the students who were fortunate enough to be taught by such dedicated people.

As school starts and throughout the year, we need to do more than feel appreciation; we need to show the special rabbeim and moros that we do not take them for granted, that we realize that they are carrying out a sacred task—and in so doing, they are aiding us in our foremost obligation—to be mechanech the next generation in Torah and Yiras Shomayim.

Let those immortal words of the Chofetz Chaim ring in our ears whenever we speak to people of all ages, summer, winter and all around the year; redt mit yidden.

May we, together with the rabbeim, moros and teachers have much nachas from our children.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The period of Jewish, Zionist, settlement of Gaza has ended. There are no longer any Jews living in the Gaza strip. A basic tenet of religious and revisionist Zionism has been demolished. Eretz Yisroel Hashleimah is no longer seen as a viable national dream.

The man on which so many pinned their hopes spurned them, threw them out of their homes and snuffed out their dreams.

The media dispatches from Gaza are full of tears. Rarely are articles so replete with descriptions of emotional outpouring. Women cried, men cried, children cried, soldiers cried. Reading those articles, one senses something unusual. When was the last time articles about current events sought to capture and convey so much sorrowful, gut-wrenching emotion?

What were those tears all about? When did you last observe people crying so openly and unabashedly? After all, no one had died. It was not a funeral.

Let us probe the history of this sad debacle in an effort to understand what has happened. Decades ago, at great risk to their lives, the settlers moved to a forsaken desert. They made it bloom, building beautiful houses and farms. They believed that building Jewish settlements would help hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They felt they were keeping the enemies of Israel at bay by living in the midst of so many bloodthirsty Arabs.

Their savior turned on them, their celebrated hero decided to expel them from the paradise they carved out for themselves. In spite of herculean efforts, they were unable to stave him off. The gates of Heaven seemed to remain closed to their prayers. No miracle intervened to reverse the dreaded evacuation and to halt the people who carried out the prime ministers’ orders. The Tisha B’Av deadline came and went and then the soldiers were at the door, ready to carry them out of their homes.

The tears gushed as cameras snapped their shutters, their lenses recording the grief for posterity.
To be thrown out of your home is devastating; to be homeless is a nightmare. To have fought dearly for something and lost is very sad, but I think there is an even deeper dimension to the tragedy.

I think they were crying because their dreams were utterly destroyed. They were crying because their life’s mission, the very raison d’etre, was uprooted.

They cried because they believed they were doing G-d’s work and they think G-d turned them down. They were fighting for Zionism and they lost. In the words of one settler quoted in The New York Times as he was being dragged from his home, blue and white flag held high, “This is not about our house. We are fighting the battle for Zionism.”

The Mizrachi religious Zionist movement was founded in 1902 in a bid to work together with the secular Zionists to settle the Holy Land.

Talmidim of the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov had preceded them by a hundred years, putting their lives at risk to settle the Land of Israel. Their followers who continued their dream of yishuv ha’aretz would have nothing to do with the secular Zionists.

The Mizrachi believed that it was possible to cooperate with the secularists and build a state to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. The Chareidi community, led by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and the Lishcha HaTehorah, on the other hand, believed the secularists were driven by a desire to separate Jews from their religion and to substitute the state for the Torah. They fought them tooth and nail.

The old yishuv of Yerushalayim split with Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook over this issue, the vast majority siding with Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.

The old yishuv did not see the need for a state headed by secularists who sought to strip the holy land of its special character. They refused to work with them and fought them every step of the way.

Following the wars of 1967 and 1973, followers of Rav Kook’s son, Rav Zvi Yehuda, saw an opportunity once again to help speed the arrival of Moshiach. They teamed up with the secular Ariel Sharon and planted settlements of Jews all across parts of Eretz Yisroel and Gaza which had been captured in the Six Day War of ’67.

The settlements exerted a powerful emotional pull and religious Jews in Israel and around the world supported the movement. In the wake of the demoralizing losses of the Yom Kippur War, the growing settlement movement infused new hope and optimism. The settlements morphed into complete towns, with yeshivos, factories and beautiful houses—like a gan eden in olam hatachton.

During the heady days of their founding, Rav Shach would speak against the settlement activity at almost every opportunity. He would say that we have no need for them. He would say that since the nations of the world were opposed to them, it was forbidden to establish them. When Menachem Begin annexed the Golan to Israel, Rav Shach said that we existed as a people for thousands of years without the Golan and our nationhood would not be diminished without the Golan.

Needless to say, his position was far from popular. He was vilified and ridiculed for it. Refusing to back down, he continued to speak publicly against the settlements.

A talmid of his couldn’t take the flak anymore and approached him, “Rebbe, why are you doing this? Why do you keep on repeating this mantra against the settlements; you’re not accomplishing anything,” he pleaded.

Rav Shach answered that he had no faith in the country’s leaders and knew that the day would come when they would relinquish the land they had liberated, and return it to the Arabs. The settlers invested so much religious zeal into those settlements that he said he feared their loss would be so devastating it would shatter their emunah.

He said that though his message was having no immediate effect, he felt compelled to repeat it so that when that future time arrives, the settlers would remember that there was once an alter Yid in Bnei Brak who stood and darshened that the Jewish people don’t need settlements— and that the settlements were not destined to last. Let them remember that, and when the day of betrayal comes, they will not be entirely disheartened and won’t forsake their faith in the religion of our forefathers who clung to their belief through all the travails of the Diaspora.

Alas, that day has come. The day the alter Yid foresaw and worried about arrived. And now it is our duty to stand up and call out to our sorrowful brothers who were turned out of their homes.

With brotherly love, with sympathy and compassion, we cry out to you to come home. Come over to our settlements. Come see what we have built and join us. The settlements of Ponovezh, Mir, Brisk, Chevron and Slabodka are ready to absorb you. The settlements of Bnei Torah reach out to you with hearts full of love, urging you to rejoin us. You’ve seen how the secularists treat you; you’ve seen where their path leads. Part ways with them, once and for all, and come over to our place.

Let us join forces. Join the army of the yeshivos; we can work together building Torah communities. Help us reach out to the tinokos shenishbu and bring them to lives of Torah.

Our hands are outstretched. We are not triumphal.

You who have seen and experienced the bitter truth of the Brisker Rov’s words, that the Tzionim zenen chashud oif retzichah, should join with us to help bring Moshiach through other means.

We empathized with you as you battled for your homes. We felt your pain, we sympathize deeply with you. But now that you have been unceremoniously dumped across the country with nothing but the clothes on your backs, while your homes are bulldozed into oblivion, perhaps it is time to take stock on where this partnership has led you. Perhaps the state and its army do not deserve the religious awe and respect you have honored them with.

The Zionist dream has failed the Jewish people; it has neither ended anti-Semitism nor engendered respect for our nation.

Your blood, sweat and tears mean little to Sharon and the secularists; your years of army servitude and sheirut leumi are spat upon. You are vilified and mocked. You are coddled as long as you are useful to their cause. Oorah, wake up and realize that following the path of Torah-only without cooperation with the secularists-will lead us to the redemption.

The words of Rav Saadya Gaon echo: “Ein umaseinu umah elah b’Torah,” Torah is what binds us and defines us, not land, not a flag, and not the settlements.

We live in historic times; Moshiach is knocking on our doors. Can’t we join together and do what needs to be done to let him in?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The Yalkut Shimoni states that when Yeshayahu Hanovi spoke the immortal words of this week’s haftorah, nachamu nachamu ami, the Jewish people wanted to kill him. But when he followed with yomar Hashem, they calmed down.

The explanation may be that they could not accept that after the utter desolation and destruction of the churban bayis, someone, even a novi, could offer words of consolation. Such words seemed a mockery, almost as if Yeshayahu were rubbing salt in their wounds. But when they heard yomar Hashem—Hashem is saying this— they were able to accept it.

No human being could relieve the unspeakable suffering they were going through. Hakadosh Baruch Hu alone could do that.

Perhaps the minhag to say kidush levana for Chodesh Av on Motzoei Tisha B’Av—cited by the Rama in Orach Chaim Siman 551, 8—can be seen in a similar light, as a message from which we can take consolation.

Tisha B’Av commemorates all the tribulations that befell our people through the centuries. Recounting all the misery we have suffered can bring a Jew to melancholy and despair. To counteract that response, as soon as the fast is over we venture outside and remind ourselves that Am Yisroel is compared to the levanah. Just as the moon shrinks and disappears from view, only to regain its full size and completeness, so too Am Yisroel. Though its suffering causes it to diminish and wither, it revives and waxes strong and whole once again.

Our mourning accelerates during the Three Weeks and the Nine days, finally peaking on Tisha B’Av, but when the period of mourning is over we are not to linger in our sorrow and turn melancholy.

The Gemorah in Bava Basra 60b recounts that at the time of the churban there were perushim who stopped eating meat and drinking wine. Rabi Yehoshua discussed their custom with them and convinced them to stop their practice because the halacha set limitations to the mitzva of aveilus.

The Gemorah in Moed Koton, 27b, expounds on the posuk in Yirmiyahu, 22, which says al tivku lemais, v’al tanoodoo lo. The Gemorah says that one should not cry over a death for more than three days. Mourning has a prescribed limit and the Gemorah discusses severe consequences which can result from excessive mourning.

The same holds true for the aveilus of this mourning period we have just been through. Once the period of time Chazal designated for this extreme form of aveilus for the churbanos has passed, we are to learn the lesson of the levonah and the immortal nachamu namchamu of Yeshayahu Hanovi.

On Shabbos Chazon wherever religious Jews gathered, the small talk was about the Gaza disengagement. People couldn’t understand how it came to happen that a Jewish state could treat its citizens in such a callous manner. People can’t fathom what happened to Sharon, how the father of the settlements turned on the very people who put their lives on the line to follow him into harm’s way.


Kol rodfeha hisiguha bein hametzorim… The words seemed to jump off the page.

Whether or not people support the disengagement, they couldn’t help but take note of the uncanny “coincidence” that the edict of expulsion was timed to go into effect on Tisha B’Av night.

The sense of the Yad Hashem orchestrating events was unmistakable, even as Gaza promises to become a base of terror operations while Bush, Sharon and Rice celebrate the surrender as a step towards peace.

From now on, when Tisha B’Av tragedies are listed, some people will add to it the pain of the evicted Gaza settlers. Their list will note that in the year 2005, Jews were chased from their homes, which were then bulldozed. It will document that fate of the 38 beautiful shuls that were destroyed. It will say that yeshivos were blown up.

The politics will gradually be forgotten but people will look at that list and wonder how it came to pass that in a Jewish country, Tisha B’Av was chosen as a date for Jews to be expelled. They will wonder what the leaders of Israel were thinking when they delivered such a gift to a band of terrorists who promised to establish a terror state on Motzoei Tisha B’Av.

On Tisha B’Av as Jews sat on the floor reading the Kinnos, the words have a different resonance. The heartbreaking poetry of the mekoninim speak to us directly.

There is so much sadness in our community; so many people are sick, so many are just barely holding on. Every week brings news of yet another accident, of yet another korban. Young parents plucked away. Young children gone, just like that, in the blink of an eye.

Since our Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed, we have known incessant tragedy. Yes, there was a comfortable break here and there. Through the ages there have been some stations that were more hospitable than the others.

Tisha B’Av is the repository of 1900 years of Jewish pain and suffering. It is the day on which we mourn for all that once was and now is no longer, for the hopes and dreams that turned to ashes, for all that our people have lost in the Diaspora.

When we sit on the floor saying Kinnos, the list of tragedies for which we mourn seems endless. The Churban of the first Bais Hamikdosh, the second Bais Hamikdosh… the Harugei Beitar… the calamities that befell the Jewish communities of Europe one thousand years later during the First Crusade. We remember the Jews who were ripped apart during the Inquisition, the Gezeiros of Tach Tat, the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

We remember the 24 cartloads of handwritten seforim that were set afire in the streets of Paris in 1242…and the subsequent expulsions from France, England, Germany and other regions.

We sit there and think of the Jews who were shipped all across the world during the ages. Just as they finally got comfortable in one country they were expelled. Forlorn refugees packing their peklach, trudging forward to find shelter in yet another strange, unwelcoming land.

We mourn on Tisha B’Av for the millions of Jews who were killed and maimed physically and mentally over the previous harrowing century. And we do this all on Tisha B’Av because our entire history of persecution emanates from this sorry day, the day of the churban.

Along with that tragedy-laden history, we can not help but think of all the sadness that surrounds us and those we love today.

We take out our kinnos, so nicely typeset and enriched with fine translations and commentaries, and we read along with our friends and neighbors in shul. We read slowly, taking in each word as we fall further and further behind the group, gaining a new perspective of Jewish life and suffering. Kinah after kinah records so much sorrow… It’s unfathomable that one people can bear so much.

And then we finish the kinos and chant Eli Tzion. We get up off the floor, straighten out the chairs and return to our homes. We go home, read about the churban a little more and wait for the fast to end.

And then the next day, voila, it’s as if it never happened.


Nechomah is in the air. Shabbos Nachamu is coming. Everyone is happy and cheerful. Camps are in full swing again. Kids all over the Jewish world are hopping into the swimming pool. The music is blaring. Tisha B’Av and all it represents fades into a distant memory.

On Shabbos Nachamu, we read the haftorah from which the day derives its name and receive a dose of consolation.

Nachamu, be comforted, the torture will soon end. Nachamu, the golus is almost over. Nachamu, be consoled over the calamities of the past. Nachamu, a bright new day is dawning.

What is the consolation? What is there about this Shabbos that rings out with happiness throughout the Jewish world?

How does it work? How can it be that one day we are so sad and the next day, so happy?

Remember how it felt to be in school, approaching the end of the year? Even if you don’t like school, you love the last week. Because you know it’s the last week. You hate taking tests, and though the final is the toughest test of the year, you smile through it. Because you know this is the last one. After this test you are free. Its summer, it’s time for fun and enjoyment. You skip out of school with a song on your lips…

A person is sick and must endure grueling treatments in a desperate attempt to lick the disease and stay alive. The patient dreads the day of the treatment and wishes with all his heart he could be spared it. But when the doctor tells him this is the last treatment—this is the last time you will suffer—after this you will go home and recover, your hair will grow back, you’ll get your life back; the patient happily submits to the painful procedure.

People who have lived through the holocaust, and those who have suffered any kind of painful experience in their past, try so hard to erase it and the scars it leaves on the psyche. They fight to suppress the bitter memories. They yearn for the day that they know that this is the last day they will be haunted. If only they could rid themselves permanently of the haunting experience, they’d happily endure one last assault from the bad memories.

Shabbos Nachamu proclaims that this year we observed the final Tisha B’Av. It says, “Seek comfort, for that awful day will never again be repeated.” The day of Tisha B’Av will no longer symbolize sadness, depression and depravity. Next year Tisha B’Av will be a holiday.

All those who down the ages have suffered for being Jewish, all those who were burned at the stake; whose blood flowed at Beitar; all those sent into exile by the Romans, by the English, the French, the Spanish….will finally see justice.

All those who were tortured and killed, who were physically and mentally battered by the Germans; all those young people who were murdered in their prime; all the old people who died as good, ehrliche Jews; all of them together will gather in Yerushalayim.

Shabbos Nachamu says that next year on Tisha B’Av we will all be in Yerushalayim; we will all be singing and dancing. We will all be healed and suffering will come to an end. There will be no more kinnos, no need for those uncomfortable little benches; no more sadness; no more pain. The enemies who wreaked such havoc and caused such anguish will meet their downfall and be obliterated.

Not only will swords be beaten into plowshares; but tears will be twisted into smiles; pained features will come alive with happiness; the sad will be festive and mournful will be joyous.

It will be the last Tisha B’Av in golus. The last time kinnos were said. The last time the whole community sat in semi-darkness on the floor, shoeless, chair-less and clueless.

Nachamu Nachamu Ami. Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Throughout our history, the first week of Av has marked some of the most wrenching, catastrophic events for the Jewish people. That legacy of sorrow and disaster continues to hound us to the present day.

As we prepare for Tisha B’av and shed tears over the latest tragedies in our immediate environment and in Eretz Yisroel, we wonder what can we do to reverse this terrible cycle and when it will all end.

Our search for a ray of hope begins with the awareness that the root of all our sadness and misery is the churban bais hamikdosh, which we mourn during the Nine Days and Three Weeks. We reflect on the well-known Gemorah in Yomah [9b] that tells us that the first bais hamikdosh was destroyed because we did not observe the halachos of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim.

The Gemorah says that at the time of the destruction of the second bais hamikdosh, the Jews were proficient in Torah and gemilus chasodim. What brought about the churban was the sin of sinas chinom.

We are taught that the third bais hamikdosh will not be erected until sinas chinom is purged from the Jewish people.

The true nature of sinas chinom goes beyond the concept of senseless, baseless hatred. Its deeper dimensions are hinted at in the Gemorah in Maseches Shabbos that discusses kabolas haTorah.

The Gemorah states that har sinai was given its name because of the “sinah” that matan Torah triggered in the nations of the world toward klal Yisroel. Rashi explains that once the Torah became exclusively ours, we became universally hated. We had sole access to something of immeasurable value and the world could not forgive us for that.

Jealousy seems to be the underside of hatred. Sinas chinom is thus the animosity a person harbors toward one who possesses that which the hater lacks—something he is not willing to go the extra distance to attain for himself. That feeling of emptiness spawns an implacable hatred.

The nations of the world could be megayeir and accept the Torah upon themselves. But instead of giving up their carefree existence, they prefer to hate.

The Gemorah in Yomah quoted above states that the sin of sinas chinom is equal to the collective sins of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim. The reason for this is that sinas chinom is the polar opposite of ahavas yisroel, one of the Torah’s key mandates, derived from the posuk of V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha.

We are all familiar with the statement of Rabi Akiva in Pirkei Avos, V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha, zeh klal Gadol ba’Torah… The commandment to love your fellow Jew is the major rule of the Torah,” the rest is commentary.

We also recall the tale of the ger tzedek who asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah on one leg. Hillel told him D’alach sani lechavercha lo sa’avid, zuhi kol haTorah, v’idach zil gemor, what is hateful to you do not do unto others.

If V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha is the most fundamental rule in the Torah, it stands to reason that sinas chinom, its diametrical opposite, is a most serious aveirah. What is so grievous about sinas chinom? Why was the punishment for sinas chinom equal to the punishment for the three cardinal sins? Why did it cause the destruction of the second bais hamikdosh and prevent the construction of the third?

Sinas chinom is derived from a feeling of inferiority and inadequacy. People suffering from these feelings can fill the vacuum by emulating others who lead exemplary lives. Or they can try to destroy those who do good by minimizing their accomplishments and destroying their reputations. This helps the inferiority-ridden person feel redeemed and guilt-free over his own lack of accomplishment.

Sinas chinom is the antithesis of positive involvement in the community. Sinas chinom is what prevents good people from constructive accomplishments. Sinas chinom is by no means a victimless crime. It actually prevents people from getting involved; it seeks to destroy those who do and belittles and undermines their undertakings.

If someone puts his heart into finding a remedy for a community problem and is met with nothing but snide remarks for his efforts, he will be discouraged from seeing his project through.

Poking fun at someone for having his name engraved on a building in tribute to his donation, will cause that person to reconsider the next time he is solicited for a contribution.

The same holds true for someone who participates in a worthy campaign and has his picture published in the newspaper. Finding himself the butt of thoughtless ribbing by baalei sinas chinom will induce the person to stay home next time.

How many people shy away from getting involved because they are aware of the negative feedback trailing them?

And why should it be that people who send in letters to the editor feel compelled to withhold their names so as not to face the scorn of their friends and neighbors?

Baalei sinas chinom compensate for their lack of accomplishments by knocking others and ripping down what they have done. They create a negative spirit that kills the desire of people to rise above the masses to enhance the lives of others and help prepare the world for Moshiach.

It may be that that is why sinas chinom has to be thoroughly uprooted in order for the redemption to arrive.

Good people need encouragement to succeed; good people need other people to work with; good people need to be surrounded by positive pro-active people in order to facilitate their accomplishments.

As long as sinas chinom breeds naysayers and cynics, too many noble but orphan causes will be left to peter out.

How many at-risk kids would be drawn closer if people would not hesitate to get involved? At- risk children need people to care for them, as do children who have been abused and harmed in different ways. Yeshivos need people to come to their aid. Mechanchim desperately seek saviors to help them make ends meet. How do we expect “umalah haaretz dei’ah es Hashem” if we don’t pay our teachers a living wage and don’t provide children the education and care they are entitled to?

People who raise money for good causes need people to answer their calls and let them in their homes. How many more volunteers would there be for worthy chesed organizations if people didn’t have to fear the ridicule of their neighbors?

There are too many people who are sick and need physical and emotional support; too many orphans who need a shoulder to cry on. How many of us are willing to be there for them?

I had the occasion to be in Detroit a while ago for a family simcha and met my dear friend, the noted askan, Gary Torgow. We caught up on old news and the conversation drifted to the many accomplishments of the late Detroit tzadik, Rav Avrohom Abba Freedman, and his wonderful family.

I made the comment that it is truly amazing to consider all that Rabbi Freedman accomplished—how many causes and people he helped, and how many individuals he was able to draw to Torah.

Gary told me that he had had a similar conversation with Rav Mattisyohu Solomon when he visited Detroit and that he asked the Lakewood mashgiach to what he attributed Rabbi Freedman’s success.

Rav Solomon’s response was penetrating. He said that the secret of Rabbi Freedman’s success was that no one was jealous of him.

Think about that.

Because no one was jealous of Rabbi Freedman, he was able to operate under the radar and not be destroyed by envious people out to undermine him. Because no one was jealous of him he was able to be wildly successful as he brought more and more people to the tent of Torah. He was able to lead “missions” to Torah centers and minister to dozens because no one tried to impugn his character.

Because no one was jealous of him he was able to convince hundreds of children to go to yeshiva. He was able to help so many and be the best friend of every good cause in town.

It may be that there are other people like Rabbi Freedman out there who have the ability to prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach, but we get in their way, we doubt their intentions, we play down what they have done and impede them from doing more.

If we’d banish sinas chinom, we’d permit more Rabbi Freedmans to flourish and prosper and we’d be closer to the place we need to get to in order to merit the geulah shlaimah. May Hashem wipe away all the sadness and tears and grant us the zechus of hearing Tisha B’Av proclaimed a holiday with the arrival of Moshiach, speedily in our day.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Everyone wants to know what the Gedolei Yisroel say about the disengagement. I had the occasion this week to discuss the matter once again with my Rebbi, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, and what he had to say was most enlightening.

Gedolim have a way of looking at things differently than most people. That is why we turn to them when there is a tough decision to make and we are confused by competing arguments and opinions. Even when we think we have everything figured out, they are always able to dig deeper, analyze sharper and offer an entirely fresh and enlightening perspective on the issue at hand.

When I brought up the topic, Rav Shmuel remarked with a pained expression how awful it is for the people living in Gush Katif to be evicted from their homes and that we must all feel their pain. “Bochoh sivkeh balaylah,” he quoted from Megillas Eicha, noting how applicable to the present situation is that poignant passage.

The settlers believed that their moving to Gaza would hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They think that the State of Israel is “reishis tzemichas geuloseinu - the beginning of the dawn of the messianic period.” This awful situation ought to awaken them.

Rav Shmuel went on to say that during the Gezairos Tach v’Tat, the devastating pogroms against the Jews in Poland and Russia that wiped out 100,000 of our people, the Tosfos Yom Tov said that the reason for the terrible persecutions was revealed to him from Shomayim. He said that the Jews of that period did not show proper respect for shuls and botei medrash. He aroused the community to awaken to the Divine message, and wrote a special prayer on behalf of those who would pay heed to the call and restrain themselves from talking during davening.

If shuls and botei medrash are about to be blown up and the Jews who frequent them are being chased from their homes, this wrenching prospect carries a message for us akin to the one the Tosfos Yom Tov divined during the Gezeiros Tach v’Tat.

Nearly thirty years ago, when Anwar Sadat made his dramatic visit to Yerushalayim, the debate over returning the majority of the Sinai desert to the Egyptians was fierce indeed. The memories of the wars with Egypt - of the endless infiltrations by the fedayeen terrorists and of the toll in human lives paid for every inch of that blood-soaked expanse of burning sand - were simply too fresh to allow us to appreciate the historic opportunity before us.

Most people viewed the return of the Sinai with dismay, but Maran Rav Elozar Menachem Shach zt”l led our community in embracing the concept of peace with Egypt. Prominent voices railed against the “withdrawal,” against the so-called capitulation to our fiercest enemy. In our world, voices were raised challenging the da’as Torah of Rav Shach and the gedolei Eretz Yisroel. Arguments raged in many botei medrash. It was not a period of great harmony amongst Jews. But we held fast to the vision of our Torah leaders and put our trust in their judgment.

Today, almost three decades later, we know that the Egyptians no longer attack us. Their murderous fedayeen, who had regularly invaded moshavim and kibbutzim, killing and destroying, have not been heard from. Countless Jewish lives have been saved. Indescribable suffering has been spared.

Are we facing a similar opportunity today? Will the pullout from Gaza ring in a period of tranquility? Can we support the relinquishing of fertile acres of Eretz Yisroel in the same way we took leave of the sand dunes of the Egyptian Sinai desert? It is not likely that the Palestinians will maintain anything close to the “cold peace” Israel has with Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are few who look to Sharon as they did to Begin.

Pundits abound, politicians pontificate, street corners resound with the debate of the masses. What are we to think? What are we to do? It is not really up to us to decide and Ariel Sharon has adopted dictator-esque tactics to ensure that his plan goes through, whether it makes sense or not.

Only a short while ago, in a small corner of the country, in an area abutting the largest concentration of Arabs in Israel, and in Arab-populated portions of the West Bank, Sharon and his followers created what would become known as “facts on the ground.”

His plan was simple. No one ever really believed that the State of Israel would be allowed to keep all the Arab areas conquered in the war of 1967. Some pundits point to the demographic nightmare looming on the horizon. With millions of Arabs living in Israel it is only a matter of time before they start voting in elections. Before long they could be dictating policy and opening the front door to the same enemies who have been trying to get in the back door for more than half a century.

Sharon’s plan was to complicate the eventual givebacks by creating large settler blocs. By urging people to settle in places like Gush Katif, the day of reckoning would be delayed or even avoided entirely. I remember him showing me maps over ten years ago and proudly pointing to places all along Yehuda, Shomron and Azza to ensure that no leftist government would ever be able to return that land to the Arabs.

The pawns in this chess game, the people who settled formerly barren areas and built up homes and communities, have known terrible suffering. The one and a half million Arabs of Gaza have never stopped trying to attack Gush Katif. Katyushas and other flying bombs have been falling in a steady rain for close to three decades. Good people, people who put their lives at risk in the name of an ideal, have made the ultimate sacrifice. Hashem yinkom damam.

And now, after all they have been through, after their mesiras nefesh has resulted in beautiful communities with shuls and mosdos - with bustling businesses and breathtaking landscapes - the roof has fallen in. They have been betrayed. The very Sharon who stood behind them all these years, and pointed with pride at their towns and cities, now stands poised to oversee their hapless evacuation.

While we love Eretz Yisroel with much passion, we realize that Moshiach has not yet come. Even in Israel we are in golus.

We put Jewish lives ahead of nationalist agendas.

But there is the pain.

It is very hard for us to stand by and witness the despair of our brethren in Gush Katif.

Yes, they bought into a lie and are now paying the price, but they are our brothers and they are heartbroken. And when our brother is down, we are down.

On Yom Kippur, when the Kohain Gadol emerged from the Kodesh HaKodoshim, he said a special prayer. He prayed for Klal Yisroel. He asked Hashem to grant us a year of plenty for all. He asked for good health and happiness.

And at the climax of his prayer, he davened for Anshei HaSharon - the people who inhabited the Sharon plain. “Shelo t’hay botayhem kivrayhem.”

The Kohain Gadol begged Hashem to watch over the people of the Sharon lest their homes become their burial places.

The commentators in Yerushalmi Yomah 5:2 discuss the unique situation in Sharon. It seems that the ground underneath the homes became unstable due to the force of the rains that ran off the mountains and converged on the plains. This required the people to rebuild the foundations of their homes twice within every seven years.

The obvious question is: Why did they continue to live in such a dangerous place?

Chazal did not answer that question for us. And I think I now understand why.

There is a lesson to be learned from the tefilla of the Kohain Gadol. It does not matter if the people of Sharon have chosen to live in a dangerous place. In fact, it may even be that had they asked da’as Torah, they would have been advised to live elsewhere. The only enduring point is that they are our brothers. We care for them. We care about them. And we pray for them.

Avrohom Avinu underwent ten tests of loyalty to Hashem. One of those trials was the command “Lech Lecha, Go forth and relocate.” The Brisker Rov posed the following question: What test was inherent in such a welcome command? After all, at home, Avrohom was busy arguing about the idols in his father’s store. Didn’t he welcome the opportunity to finally get away from that environment?

“The answer,” the Rov declared, “is that to leave one’s home is never simple.”

We are not sure that living in Gush Katif was ever a smart thing to do. We don’t know how wise it was for the people who moved and lived there to endanger themselves, their families and so many soldiers. But now as they stand on the threshold of expulsion, as they hold their heads in agony contemplating the wasted lives sacrificed on the altar of Sharon’s lie, our hearts go out to them.

We pray that Hashem should watch over the people who believed in Sharon.