Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Today’s world is a dangerous place. There are ominous winds blowing but we look the other way, preferring not to confront the frightening signs of the times.

A president of a major country has declared war on the Jewish people and announced to the world that he wants Israel wiped off the map. Anti-Semitism is nothing new and people have been trying to do away with us for some centuries now. This time it’s different because the man making those plans is also dangerously close to possessing an atomic bomb. No one has any doubts about the target of that bomb.

People sit around and speculate. They wonder if Israel can knock out Iranian nuclear facilities. To armchair generals the world is black and white. They compare the situation in Iran with the nuclear danger posed by Iraq before Menachem Begin ordered the 1981 attack on the Osirak nuclear site and destroyed the reactor Saddam Hussein was building. They don’t see why Israel can’t strike again—this time in Iran.

People tend to ignore all the variables. They don’t take into account Iran’s probable response; they ignore that Iran has ten thousand rockets, via Hezbollah, pointed at the citizens of Israel. They seem blind to the fact that Iran has in its employ tens of thousands of terrorists from the ranks of Hamas, al Aska brigades, and al Qaeda. They forget that if Iran holds onto its oil, a world wide crisis will ensue and the Jews will be held responsible for yet another disaster not of their making.

Armchair generals blissfully dismiss the international realities. They ignore the fact that Iranians are taking meticulous precautions to guard their facilities and that it will require a multi-pronged attack to damage those sites.

That’s not all. Begin was widely criticized at the time for bombing the Osirak nuclear facility; it is only in hindsight that it became evident to the world that he acted prudently. Apparently he was blessed with much Siyata D’Shamaya.

In fact, prior to the bombing he telephoned Maran Harav Shach and asked that the Ponovezh Yeshiva be mispallel for a mission Israel was about to undertake. Who knows if Israel’s current leaders posses the intelligence and determination of Mister Begin? Which of them has the stature to risk international condemnation?

It is doubtful if Ehud Olmert would ask anyone to daven for him and the campaign.

Begin was a man of responsibility who thought every action through, fully grasping the severe consequences of his fateful move. The people in charge now cannot be accused of being callous towards Israel’s security needs but they have no track record in making the kind of cosmic decisions now required of them.

What has Olmert done in the past to inspire anyone’s confidence that he is equal to the epic responsibilities that comes with Israel’s highest office?

In his autobiography Ariel Sharon wrote that history books about Israel’s wars designate him the “king of improvising.” He disputes that title, arguing that in every military campaign he led, he rehearsed and planned for every minute detail and every possible contingency.

While his moves last year in Gaza disenchanted masses of people who believed he had lost his grip on reality and recanted on every principle he advocated throughout his career, it is a mistake to equate him with the individuals who are now replacing him.

Which brings us to the next point: The hero worship around Arik Sharon in Israel was almost unprecedented, and borders on the irrational. Disowning his former party and ideals he set up a new party under whose banner he hoped to ride to victory in the upcoming elections. And all indications were that he would indeed do so.

The wonder of it is that the new party has no unifying ideology, no platform, no set code of operation and conduct. It is essentially a conglomeration of people from opposing ends of the spectrum angling for a piece of the pie and no one knows how long it will last.

But all this doesn’t seem to make a difference. Israelis can’t wait to vote it into power.

Today the beloved Arik lies in a hospital in a coma, and it is likely that he will not emerge from it the way many Israelis hope. But it matters not; the party is still polling 40 seats in the upcoming Knesset. An untested, unpopular and hitherto unrecognized individual heads it and Israelis are set to sweep him into power.

Last week Osama bin Laden, whom President Bush pledged four years ago to capture dead or alive, issued another one of his tapes warning of terror soon to be unleashed upon America.

Despite the ominous rumblings all about us, we continue on with our lives, busying ourselves with mundane concerns. That is the nature of man. We like to think that we are in charge of our own destiny and that nothing can interfere with our plans. We need to be reminded that there is a Borei Olam who controls us and directs all that transpires.

Paroh was one who couldn’t handle being told that he wasn’t in charge. He promulgated the belief that he was a divine being and was worshiped as such by his subjects. No matter what mofsim Moshe Rabbeinu performed, Paroh was able to explain them away. He said it was magic, that his own people could duplicate them. He finally recognized that there was no magic involved and that his own sorcerers were powerless to do what Moshe had done. But he still refused to budge.

Paroh was locked into his mindset and could not be shaken from it despite crystal clear evidence that disaster awaited him and his nation if he did not switch gears.

Makoh after makoh, Paroh remained entrenched in obstinacy. We regard him almost comically. What arrogance and blind stupidity! We fail to see ourselves in him. We don’t perceive that we tend at times to behave just as he did. Hakadsoh Boruch Hu sends us so many different messages to repent and mend our ways, but we dismiss His messages with endless rationalizations.

Some times we blame nature, sometimes the economy, and other times we fault the people around us.

It is not the president of Iran or the prime minister of Israel who determine our future. It is not Allan Greenspan or our boss who decides whether we will be rich or poor. They are merely messengers who act towards us according to our zechusim, as the posuk states “Lev Melachim v’sarim Byad Hashem.” If we show that we are deserving, than we will be blessed with peace and tranquility; if we show that we behave responsibly with our G-d given gifts, He in turn grants us more.

We have to learn from the makkos Hashem inflicts upon us and heed the lessons they bear. We will then merit the five leshonos of geulah. May it be speedily in our days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


In a Congressional hearing room in the United States Senate, an eminently qualified public official is forced to defend himself against unfounded insinuations leveled by people who are clearly his intellectual and ethical inferiors.

Sanctimoniously, they rustle papers and posture in front of cameras, bringing up old and irrelevant stories in an effort to trip him up. The gentleman is forced to sit through the barrage of questions, barely allowed to defend himself against ridiculous charges and fictitious claims.

The questioning is essentially a game. Those who supported Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court before the charade will vote for him, and those who opposed him and attempted in vain to uncover weaknesses, will vote against him.
The outcome is a forgone conclusion, but that doesn’t stop critics from trying to ruin the man’s reputation. It didn’t stop liberal Democratic senators from baiting him and doing everything possible to get him to incriminate himself, and give them ammunition to attack him. They lectured and mocked him with obvious spite. He, in turn, sat there calmly and self assuredly, answering their questions.

The treatment was so mean-spirited that Alito’s wife, who was sitting behind him, broke down in tears and had to leave the room.

The venom must have come as a shock to her. But it didn’t shock anyone with any experience in the public domain. It didn’t shock anyone accustomed to watching spiteful people try to shoot down anyone who is smarter, more talented or more successful. The fact that these well-meaning people are working for the public good offers no protection against the barbs and assaults of detractors.

That is the way it is in the cold, brutal world out there, but that does not mean it should be that way in our world. We ought to respect people who dedicate their lives to the public welfare. We should know better than to sit back and allow good people to be vilified.

We’ve seen it countless times; it’s nothing new. Since the beginning of time, unscrupulous people have shown they have no compunctions about trampling on other people. We, who would never want to be grouped with people of this ilk, should never conduct ourselves as they do.

Echoes of this nefarious behavior come from this week’s parsha, where we learn of the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu and how he came to be raised in the house of Paroh.
The posuk (Shemos 2:11) relates, that as Moshe grew to adulthood, he left the house of Paroh and observed first-hand his brothers’ suffering. The first day he ventured forth, he saw a Mitzri beating a Jew. He looked around and, assuming no one was watching, killed the Mitzri and hid him in the sand.

On the second day, Moshe saw two Jews, Doson and Avirom, fighting. Addressing the one with a raised fist as “Rasha,” he asked him why he was striking his friend. The man retorted, “Who appointed you a ruler and judge over us? Are you going to kill me the way you killed the Mitzri?”

The Torah relates that Moshe became frightened and uttered the immortal words, “Achein noda hadavar, indeed the matter is known.” The posuk’s intent seems to be that Moshe feared that it was known that he had killed the Mitzri. In fact, the next posuk relates that Paroh heard about “this matter” and Moshe was forced to flee for his life.

The Medrash offers a different explanation: “Achein noda hadavar - Now I understand the matter that was troubling me.” Moshe was wondering why the Jewish people suffer more than the other nations of the earth, but now that he witnessed their cruel, vindictive behavior with one another, he understood.

Perhaps we can take that idea a step further. Moshe was brought up in the regal splendor of Paroh’s palace. At the age of twenty, after being appointed by Paroh to a position of authority, he left the palace to identify with the suffering of his people. He was overcome at the sight of their anguish.

When he came across a Mitzri beating a Jew, he struck him down. The sight of a Jew being persecuted, the sight of evil and injustice being perpetrated, enraged him. He couldn’t stand passively by.

As a member of Paroh’s royal household, he had never seen the Jewish people close up and was baffled by their enslavement and suffering. What was the reason their inhumane treatment was allowed to continue? Why did they not rise up to defend themselves from their evil masters?

The incident with Doson and Avirom, who mocked him when he appealed to them to cease fighting, answered his questions.

He had killed the Mitzri with the Sheim Hameforash; how could they not have seen that? And yet, despite witnessing a supernatural act, they were unfazed. They saw that someone considered Jewish life sacred; they saw that someone actually cared about the way the Jews were being treated and put his life in jeopardy to defend them. Yet, their only reaction was to mock him.

Instead of thanking him for his heroic act, they vilified him; instead of raising their hands to G-d in gratitude that someone was fearless enough to defy the Mitzri authorities in order to come to their defense, they raised their hands to strike each other.

Achein noda hadavar. Moshe now understood why no leader had emerged. The would-be leaders had their hands full contending with the Mitzrim; they did not possess the power to intercede for their people when individuals like Doson and Avirom stood ready to sabotage, slander and mock them for their efforts.

Our approach should be diametrically opposite from these rabble-rousers. We should seek out ways to give chizuk to those who do so much for the klal, yet suffer the humiliation of public service.

If we want good people to rise to positions of responsibility, if we want talented people with high standards to exercise leadership, we have to be worthy of that leadership. If we want people to whom we can turn when we need direction, we have to make sure not to obstruct them when they rise to prominence.

If we want to hasten the redemption, we have to be supportive of young people who display communal responsibility and concern. We must encourage people to get involved in helping to build organizations and mosdos, and who seek to resolve community-wide dilemmas that affect each and every one of us.

We have enough Dosons and Aviroms. We see variations of these shady characters in all walks of life. We recognize them by the tone of their mockery, by their readiness to pounce on people for the slightest error.

We recognize them by their petty vindictiveness, by their inability to get along with people, by their opposition to authority. They are conspicuous for their negativism and lack of ahavas Yisroel.

Instead of throwing our lot in with the cynical scoffers, let us throw our support behind individuals whose intentions to benefit the klal are pure and wholehearted. Let us give these people the benefit of our backing, our experience, our connections and resources. Let us assist them so that they can realize their goals and ambitions for us all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


“Clothes make the man,” the saying goes. While a person’s character and soul are assuredly not determined by sartorial law, what we wear and how we present ourselves often does go a long way toward defining us.

As we read of the Jewish people’s sojourn in Mitzrayim in this week’s parsha, we remember what sustained us. Lo shinu. Jews did not change their names. They did not change their language. And they did not change their clothing.

Of course, throughout history, there has been a slow evolution of our garb. But our tradition of clothing ourselves in the attire our teachers and forebears wore - at least as far as we can remember - has been an important factor in maintaining our distinct identity, and serving as a powerful link to the past.

The size of our lapels may change, even the style of our eyeglasses, but there are certain defining articles that link us to an ideology. That ideology includes a commitment to a generation that dedicated their lives to the concept of yeshiva education and the adherence to the directives of Gedolei Yisroel.

One of these signature articles of clothing - if not the most distinguishable one - has been the fedora-style hat. The black hat.

It is what marks a Ben Torah, and distinguishes him from all other segments of Jewish society. From the time President Kennedy shucked his fedora at his 1960 inauguration ceremony and replaced it with the new look of freedom, the black hat assumed a heightened significance in society at large.

It is the declaration that we still cling to the old generation; we still embrace the old values that we were taught and are not embarrassed to be called “old-fashioned black hatters.”

Indeed, we are proud to be known that way. Wherever we go, we wear our hats. They identify us as members of the Torah community. Others may vilify and deride us. But our hats remain a badge of pride and many of us don’t remove them even when we go places where the hat (and we, ourselves) are not especially welcome.

While wearing those hats, the Torah community continues to grow by leaps and bounds. That seems to bother those who seek to curb our growth and influence. The black hat is targeted by people looking to ridicule us, somewhat akin to the crooked nose denoting Jews in the literature of Der Shturmer.

A man pleads guilty in a high profile case and wears a black hat to court, and a Jewish tabloid, known for its hostility to the Torah community, discusses the all-important question: What kind of black hat did he wear?

The editors put that question to Orthodoxy “expert” Queens College Professor Samuel Heilman. He informed the paper that the hat would “be more typical for so-called yeshivishe Jews. It would be the kind of hat you might see in Lakewood, [N.J.].”

And thus, Lakewood and all black hatters are tarred with the same brush as the man who pled guilty last week to a variety of crimes.

Professor Heilman was quite busy last week expounding on Orthodoxy’s ways. The Asbury Park Press dialed him up for some more trenchant analyses of Orthodox-related matters, this time focusing on the new “ultra-Orthodox” mayor of Lakewood, Meir Lichtenstein.

Heilman first defended the tendency of Orthodox Jews to vote as an ethnic group in areas where their numbers constitute the majority. “They’re not acting different in any way than other ethnic groups,” he said. “They vote to fulfill [their specific] needs. The only way to change that is through the democratic process.”

Thank you, Professor Heilman, for your able defense.

Unfortunately, he then implied that Mr. Lichtenstein was selected as mayor simply because he was “one of theirs,” without regard for his education, political skills and the ability to unify a city.

“I don’t think it would be any different if you had a neighborhood where the neighborhood was overwhelmingly African-American,” Heilman said. “You wouldn’t be surprised to see the mayor becomes a black mayor.”

Is it not possible that Meir Lichtenstein has displayed enough talent over his tenure as a committeeman that he was awarded the job on merit?

Was Senator Lieberman elected because most people in Connecticut are Modern Orthodox Jews? How about Michael Wilde, a member of Hatzolah, who is another orthodox mayor in the town of Englewood, New Jersey.

Orthodoxy seems to be a thorn in the side of certain people who would like to wish it away. Take The Jewish Week, for example, another paper that seizes any opportunity to cast aspersions on the Torah community. The paper was happy to report on a new initiative launched by Yeshiva University, the Center for Jewish Future, whose purpose, according to The Jewish Week, is “to stem a rightward shift” on the part of Orthodoxy.

“Investing 6.5 million dollars in…an effort to reclaim its centrist base amid Orthodoxy’s continued move to the right, Yeshiva University has opened the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) - …as a means of inspiring a more “open, tolerant” brand of Orthodoxy.”

Why the need to sink millions into such a vaguely defined venture? According to Heilman, Yeshiva University is so afraid of being overshadowed by “chareidi-like” elements that they have to show the world (to the tune of six-and-a-half million dollars) that they are against the “rightward shift.” In other words, they are not fanatics or ultra-Orthodox like people in the yeshiva world; they are “modern,” “open,” “tolerant.”

What is a chareidi anyway?

Parshas Vayechi provides us with some clues. It marks the siyum of Seder Bereishis and the end of the life of Yaakov Avinu. The Torah recounts that Yaakov wanted to foretell what would happen at the end of time, but the information suddenly eluded him. The Gemorah in Pesachim explains that though he sought to tell the shevotim what would take place b’acharis hayomim, it became hidden from him. Instead, he imparted a lasting message to each one of his sons.

He addressed Shimon and Levi together and cursed their rage and the anger they displayed in their reaction to Shechem’s mistreatment of sister Dinah. He foretold that they would be separated and dispersed throughout Israel.

In the sefer Toldos Yitzchok by Rav Yitzchok Karo, published in the year 1558, a novel explanation is offered as to why Yaakov Avinu spread these two shevotim throughout the rest of Klal Yisroel.

He says that Shimon’s and Levi’s anger against Shechem was triggered by their great brotherly devotion to Dinah. They carried this loyalty to an extreme, however, while the other brothers did not display enough of it. Therefore, Yaakov sent Shimon and Levi throughout the rest of Israel to dilute some of their own anger, but at the same time, to infuse the rest of the shevotim with the attribute of brotherly feeling and responsibility.

In our own circles, we see that people are apathetic towards problems confronting our community and the many difficulties our brothers are facing. It seems, at times, that we urgently need a member of the tribe of Shimon and Levi in our midst, to awaken our desire to do good and to stand by one another.

Among the apathetic masses, you find people of conscience and action who are not daunted by the enormity of the issues confronting them. There are men and women in every community who are able to overcome the urge to do nothing. They labor mightily to bring solutions to intractable problems. You find people who seek to calm the agitated, right the wrongs, care for the abused, and fight injustice wherever it is found.

These people bear within them the positive qualities of kaas as described by Rav Yitzchok Karo some 450 years ago. They should be seen as lighthouses lighting up the way for others; they should be a beacon others can rally around.

Though the world may be slipping down a precipitous slope, these heroes show that it really is possible to raise the bar for dedication and responsibility to the klal.

Though sheker has a tremendous drawing power and appears to triumph over the people of emes, a true ish emes does not get flustered or worried that his team is not ahead. He perseveres; he remains loyal to the truth and never waivers.

The ish emes follows the words of our chachomim without hesitation. He doesn’t look over his shoulder and count how many people are behind him. He never considers flipping over to the other more popular side. In the end, the ish emes and others like him are the only ones who remain standing.

Every generation has its unique tests of faith. Meeting those challenges demands that we have the courage of our convictions and not be deterred by opposition.

We live in a time when everyone works so hard to make ends meet that we have little time to give anything much thought. We are so trapped in the pursuit of our livelihoods that we allow ourselves barely a moment to wonder what it’s all about. We have to slow down, we have to give life more thought; we can’t be too preoccupied to be purposeful in life. We have to be mindful of our obligations and make sure to carry them out.

We are all soldiers engaged in daily battles, but we have to strengthen ourselves with the lessons of Torah and apply these lessons to our lives. Only thus will we be able to rise above the vicissitudes of life and meet the many challenges each day brings.

We cannot act out of anger or fury; all our actions must be calculated to attain proper goals. Brotherly love must drive us in all our interactions with fellow Jews.

So many people we know are experiencing difficulties with shidduchim, with parnassa or health-related issues. Our hearts must go out to them and we have to rush to their aid as if they were our brothers. As they indeed are.

We wear our black hats to indicate that we are members of the tribe of Shevet Levi. We display passion in all we do. We hew to the traditions of our forefathers. We are eminently faithful to the ethos of Shevet Levi. Is everyone who wears a black hat perfect? Of course not. Is someone without a black hat a lesser Jew? Of course not. But the hat is worn to signify an identification with the path of passionate brotherhood that Yaakov avinu asked Shimon and Levi to spread throughout Am Yisroel.

The next time someone asks you why you wear that hat, you can tell him it is part of the uniform of Shevet Levi. And with that response, endeavor to be a more noble bearer of that royal tradition. Know that you are being watched; you are being held to a different standard.

The Rambam at the end of Hilchos Shemitta V’yovel writes that, “Not only is Shevet Levi set apart as the army of Hashem; every man endowed with the intelligence and spirit to separate himself from the masses and to serve and worship Hashem despite the norms and agendas of other people, is kodesh kodoshim.

“Hashem will be his portion forever and he will also merit to have his needs fulfilled in this world just as the Kohanim and Leviim,” the Rambam writes.

When the Jewish people finally learn this lesson and attain this lofty standard, the nations of the world will take note of and discuss, not our hats, but our hearts.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


In Parshas Vayigash we read of the emotional climax of Yosef’s revelation to his brothers. Yehuda’s desperate plea prompted Yosef to drop his disguise and finally divulge his true identity. Before their shocked eyes, the powerful viceroy of Egypt was revealed as their long lost brother.

With tears in his eyes, Yosef told them not to fear retribution for selling him, for his odyssey as a slave turned out to be part of a Divine plan. He asked them to hurry back to Yaakov Avinu and inform him that Yosef was alive and reigned as a viceroy in Egypt.

Yosef admonished them, “Ahl tirgezoo baderech, do not tarry along the way.” A little further on, the posuk relates that when Yaakov saw the agalos, wagons, that Yosef sent to transport him to Mitzrayim, his spirit was revived.

Why was he revived? The wagons were sent to take him away from Eretz Yisroel into golus. Yaakov should have been upset that he was leaving the Promised Land. Indeed he was; it was only the assurance from Hakadosh Boruch Hu who appeared to Yaakov and told him not to fear going down to Mitzrayim, “for I will be going down with you and will bring you back,” that allayed his distress.

The Medrash brought by Rashi explains that the agalos bore Yosef’s hidden message to his father that he still remembered the sugya of eglah arufa that they had studied together. But why send that message via wagons? Why not send it through a brother?

Perhaps his action also contains an eternal hidden message. Yosef knew that the prospect of going into exile would be difficult for Yaakov and the shevotim. When he said “Ahl tirgezu baderech,” don’t become angry on the journey back home, he was referring also to the future golus. He was saying that though the path through golus will be long and painful, do not get angry. Remember that the L-rd has sent you there as part of a Divine plan. Despite the hardships and sorrows, cling to the path of Torah until your redemption.

The agalos communicated an important guarantee; that the trip through the exile would be bearable if the Jewish people bear aloft the Torah’s message. If we carry the sugyos of Shas with us, if we never lose sight of our ultimate goal and destination, we will succeed. The Torah must remain uppermost in our memories and in everything that we do.

Yaakov was upset that he was forced once again to leave the home of his fathers; he knew that he was going down the path of exile which would only end with the arrival of Moshiach. Yet, when he saw that despite all Yosef had endured in his own private golus, he had kept alive in his heart the sugyos they had studied together, “Vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem,” Yaakov’s spirit regenerated. From this he drew comfort and reassurance that the Jews would persevere in the long and bitter exile.

Chanukah has ended but its memory and message must linger long in our hearts. Even after the Menorahs are put away, their flames ought to flicker in our psyches. The battle that Chanukah commemorates resurges in every age, including our own. The battle is never totally won.

The past year has seen a reawakening of a veiled threat against the very nature of the sacred wall that has preserved religious freedom in this country.

The hallowed words, Ufortzu Chomos Migdalai, mirror a new breach – one that many Jews regard apathetically, but one against which those familiar with history and its ramifications will take a vigilant, united stand.

We live in America, a country which has afforded our people unprecedented freedom and opportunity in the exile. Religious Jews have attained high positions in government and industry. There are billionaires and titans of industry who are openly and unapologetically religious. There is a shomer Shabbos U.S. senator and many other religious officials.

Just this week, a religious Jew was sworn in as mayor of Lakewood, NJ. Several weeks ago, a contingent of religious Jews was invited for a discussion with President Bush in the White House.

Religious Jews in New York City are well-represented in the halls of academia; in government, where people such as Dov Hikind and Simcha Felder are respected elected officials; and in business where yarmulkes worn by real estate executive are as prominent as the landmark properties they own.

It is not unusual to see world famous stores proudly advertise that they close Friday at 3 and remain closed for Shabbos.

If religious Jews are so well represented in all streams of American life, secular Jews are even more so, occupying positions of power and influence across the political and business spectrum.

We have indeed come a long way, to the point where we unfortunately tend to think that Moshiach has arrived and transported us here. We forget that we are in golus, we forget that we are guests of a foreign land.

Every once in a while we are served a reminder.

During the past year the New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, has engaged in an effort to undermine a sacred component of Mitzvas Milah. He and his department recently stepped up their activities in this regard and issued directives and advisories aimed at planting fear in the hearts and minds of parents who are about to bring their child into the holiest covenant in Judaism.

The threat is not only against metzitzah b’peh. It is a slanderous and offensive diktat that undermines not only a specific element of Bris Milah, but assaults the entire concept of Bris Milah itself.

He claims to be “educating.” What he is actually doing is far more sinister.

Frieden clearly has overstepped his bounds. He was asked to back down from his assault on the privacy and sanctity of religious choice. But he does not relent. Last week he openly mocked a group of distinguished Rabbonim whom he called to an urgent meeting, by suggesting that they relinquish their religious authority to the Catholic Church.

An insult of this sort from a government official is reminiscent of the slurs once aimed at the Jewish community by foreign anti-Semitic governments of the past.

Indeed the lights of the nairos have glowed, but their flame must continue to illuminate the darkness. We pride ourselves on the amazing accomplishments Jews have reached throughout political and socio-economic levels. But the fact that shomrei Shabbos senators, mayors, doctors and lawyers abound in this country is not enough to guarantee that our freedom to practice our religion with all its sacred minhagim and particulars, will be upheld.

When the attack appears to equate our practices with those of tribal cults that are unsanitary and dangerous, a spear is being hurled at the heart and soul of a nation that is no stranger to hostile campaigns of this nature.

At stake is nothing less than the right to religious freedom, a lynchpin of the Constitution that we should never take for granted. We must insist on the liberty to continue the practice of our tradition with every nuance and detail of the beautiful customs that are an integral part of the written law. It is our mesorah. It is our heritage. And our heritage is as sacred as our Torah.

Everyone concerned with these imperatives must let his voice be heard. Because when the dictates of bureaucracy begin to govern our spirituality, then our religious integrity has been compromised and walls of our tower have been breached. “Ufortzu chomos Migdalai.” It is not long before the oil is defiled and the menorah hauled away. Perhaps a commissioner will next mandate the use of electric menorahs because of his “concern” for our safety.

We get so comfortable here that we forget at times the message of the agalos; we lose sight of our mission and our goal. We forget that we are on a dangerous and treacherous path in golus, one that requires constant vigilance.

We need reminders so that our spirits can be lifted and we can return home. Let the image of the flames of the Chanukah menorah burn brightly in our memory so that we remember that at the end of the day, victory belongs not to those who boast of numbers, status or militarily might, but to those who battle for what is right and true.

Just as in the times of the Yevonim whose determination to uproot us from the Torah was miraculously defeated, so too, in our times, modern-day warriors who fight for the inviolate purity of Torah will be rewarded from Above with the consecration of the Beis Hamikdosh, speedily and in our day.