Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Isn’t it interesting how people tend to be shocked at aspects of human nature that they mistakenly think belong to a bygone era? So often you hear people say, “I can’t believe that in our day and age people would do such a thing and get away with it.” But people today pull the same stunts they always have and prove that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Suppose someone you know would get caught pulling a scam, doing an aveirah which has the potential to destroy him, you would get angry at him. You would want to run over to him and scream, “How can you do this? How could you be so immoral? How did you even think you would get away with this? Is any amount of gain worth the eternal shame and damage such reprehensible actions cause?” You would want to just grab him by the collar, shake him and shout, “What is the matter with you? Are you nuts?”

And the truth is - he is. And was.

Chazal say, “Ein odom choteh elah im kein nichnas bo ruach shtus,” a person only sins because a streak of madness entered him. It takes madness to engage in behavior which can ruin you for the rest of your life. It takes madness to perform evil. And it also takes madness to commit any sin. Chazal make this statement regarding all forms of cheit, not only the chatoim which can jeopardize your career.

Sometimes it takes being shocked and angry to jolt us into realizing the power of the Yeitzer Hara and sin. Sometimes it takes shocking revelations to convince us that we all have to be on the lookout for that “ruach shtus” which is forever seeking to infiltrate and infect us. We must be constantly on guard lest that strain sneak in and overwhelm us.

And just as that ruach shtus affects people like us, it also affects leaders, communities, nations and peoples.

Who would think that with the Holocaust still fresh in many people’s memories, the world would sit by impotently as a leader of a state could brazenly declare his objective of wiping Israel off the map? Nobody suspects that his threats are empty. He has publicized that he is working non-stop to produce a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel and the world stands by helplessly.

Ever since Israel’s founding, its leaders professed that their goal was to provide Jews a safe haven after the Holocaust. They have steadily been proclaiming over the decades that the Jewish people need a country which will fight for them and protect them from hostile nations bent on destroying them. Israel will fight for you, Israel will make sure there will never be another Holocaust. People who questioned that bravado were called cynical and backward ghetto Jews. The few and the proud would build an army and stand up for the rights of the Jewish people against all who would do them harm.

Now, at a most critical juncture in its history, Israel’s national security is in the hands of mediocre people who cannot lead. The prime minister, defense minister, president and the government pretend to have the country’s best interests at heart, but are corrupt and untrustworthy. Israel’s army has been embarrassed before the entire world and shown itself to be ill-equipped, ill-prepared and ill-trained to confront the challenges it must face. Calls are mounting for the replacement of the Chief of Staff, General Chalutz, for having precipitated a loss of motivation and faith within the army, coupled with a crisis of trust.

At the end of World War I, the nations of the world joined under the banner of President Wilson in forming the League of Nations, so that there would never again be a world war. Following the Second World War, leaders of western nations resolved that they would never again permit a monstrous demagogue like Hitler to come to power and formed the United Nations.

After 9-11, everyone said it was a new world and a new age and we will never again allow terror to wreak mayhem of such magnitude. President Bush declared a new doctrine for fighting the axis of evil and Americans and members of other freedom loving nations supported him. However, wars are not won overnight and people weaned on television specials quickly lose patience if the battle is not over and done with quickly. Americans and Britons now tell pollsters they are fed up with the war in Iraq and want to elect leaders who oppose this war.

Today, the president of Iran mocks the Holocaust, denies it ever happened and lets everyone know that he is serious about wiping Israel off the face of the earth. And neither Israel nor the United Nations nor President Bush or anyone else is prepared to stop him. The ruach shtus seems to have invaded everywhere, infecting people large and small, inflicting all types of damage.

We live in a surreal time. The world is so technologically advanced in so many ways, yet leaders of the most primitive and backward nations have their fingers on the trigger, ready to destroy the planet. Who can stop them?

The words of Rav Chaim Vital on this topic, largely unknown among the public until recently, speak with immediacy and urgency about our own times.

In his Sefer Eitz Hadaas Tov, Tehillim 124, the disciple of the Arizal writes, “There are four exiles, Bovel, Modai, Yovon and Edom, but at the end of days, Yisroel will be in golus Yishmael as is brought in Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer and in Midrashim and in the Sefer Hazohar at the end of Parshas Lech lecho… This exile will be more difficult than the others. This is why his name is Yishmoel, because Yisroel will cry out during that golus, and Hashem will listen and respond to them, Yishma El V’ya’aneim.

“Yishmael will rule over the world and over Yisroel… and attempt to wipe out the name of Yisroel from under the sky as if it never existed… They will cause Yisroel great tzaros, the likes of which have never before been seen.”

The posuk in Tehillim in which Dovid Hamelech says, “Lulei Hashem shehoyah lonu bekum aleinu odom, azai chaim bela’unu,” alludes to this era. “If Hashem had not been with us when they rose against us, we would have been swallowed up alive.”

Rav Chaim Vital writes that b’acharis hayomim, during the period of the end of days leading up to the arrival of Moshiach, when the Arabs will dominate the world, the Jews will be at their wits’ end. They will have no choice other than to cry out to Hashem and He will answer them. “We will have no hope or recourse other than our trust in Hakadosh Boruch Hu that he will save us from their evil hands.”

The nevuah, that the Jews will have no one to turn to help them out of their predicament, clearly appears to be addressing our own times. Had you looked at that p’shat from Rav Chaim Vital six months ago, you might not have viewed it as applicable to our own days. You would have protested, “The armies of the world would stop these murderers, America will never permit it to happen; Israel’s army would step in and wipe them out.”

But now, when you hear those words of Rav Chaim Vital, they resonate with the immediacy of today’s news. We indeed have nowhere and no one to turn to other than Avinu Shebashomayim.

The whole world stands by as the Bnei Yishmael increase their power and threaten murderous acts against the Bnei Yisroel. They want to respond, but it appears as if their ability to do so is frozen. Israel is controlled by people proven to be incapable. The Israeli army is saddled with its own deficiencies. The American army is bogged down in a war in Iraq as Americans increasingly lose their will to wage war against those who seek to destroy their way of life.

There is only one solution, and as the days pass, it becomes clearer to all what that is: only G-d can help us overcome this deadly foe.

What can we do to merit the Divine intervention, deliverance from the clutches of evil, and the ultimate redemption?

This week’s parsha of Ki Savo provides the answer when it states in perek 28 posuk 1 that if we will adhere to all the mitzvos we were commanded by G-d and follow His word, we will merit to be ascendant over all the other nations.

It is interesting to note that this posuk is preceded by the one which states, “Arur asher lo yokim es divrei haTorah hazos - Cursed shall be the one who does not uphold [raise] the Torah.”

The Ramban brings the Yerushalmi in Sotah (7:4) that this curse is referring to people who are in a position to influence others to come closer to Torah and to support Torah and fail to do so. Anyone who shirks his responsibility is included in this arur. Even if the person is a complete tzaddik in everything he does, if he could have drawn others closer to the holiness and truth of Torah but doesn’t, he is cursed.

The Chofetz Chaim would repeat this Ramban and strengthen its message by quoting the Gemara in Shabbos (54), that one who has the ability to protest against the wrongful actions of the people of his town and doesn’t do so gets caught up in their sins. One who reproaches his fellows and brings them to the right path, thereby strengthening kevod Shomayim, is showered with the brachos that were delivered in this week’s parsha on Har Gerizim.

He would make the point that there is no better brocha than that. And thus everyone should use whatever abilities they have to help build Torah. If Hashem blessed someone with money, then he should use it to build yeshivos for the study of Torah. If he is blessed with oratorical skills, he should use them to raise money for yeshivos and for other Torah causes. He should speak out against practices that cause a weakening of our religion.

As the Yom Hadin approaches, we all seek out sources of merit and brocha to be zoche in din and be inscribed in the book of tzaddikim. The Ramban informs us that it is not sufficient to be a tzaddik gomur, but we must also use our faculties to help strengthen and spread Torah.

As the world spins out of control and our eternal enemies gird themselves with weapons capable of causing colossal damage, we realize that there is no one we can depend on to protect us other than Hashem. We seek sources of merit for ourselves and to be included with those the posuk calls boruch, the blessed ones.

We require extra brocha to vanquish the ever-present ruach shtus and remove us from falling, G-d forbid, into the clutches of those who are arur.

We are all blessed with different strengths and abilities which we must use for worthwhile purposes. Hashem made each of us differently for a reason and that is because it takes the varied capabilities of a group of individuals to build a community and strengthen a nation.

Let us all follow the admonition of the Chofetz Chaim and use our kochos to their full potential to increase the study and support of Torah. Let us find more time to learn, and seek out worthy causes to support with increased generosity and wholeheartedness. Let us inspire others to do the same. Let us use the power of speech to spread leshon tov and not leshon horah. And let us also seek to do away with some of the evil which pervades our world.

Let us be ever vigilant in our behavior, remaining loyal to Shulchan Aruch and to what we know is true and proper. Let us maintain the strength of character and purpose necessary to remain upstanding in a tipsy world.

May these activities bring us abundant merit in the final weeks before Rosh Hashanah so that we earn the blessing of a year of success, good health, parnassa, nachas and peace.


Post a Comment

<< Home