|The Torah Connection: Re’eh 5771|
|Written by Rabbi Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg|
“If there should stand up in your midst a prophet … and he will produce to you a sign or miracle, and the sign and miracle indeed happens of which he speaks to you saying, ‘Let us follow other gods that you did not know and we shall worship them.’ Do not hearken to the words of that prophet … for Hashem, your G-d is testing you …”
that at the beginning of the second Bais Hamikdosh (Temple) the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) beseeched Hashem to rid them of the lust for idol worship.
It was this lust that had destroyed the first Bais Hamikdosh. Even now it was still among them. They fasted three days and nights. “We do not want it (the temptation) nor the reward for overcoming it.”
Their wish was granted and the likeness of a fiery lion cub emerged from the Kodshei Hakodoshim (Holy of Holies) and they subdued it.
Nevertheless, since this world is where one must work to overcome one’s temptations, a new inclination came into being, that of atheism. As the Rambam states, Jewish atheism first got a foothold in the days of the second Bais Hamikdosh.
“Lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others …”
“Once a person leaves Torah he will automatically go and cleave to idolatry.”
Reb Elchonon Wasserman zt”l wrote
“that what Chazal (the Sages) wrote, ‘cleave to idolatry’ that was in the days before the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah abolished idolatry. However, now an evil has sprung up worse than idolatry and this is atheism.” Therefore, the words of the Sifri today would apply to atheism.
Today’s False Prophets
false prophets are the lures and enchantments of false ideologies and “isms,” starting with Hellenism (during the second Bais Hamikdosh). The lure of the potential of human reason and culture ensnared many Jews much as the false prophets of previous times had. Everything has its spring and summer when people become enchanted by the blossoms and greenery. However, inevitably there follows the fall and winter and it is time for a new false prophet.
Mark Twain Again
A few weeks ago I brought a short quote from Mark Twain regarding the immortality of the Jew.
I’m going to quote some more of it which stresses the above point.
“The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
“… all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.” Spring, summer, fall, winter.
It’s actually a posuk. “And behold Hashem was passing, and a great, powerful wind, smashing mountains and breaking rocks, went before Hashem. Hashem is not in the wind! After the wind came an earthquake. Hashem is not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. Hashem is not in the fire. After the fire came a still thin sound.”
Wind, earthquake, fire – sound, splendor, torches. Hashem is not in these but with the immortal Jew.
These nevi’ei sheker of false ideologies often had a tremendous influence on Jews, especially the young. Not only that, but many of them became part of the hierarchy of these ideologies, if not from the actual leaders. “Wherever they go, in exile they become the princes of their masters.”
“…somuni netaroh es hacromim carmi sheli lo notarti”
(They made me keeper of the vineyards of idols but the vineyard of my own true G-d I did not keep).
We have endeavored until now to show (based on the words of Reb Elchonon and the Pachad Yitzchok) that the concept of the false prophet and his seeming early successes (miracles, etc.) during his “spring” and “summer” are still alive and well. Until now the “prophecies” were of self-aggrandizement or utopias (e.g. communism). However, there is a much more sinister “prophecy” which is directed at and against the Jewish people themselves.
The Stranger From a Far-Away Land
The following is a ma’mar in and of itself (and a long one at that) which is written up elsewhere. We cannot bring down all the points and reasons upon which the various premises are built. Some, of course, will be given.
“V’omar hador ho’acharon b’neichem asher yokumu mei’achareichem v’hanochri asher yovo mei’eretz rechokah … v’omru kol hagoyim …”
generation will say – your children who will arise from
after you and the stranger who will come from a far-away land … and all the nations will say (not ask but say – their question is hypothetical. They “know” the answer), “Why did Hashem do so to this land; why this wrathfulness of great anger? And they will say … they (the Jews) went and served the gods of others … Hashem removed them … with anger, with wrath…”
The basic answer that the nations will give is that whatever happened to the Jews was their own fault. (See there in the following verses.)
The usual way of understanding these pesukim (verses) is of a Marco Polo type of traveler who visits Eretz Yisroel and that the Torah is giving us, so to speak, a proof of what it had said before in the Parshah. But does the Torah need a yehudoh v’od l’kroh (an outside proof to what it just said)? There are other questions as well.
A Different Understanding
Therefore, a different understanding seems to be in order. It is based to a large extent on words of the Pachad Yitzchok on Purim as will be indicated. The lines above are not a “proof” of the Torah’s chastisement but a part and extension of it. It is the “blame the Jew,” “the Jewish Problem” syndrome of our exile.
The “stranger from a far-away land” is not an individual but a nation. What indeed is his connection to “your children who have turned away from your ways?” Why at the beginning is he called in the singular – the stranger – who asks (he doesn’t really ask – the wording of his question is “v’omar,” and he will say, the question is rhetorical) and then the Torah states, “All the nations will say” (in the plural)?
From a Far Away Land
Which nation then is the stranger from a far away land? See the Ramban
on the posuk
“Hashem will carry against you a nation from afar …” who comments that this means Rome (Edom) “who are very far from you.” Thus the stranger from a far away land is Edom (Rome).
Sidol Melech Goyim – Sidol (A Name), the King of Many Nations
See the Pachad Yitzchok
who brings the Chazal
that the four kings who fought against Avrohom
represent the four Jewish exiles. The fourth king (representing the fourth exile) was Sidol Melech Goyim (who was the king over many nations). Chazal state that this represents Edom, the fourth (today’s) exile who sends trunya, hate letters (regarding the Jews) to all the nations.
See in the Pachad Yitzchok
that Chazal, therefore, sometimes use the expression umos ha’olam (nations of the world) as an appellation for Edom. Therefore, the posuk first states that the “stranger” says and then “all the nations” will say – because of the trunya that Edom sends them.
From You Against You
“Those who hate you will subjugate you …”
In this case those who hate you does not mean those of the nations but rather “I will raise against you from your own” (other Jews).
The Pachad Yitzchok
states that this phenomenon of Jew siding with enemies of the Jews against the Jews first started with the misyavnim (Greek sympathizers).
Ikvesa D’Meshicha (The Steps of Moshiach)
Indeed this phenomenon of Jews slandering, instigating against and actively working against the Jewish people and their ideals will increase before the coming of Moshiach.
“The Yevsektsia (the Jewish section of the Communist Party) was ruthless and fanatical in its treatment of Jewish society and Judaism.” I used to think that assimilation was ground zero for a Jew. Now we have the phenomenon of minus ground zero – Jews who are Arabists. This is the connection of “the last generation” (the generation of Ikvesa D’Meshicha
) with the stranger from a far away land. The trunya (the letters of hate) which are sent to all the nations – Israel is also a nation. They, therefore, had and have an effect especially in the Ikvesa D’Meshicha that “your children who have turned from following you” and the “stranger” speak with one voice. “The Jews are the sinners.” What the “sins” are can change from country to country, from generation to generation.
Without getting into politics, this is what Herzl and the early Zionists failed to understand. They believed the “strangers” that Jews are parasites that sponge off of and take advantage of their host countries. “Get out of our land.” Ergo the solution – go back and rebuild our own land. We will be our own nation. What are they saying today? “Get out of our land. You are exploiting the ‘poor’ Arabs.”
When I was a child we had a next door non-Jewish neighbor who quite often drank more than he could handle. At those times he would frequently yell out, “Jews, go back to Jerusalem where you belong.” What are they saying today? It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. These are the proclamations of the false prophets of the last two thousand years – against the Jew as Jew. What the specific claim at any given time is doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is “You are a Jew.”
Are They Not?
A short question that comes to me every year when reading this Parshah. “It will be when Hashem, your Gd, brings you to the land … then you will deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, far in the direction …”
What is the purpose of the question form – “are they not on the other side of the Jordan?” Why not a statement – “They are on the other side of the Jordan.” Evidently it’s a form of speech. Yet everything in the Torah has a reason. Indeed, what does a question form teach us more than an affirmative statement?
1 Deuteronomy 13:24
2 69b; see also Sanhedrin 64a.
3 Idol worship was not basically a conceptual phenomenon but a lust.
4 Desires and temptations are given in order to overcome them and gain reward for Olam Haboh. Here, since so many gave in to it, they wanted to be rid of it. A Talmudical allegory is the expression regarding bees, “not your sting and not your honey.”
5 Why from all places the Kodshei Hakodoshim where, as it were, Hashem Himself resides in this world? To show that everything, even the seeming antithesis of Hashem, comes from Hashem. Nothing can exist without His Will.
6 Deuteronomy 11:16
7 Sifrei Eikev Omud 143
8 There is no in between. However, it may not be immediately noticeable. An allegory – a fork in the road. At first both directions are only inches apart. They are still “together.” However, down the road one turns east and the other west. Rebi U’Mori, the Mashgiach, Horav Dovid Kronglas zt”l used to say “Eb der Tatte iz a modeh bemiktzas iz der zun a kofer bakol.” (If the father strays a little, the son will go all the way.)
9 Koveitz Ma’amorim – A Letter to the Young Israel Summer 1939; See also Pachad Yitzchok Chanukah Ma’amar 10 p. 66-70, “Today’s idolatry is atheism.”
10 After the fall of idolatry.
11 Concerning the Jews, Harpers Magazine, September 1899
12 I Kings 19:11-12
13 Sanhedrin 104a,b; Pesachim 49b
14 Song of Songs 1:6
15 For an account of the tremendous lure communism had for Jewish youth at the beginning of the twentieth century, see “Once Upon a Shtetl” by Rabbi Chaim Shapiro p. 102-103 and p. 238-244.
16 It is alluded to, for example, in Isaiah 53. We have gone through it and explained it elsewhere but due to the dictates of space limitations cannot do so now.
17 Deuteronomy – Parshas Nitzavim 29:21-3
18 Acharon can be translated as “later” or “last.” We are translating it here as last.
19 The posuk (verse) does not say “achareichem” which would mean after you, i.e. in your footsteps, but “mei’achareichem,” from after you. This wording is used in Torah to designate children who do not follow in the ways of their parents.
20 Hypocritical righteous indignation. As the Or Hachaim Hakodosh states (Deuteronomy 32:27), the nations worshipped idols more than the Jews did.
21 Leviticus 26:16
22 Deuteronomy 28:49
23 Purim Inyan 35
24 See also Rabeinu B’Chaya Genesis 14:1
25 Genesis 14:9-15
26 The first Edomite to do this was Homon who sent out his edicts to all the nations of the empire.
27 The so called “Protocols” have been a best seller in Japan; Mein Kampf is a current best seller in India and, of course, both are in vogue in the Moslem countries.
28 Ibid s’if 5 that Chazal there sometimes use the expression umos ha’olam (nations of the world) for Edom.
29 Leviticus 26:17
30 Sifroh omud 226
31 Chanukah Ma’amorim 5, 6
32 Sanhedrin 97a
33 The generation of Ikvesa D’Meshicha is not your normal 20-30 year generation. It means the last time period starting around 1800. As the years go by, the steps get louder and louder.
34 Deuteronomy 11:29-30