Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “When You Go Out … You Shall Serve Hashem” - (Notes for a Speech in 1948) - From Harabbanut V’hamedinah, pp. 308-9
The test that the nation is facing now is not just how it will stand up to invading armies, but also and mainly how it will fare in the internal, spiritual battle. Will the political renewal and independence include spiritual reawakening and freedom from dependence on foreign factors? In this area, the struggle is harder. Whereas the external enemy is clearly discernable and one naturally protects himself from the palpable danger, the inner enemy is disguised in the cloak of national dedication, securing key positions. He is in the forefront of the fight for physical independence even as he destroys the real foundations and key to our survival, the spiritual ones. Bereishit ends off with the secret code of pakod pakadti, the sign of the true liberator. Not anyone who claims to be a liberator is one.
False saviors with flashy slogans are often more dangerous than the servitude itself. They know how to disguise themselves, speak smoothly, inspire, and enlist the masses. It requires bravery and wisdom to avoid being swept up by the excitement and discern between a true and a false liberator. Bnei Yisrael were not told how to discern between a true and false liberation but liberator. Hashem told Moshe: “This is for you the sign: when you take the nation out of Egypt you shall serve Hashem on this mountain” (Shemot 3:12). The liberator must not attribute success to his talents but deepen the belief that the salvation is based on the nation’s eternal foundations, those connected to the Creator. Victory should not cause the people to lose the true perspective. “When you take the nation out”- that is the time to approach Mt. Sinai and accept the Torah, not to copy the nations or learn from the witchcraft of Egypt.
When Egypt was defeated, Egyptian culture and idolatry were also put down. They had to realize that the Israelites’ liberation at a time of spiritual low was not just a physical victory but one of the spirit, enabled by the Divine Providence that administers justice in the world. The accepting of the Torah was part of the liberation itself.
The state that must be formed cannot be the Land of the Philistines or the Land of Cana’an. It must be the Land of Israel, the Land of a special, chosen nation with ideals that shape its political course. It must not be guided by the prospect of economic gain or self-interest but on spiritual values. Social planning must be based on a belief in Divine Providence. It must accept the equality of its citizens and not allow there to be classes that subjugate others. It should be comprised of a constituency of “a nation of kohanim,” where all act in a dedicated manner as if in the Beit Hamikdash. This is the liberator and the liberation.
People ask us: why do you want laws that are thousands of years old? We ask in return: how did we succeed in returning to the Land after thousands of years of exile? How did we survive the persecution of nations that hate us? Why did we feel a need to remain distinct all of those years if not to preserve that which makes us unique, the values that are inextricably linked to those old laws? Truth is eternal and immutable, as are the Divine laws that emerge from that truth. It is our pride that the sparks of true Jewish culture are that which enabled the Europeans to reach their cultural, spiritual attainments. We must maintain pride in that which is authentically our legacy at this decisive, formative time.
“In the secret places, my soul will cry because of pride”- for the pride of Israel that was taken from it and given to the nations of the world” (Chagiga 5b). The nations are proud of their sword and the Jews do not know how to be proud of their Torah. Rather we are happy if we pick up some of Eisav’s capabilities. That is wrong. While Yaakov knew how to use the sword when he needed to, he also knew that “with my sword and bow” refers to prayers and requests (Bereishit 49:22 with Unkelus).
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z"l.
May their memory be a blessing!