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Parsha Pearls: Shavuos

The Severity of an Oath
The Danger of the Zionist Language
Living in the Holy Land During Exile

Do not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain, for Hashem will not acquit anyone who takes His name in vain. (Shemos 20:7)

The Gemora in Shevuos (39a) says that before administering an oath, the beis din warns the person, “You must know that the entire world trembled when the Holy One, blessed is He, said on Mount Sinai, Do not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain. Regarding all sins in the Torah it states, ‘He will acquit’ (Shemos 34:7) but here it says, ‘He will not acquit.’ And for all the sins in the Torah, the sinner himself is punished; but here the sinner and his family are punished…and for all the sins in the Torah the sinner himself is punished, but here both the sinner and the entire world are punished. For all the sins in the Torah, if the sinner has a merit, he is allowed to continue unpunished for two or three generations, but here he is punished right away.”

The Ibn Ezra explains that when one swears, he is comparing his words to Hashem, saying that just as Hashem is true, the person’s words are true. This is why violating an oath is such a severe offense – it is as if he is denying Hashem. The Ibn Ezra also points out several instances when people were punished severely – seemingly unfairly – for the violation of an oath. We find (Shoftim 21:5) that when the Jewish people made a collective oath at the war over the concubine at Givah, and the residents of Yavesh Gilad violated the oath and did not participate in the war, they were killed men, women and children - a punishment not given even for the profaning of Shabbos. We also find (Shmuel I 14:44) that Shaul wanted to kill his son Yonasan for violating the oath not to eat on the day of the battle, although Yonasan had not known about the oath when he ate. And we find (Shmuel II 21:1) that Hashem brought a famine to the land on account of Shaul, who violated the oath of the Jewish leaders who had sworn to keep the Givonim alive and employ them as woodchoppers and water carriers. The famine only went away after Dovid allowed the Givonim to kill seven members of Shaul’s family. And Shlomo Hamelech killed Shimi ben Geira for violating his oath (Melachim I 2:46) not to leave Jerusalem.

In Gittin 35a the Gemora tells the story of a man who deposited a gold coin with a widow, and she hid it in a jar of flour. Later she baked a loaf of bread from that flour and gave it to a poor man. When the owner came back to pick up his coin, she had forgotten about the whole story, and she swore, “May poison kill one of my sons if I have benefited from your coin at all!” A short time later, one of her sons died. The Sages said: If one who swore truthfully (i.e. thinking it was the truth) was punished so severely, all the more so one who swears falsely! And therefore the Sages discontinued the practice of letting a widow swear in order to collect her kesubah. Tosafos explains that although one who accidentally utters a false oath is usually exempt from punishment, in this case the widow should have been more careful to remember where she put the coin. An oath is not something to play around with!

And it came to pass in the days of the judging of the judges, that there was a famine in the land, and a man went out from Beis Lechem of Yehuda to sojourn in the fields of Moav, he and his wife and his two sons… and the man's name was Elimelech… and Elimelech died… (Rus 1:1-3)

The Gemora (Bava Basra 15b) explains the words "the judging of the judges" to mean that it was a generation that judged its judges – the judges themselves were sinners, and when they rebuked a person for a sin he could retort that they themselves had committed greater sins.

Based on this, Rabbi Shmuel ben Yitzchak Uzeda (a student of the Arizal and author of Midrash Shmuel) in his work Igeres Shmuel explains the sin of Elimelech for which he was punished by death. Elimelech could have been forgiven for leaving Eretz Yisroel because of the famine. But the accusation against him was that he did not leave earlier, due to the wickedness of his neighbors. This is similar to what Chazal say (Sanhedrin 103b) about the war over the concubine at Giv'ah, that Hashem said to the tribes who went to war against Binyamin: "You are protesting for the honor of a human being, who was attacked by the men of Binyamin, but you did not protest for My honor, when Micha made his idol!" And that is why the tribes lost on the first two days of battle. Similarly, Hashem said to Elimelech, "For My honor, to get away from the wicked leaders, you did not leave Eretz Yisroel, but for your own honor and comfort, to get away from the famine, you left!"

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In our time, Jews loyal to the Torah living in Eretz Yisroel are challenged not only by neighbors who are sinners, but by neighbors who are heretics. The Gemora says, "A person should live in Eretz Yisroel even in a city of mostly gentile idolaters, rather than in other lands, even in a city that is mostly Jewish." (Kesubos 110b) The word "even" means that this is the limit, but more than that – i.e. something worse than gentile idolaters - is not permitted. Jewish heretics are worse than gentile idolaters, "for they afflict Israel and lead the people astray from following Hashem.” (Rambam, Laws of Idolatry 10:1) A person is naturally more influenced by one of his own kind. (See Vayikra, p. ??.) Furthermore, the evil inclination for idolatry was slaughtered long ago by the Men of the Great Assembly (Yuma 69b), whereas heresy remains a strong attraction (see Avodah Zarah 27b). One must distance himself more from heresy than from idolatry, as it says (Shabbos 116b): "Even if one is being pursued by a murderer or a poisonous snake, he may enter a house of idol worship but not a house of heretics, for the gentiles were never taught the truth, whereas the heretics are Jews who learned Torah and then denied it." Therefore, the Gemora in Kesubos does not mean that one should live in a city of mostly heretics. (Vayoel Moshe 2:33; see also Parsha Pearls on Toldos for a similar quotation from the Brisker Rov.)

And this was the old practice in Israel, on redemption and substitution, to seal any deal, one man would pull off his shoe and give it to the other. (Rus 4:7)

The Midrash says that there is a hint in the words “on redemption and substitution” to the sin of the golden calf: Originally, standing at the shores of the sea after the Egyptians had drowned, the Jewish people gave praise over the redemption; “but now they give praise over a substitute.” And so it states (Tehillim 106:20), “And they substituted their glory with an image of an ox eating grass.”

The Midrash seems to say that the worshippers of the golden calf gave praise to Hashem over it, just as they praised Him at the sea. This can be understood according to the Ramban (on Shemos 32:1,4), who writes that the Jewish people did not intend the calf as a replacement for Hashem, but as a leader to replace Moshe. Thus they decided to make it only after thinking that Moshe had died, and as soon as Moshe returned they allowed him to destroy it without protest. This, concludes the Ramban, is the meaning the verse “And they substituted their glory with an image of an ox eating grass.” They did not substitute the calf for Hashem, but for the glory of Hashem. They thought that when they said, “This is your G-d, O Israel, Who brought you out of the Land of Egypt” they were giving glory to Hashem, but actually they were giving honor to the false calf, which would eventually lead to real idol worship.

But why does the Midrash say that "now they give praise over a substitute," when the golden calf does not exist now, but was destroyed long ago? This is a hint that just as this bitter substitution was done with the golden calf, so it is likely to happen again in future generations. This is what we see in our own time: some Jews praise the Zionist state, thinking that thereby they are giving glory to Hashem. In fact, they are substituting a false redemption for the true redemption, and glorifying something that is actually a great sin and a danger to the Jewish people. (Al Hageulah V'al Hatemurah, pp. 3-6)

It is significant that these words are written in Megillas Rus, the story of the ancestry of Dovid Hamelech and Moshiach. On the level of pshat (the simple meaning of the words), the many references to "geulah" refer to Boaz buying back the ancestral field and marrying Rus. But they are also hints at the future redemption - see Tikunei Zohar 22b on Rus 3:13. Thus we can reapply the words of the Midrash to the future redemption: Originally, waiting in exile, the Jewish people gave praise over the redemption for which they hoped, saying, "Blessed are You, Hashem, Who builds Jerusalem, Who causes the pride of redemption to sprout, Who returns His presence to Zion." But now they give praise over the substitute for the redemption, the Zionist state!

There are those who claim that the Zionist state is not a substitute for redemption, but simply another stage in the exile of the Jewish people. Such people would do well to look at the Midrash on Shir Hashirim 2:7, where it says that the Jewish people were foresworn not to go up as a wall from exile, for "if so, why does the Melech Hamoshiach come?" The Maharzu and the Yefei Kol explain that gathering in the Jews to Eretz Yisroel is Moshiach's job, and it is not for us to do it in advance.

They should also look at the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 157:3: "A Jew may not say he is a gentile to avoid being killed." The Tur explains the reason: "For by saying he is a gentile he is agreeing to their religion and thus denying the basic principles of Judaism." We see that although the Jew has no intention at all of denying a principle of Judaism, and he is only saying it out of fear for his life, yet since he would be causing the gentiles to think he is agreeing to their religion, he may not do it. Here too, even if someone has no intent of denying the coming of Moshiach and replacing Hashem's redemption with a man-made substitute, yet since to the uneducated and gentile world he appears to be doing just that, it is forbidden. (Vayoel Moshe 1:76)

And G-d spoke all these words, saying…” (Shemos 20:1)

The Gemara (Berachos 12a) says that the kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash used to say Aseres Hadibros (the Ten Utterances) every morning. This custom, the Gemara tells us, was at one time followed in all synagogues outside the Beis Hamikdash, but Chazal put a stop to it because of “the argument of the heretics.” These heretics would point to the recital of the Aseres Hadibros, which the Jews heard directly from Hashem, as proof that the rest of the Torah, which came to us through Moshe Rabbeinu, was not true.

The Aseres Hadibros were recited daily because they contained the foundations of Judaism (Rambam, Commentary to the Mishnah, Tamid 5:1). The Yerushalmi (Berachos 1:5) says that the whole reason why G-d commanded us to say Shema every morning was because it contains references to each of the basic principles in the Aseres Hadibros. Yet Chazal forbade the public reading of the Aseres Hadibros themselves, because stopping the spread of heresy was more important than anything else.

Similarly, the Gemara says that if a heretic wrote a Sefer Torah, even if he wrote every word correctly, it must be burnt (Gittin 45b). The Rambam (Yesodei Hatorah 6:8) explains that although destroying holy scriptures and the name of Hashem is usually a great sin, in this case it is permitted because the heretic does not believe in the holiness of Hashem’s name and writes it as if it were any other word. And, the Rambam continues, not only is it permitted to burn this Sefer Torah, but it is an obligation to do so, in order not to leave any record of the heretics or their actions.

If this is true of a Sefer Torah written perfectly, how much more is it true of the Modern Hebrew language invented by the Zionists. Even if they had changed nothing at all of the original Hebrew language, it would be forbidden to speak it, since it was the Zionist heretics who started the practice of speaking it. All the more so now that they have made tremendous changes in the vocabulary, grammar and style of the language. Modern Hebrew was invented to make it easy to translate word-for-word from European languages into Hebrew and vice versa. The true Holy Tongue has its own character, its own life and its own expressions. It is the language of Hashem, in which every word comes directly from the words of Hashem to a prophet (Chasam Sofer on Bereishis 11:1). It is language which, by its limited vocabulary, teaches a Jew to speak in a holy way, as befits a servant of Hashem (Rambam, quoted by Ramban on Shemos 30:13). But the Zionists have butchered it and molded it to fit exactly word-for-word with the European languages. The Jew who writes in true Lashon Hakodesh expresses pure Jewish thought and pure Torah views on life, but the Zionist speaks like a gentile under the thin disguise of a new language. Zionist Hebrew is nothing but English in translation.

The Zionists made their new language conform to European languages in several ways. First of all, they constructed words from existing Lashon Hakodesh forms to refer to objects and concepts that were recently invented or discovered, such as clock, car, microphone, address, airplane, minute and tomato. Secondly, they constructed words from existing Lashon Hakodesh forms to match a foreign expression or term even in cases where no new concept was involved, such as their words for age, personal, despite, interesting, problem, calendar date and office. Thirdly, they borrowed words from other languages for objects or concepts that existed already in the past and did not need a new word, such as citation, actual, history and organization.

And they were not satisfied with merely modeling the language after foreign languages. They made it much worse than foreign languages by taking existing words from the Tanach and other holy sources and giving them totally new meanings. It is regarding these kinds of changes that one historian of the Modern Hebrew language wrote that it was created with the intention “to fight against religious Jews.” Examples are their words for electricity, tie (in a game), furniture, wedding hall and fairytale.

Let us take the example of electricity. In the Haftarah for the first day of Shavuos we read the vision of Yechezkel, the Maaseh Merkavah, one of the most esoteric and difficult chapters of the Nevi’im. The reason we read it on Shavuos is because Yechezkel’s vision was similar to what the Jewish people saw at the Giving of the Torah at Sinai (Rashi on Megillah 31a). The Mishnah rules that a sage who understands the secrets of Maaseh Merkavah may not teach them even to a single student, unless that student is wise enough to understand it on his own (Chagigah 11b).

Of all the words used by Yechezkel to describe what he saw, perhaps the one most shrouded in mystery is the word “chashmal,” which appears two times in our Haftarah. The Gemara (Chagigah 13a) gives two explanations: angels of fire that speak, or angels that are sometimes silent (chash) and sometimes speak (memalelos). Still, the Gemara makes it clear that the meaning of this word is too deep for a human being to fathom. The Gemara tells of a child who was learning Yechezkel in cheder and understood the meaning of chashmal, whereupon a fire came out from the chashmal and burned him up. After this incident, the Sages felt that the Book of Yechezkel was too dangerous, and they were ready to remove it from the Tanach and hide it away. But Chananya ben Chizkiya said to them, “Not everyone is as wise as this child.”

On the second place where the word occurs (1:27), Rashi says something that he says in no other place: “It is not permitted to think about this verse.”

Yet thanks to the Zionists, every Jewish child and adult who speaks Modern Hebrew uses this holy word many times a day, for the most mundane and common thing. The word that once made every Jew tremble with Yiras Shomayim has become a household term used to refer to lights, radios, ovens and washing machines. When a Jew who has been exposed to the Zionist language studies Yechezkel, he misses the point.

In Uvdos Vehanhagos Leveis Brisk (v. 4, p. 190) we read that the Brisker Rav once said, “The Zionists’ use of this word from Yechezkel shows that they deny the meaning and existence of that holy concept mentioned by the prophet Yechezkel.”

The Brisker Rav pointed out many other falsifications of the Holy Tongue committed by the Zionists, and his blood would boil with anger whenever he heard someone speak a word or expression of Modern Hebrew. When he spoke to Bnei Torah who did not understand Yiddish, he would speak in Lashon Hakodesh with the Ashkenazic pronunciation, but never in Modern Hebrew. He said, “The motive of those who introduced Modern Hebrew was to create a language barrier between the younger generation and the older generation, so that each one should not understand the other.”

And it came to pass in the days of the judging of the judges, that there was a famine in the land, and a man went out from Beis Lechem of Yehuda to sojourn in the fields of Moav, he and his wife and his two sons… and the man's name was Elimelech… and Elimelech died… (Rus 1:1-3)

The Gemara in Bava Basra 91a says, "One may not go out from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz Laaretz unless the price of wheat rises to two measures for one sela. Rabbi Shimon said: When does this apply? Only when he cannot afford it, but if he can afford it, even if the price becomes one measure for a sela he should not leave. And so Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai used to say: Elimelech, Machlon and Kilyon were gedolei hador and wealthy philanthropists, so why were they punished? Because they went out from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz Laaretz."

The Rashbam comments: "One may not go out from Eretz Yisroel to Chutz Laaretz - because he exempts himself from the mitzvos (i.e. those mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel)." We see here that the Rashbam did not hold like the Ramban, who counts living in Eretz Yisroel as one of the 613 mitzvos. That is why he was unable to explain simply that one may not leave Eretz Yisroel because this would be neglecting the mitzvah to live there. Rather, he gives the reason that one is exempting himself from the mitzvos.

The mekubal Rabbi Avraham Azulai (1570-1643), writes in his work Chesed L'avraham, Mayan 3 Nahar 22: "You must know that we have a tradition that on the day when moshiach will arrive in Eretz Yisroel with the ingathered Jews, he will find there seven thousand Jews." He goes on to say that after the coming of moshiach, those seven thousand Jews will reach a higher spiritual level than everyone else. When the ingathered Jews complain about this, moshiach will reply, "Hashem rewards people measure for measure. They risked their lives and subjected themselves to deprivation to come here and lead spiritual lives; therefore Hashem rewards them with a high spiritual level. You put your body and your possessions first and stayed in Chutz Laaretz; therefore your reward will be material wealth."

On many occasions the Satmar Rebbe would show this Chesed L'avraham to people and say, "I tremble when I read this. From all the millions of Jews who are there now, only seven thousand will be left!" (Yishai Buchinger, Zichronos Fun Heiligen Satmarer Rebben, pp. 46-47)

We must ask: it does not seem like the Chesed L'avraham is saying that there will be some massive expulsion that will leave only seven thousand Jews in Eretz Yisroel. If that would be the case, why would the Jews of Chutz Laaretz be to blame for not living in Eretz Yisroel? They tried to live there and were expelled! Furthermore, the Chesed L'avraham sounds like he is encouraging people to live in Eretz Yisroel, saying that those who live there during exile will get a special reward. Why then would he write that Hashem will bring a disaster, chas veshalom, upon the vast majority of the Jews living there?

The answer is that he does not necessarily mean there will be an expulsion or a disaster. Rather, he means that the Jews who will be rewarded for shunning materialism and living in Eretz Yisroel are only those few who want to live there no matter who is in power. But the vast majority of the millions living there today are only willing to live there because of the existence of the Zionist state and the supposed protection and opportunities it affords. When it reverts back to being a gentile country as it was in past centuries, these people, in the best case scenario, will leave of their own accord. Then, when moshiach comes he will find only seven thousand Jews in Eretz Yisroel, and he will tell the rest: By opting not to live a deprived but spiritual life in Eretz Yisroel under the gentiles, you placed your bodies and wealth higher than your souls.