Thursday, December 1, 2016


Rav Podolsky z"l 

"Mazel Tov! Twin boys!" shrieked the excited midwife. "May you merit to raise them to Torah, Chuppah, and good deeds!"

Wouldn't we expect twins to grow up to be just about the same? Especially since these particular twins grew up in precisely the same environment. They had the same rebbe -- their father Yitzchak. They learned in the same Bais Medrash. Most undoubtedly they were also chavrusos (as good chavrusos were hard to come by in those days). So how is it that they developed so radically differently from one another? Yaakov grew into one of the pillars of the universe, the third in the tripod that forms the basis of Hashem's chosen nation, while Esav gained notoiiety as the exemplar of evil, the very antithesis of Hashem's plan for Creation.

And let us not think that these differences were apparent already at birth. "And they grew up -- the whole time they were young, they were indistinguishable in their deeds, and no one could discern what kind of personalities they had (Rashi v. 27)." So what happened?

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, in his classic elucidation of the matter of Ba'al Pe'or, develops a principle that can assist us in understanding our quandary. "Make a fence around the Torah (Avos 1:1)." To the extent that a person maintains control over his actions -- fences them in, so to speak -- so is he safeguarded against spiritual ruination, and guided in the direction of Truth. From control stems growth. Focusing one's energies serves to achieve a unified life-goal.

This can be likened to a nuclear reactor. Nuclear energy, when properly harnessed and monitored, can provide useful electricity for millions of homes. But one must be careful to keep it under tight control. When a crack appears in the reactor wall, however, then all of the positive worth of the reactor becomes instantly disqualified, as nuclear radiation threatens the well-being of countless innocent civilians. The secret to success is in the control.

So too, when a person allows a crack in his fortress of spirituality, when he allows even a single deviation from the Path of the Upright, it often results in catastrophe. How many Jews have jettisoned their faith in Hashem and His Torah because of a single breach in their wall of mitzvos (Acher, for one; See Chagiga 15a)? Sometimes, it is possible to repair the breach before too much damage ensues; but sometimes not. When the gap is too wide to close, when the raging flood-waters overwhelm the dam, all is lost. The immense, unshackled force now bursts uncontrollably outward, wreaking havoc on all in its path.

This was the difference between Yaakov and Esav. The Torah describes Yaakov as "a man of completeness, one who lived in tents (25:27)." A tent symbolizes protective walls. Yaakov invested his time and effort in the tents of Torah, in the Bais Medrash (Rashi ibid.). Thus, Yaakov was well defended against the incessant onslaught of his Yetzer Hara. "I created the Yetzer Hara, and I created the Torah as its antidote (Kiddushin 30b)." This aided him in channeling all of his vast energy toward beneficial, productive growth.

Esav, the wicked Esav, is described as "a field man" -- one whose walls have disintegrated into nothingness. He made no effort to contain the immense potential he held within, a potential bequeathed to him by his father and grandfather, and it subsequently burst turbulently outward. Thus, on the very day of his grandfather Avraham's funeral, Esav went wild in a rampage of murder and pillaging (Bava Basra 16b). His Yetzer Hara could not, or would not, be restrained, and his animalistic, sub-human desires finally inundated him. Thus, Esav spiraled ever downward -- aveira gorreres aveira -- ultimately attaining infamy as evil incarnate.

Incidentally, this concept of tent vs. field was a basis of the conflict between the Sages and the Greeks at the time of Chanuka. The Greeks and Hellenists preached: "Why not allow a trace of our advanced culture to infiltrate your inner-sanctum of Torah? We wish to enlighten you, to pull you out of the dark ages, etc." But the Sages knew better; once the breach has been made, there is no turning back.

Moses Mendelssohn too made such a fateful blunder. Just a small amount of German humanism, he conjectured. (In retrospect -- Just a small amount of Nazi humanism!) Let's catch up with the world! What began as a bare trickle, resulted in a veritable deluge. The consequence: most of his disciples and descendents eventually marched proudly to the baptismal font (And the tide has yet to be stemmed!). The Sages knew all too well, that while the assimilationists claimed only to want to enrich the Torah with foreign ideologies, in truth, what they really intended was "l'hashkicham Torasecha" -- To cause us to forget Hashem's Torah.

In our time, once again the war against pure Torah is being waged. The perverters of Torah are sparing no effort or expense to erode Judaism into a mere shadow of what it is meant to be. Many of our otherwise sincere brothers and sisters are being innocently sucked into the quagmire of "Mock Judaism" with their only vindication: "But Rabbi so and so says it's OK."

U'fortzu Chomos Migdalai -- The walls have been fractured once again. Chanuka, 5760!

May Hashem protect us from every enemy attack, strengthen our fortifications, and truly illuminate the hearts of all B'nei Yisroel with the light of Toras Emes!!