Monday, May 7, 2007

Bechukosai, Vayikra 26:14. The Cause of the Tochecha.

Ve’im lo sishme’u li. Rashi— “lihiyos ameilim baTorah.” Many people mistakenly think that Rashi means that the Tochecha comes as punishment for lack of ameilus baTorah. This is not correct. What it means is that this is the threshold failure. It means that this is the first sin of the seven steps that lead to a person deserving the tochecha. As Baudelaire, a man who knew a great deal of moral decay, once wrote, "chaque jour vers l'enfer nous descendons d'un pas...." We don't fall into Hell, we descend, step by step.

This is spelled out clearly in Rashi here in 26:14 from the Toras Kohanim, and especially the last Rashi in 15, where he lists the seven deteriorating madreigos of a person who is falling, each of which leads to the other.

Rav Hirsch in his pirush on Chumash explains the Toras Kohanim in Rashi:
1. The first step down is a loss of interest in the theory and the understanding of the Torah. (Think about this-- we tend to view such an attitude as a relatively benign flaw, but Rav Hirsch, and Rashi, say that this attitude symptomizes an extremely dangerous philosophical flaw that ultimately leads to kefirah.)
2. Next comes a defection from practice.
3. The defector must then justify his defection as progress; the existence of the faithful is a reproach to the deserter, so he must learn to look on them with disdain and contempt.
4. Seeing the conviction and loyalty of the faithful, he cannot accept that it is free-willed and enthusiastic, and so he looks for causes, and blames the yeshivos and gedolei Torah as the sources for such unfortunate and primitive behavior.
5. Disdain becomes active intolerance— what he doesn’t honor and practice will nowhere be honored or practiced.
6. He persuades himself that he is not fighting Hashem, but that the Torah is a myth that enslaves the masses.
7. Finally, he is kopher be’ikar.

I said this at a drasha in May ‘04/Iyar ‘64. That was the year of the great sheitel scandal, when R’ Eliashiv paskened that all the sheitlach that were made entirely or partly from Indian hair were takroves avodah zorah, and had to be burned. I began the drosho by saying that there were a lot of great jokes about it; that we would soon have sheitlach with a special hechsher that said “shmura misha’as ktzira”, and that all three big aveiros were involved here– if you wear these sheitlach, you are over on avodah zorah; if you don’t, you are over on gilui arayos; if you throw the sheitel into the garbage, you are over on shfichas domim (domim=money)

But then I said that notwithstanding the abundance of good jokes, we have to remember that there are two ways of attacking the psak of a gadol. One is to attack the gadlus of the godol– you can say he is an amoretz, he is senile, he was bought off, etc. If his reputation is so good that you can’t attack his gadlus, you can attack the methodology, by saying that he was presented with bad or incomplete information, that the one who asked the question had and agenda, that he didn’t investigate adequately, etc. Both attacks are insults to the authority of the godol, whether attacks on the validity of the gadlus or the methodology, and they diminish respect for horo’a beyisroel. They are reminiscent of step four in R’ Hirsch’s Toras Kohanim. We can decline to follow a psak, but only if we have another gadol of equal stature, or an individual whose psak we always trust and follow, who paskens otherwise. I cited an article in the Haaretz online, which in English had a slight tone of deprecation and amusement, but which in Hebrew had the usual jeering and snide attitude, which implied that the gdolim made the tumul because their control was weakening with the broadening of their clientele (?), and that the people in Bnei Brak who love blondes will have to make do with artificial blond sheitlach from now on, and that this was an attack on the weakest and most unprotected element in the chareidi world, the women. The article was like a seminar on the application of R’ Hirsch’s Toras Kohanim to practical journalism

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