Friday, September 5, 2014

אי סייפא לא ספרא ואי ספרא לא סייפא

In our days, when everyone in the world is being offered the ultimate decision whether to join the forces of absolute good or absolute evil, here are two magazine covers.  The first below came out today.  The other magazine cover is from several years ago, but the subject of the article has been in the news again in the last several weeks, and I think he's going to be showing up in the mainstream press very soon.  I, and the individuals portrayed below, happen to have all been born the same year.

Yeshaya 45:
אני ה' ואין עוד זולתי אין אלקים; אאזרך ולא ידעתני.  למען ידעו ממזרח שמש וממערבה כי אפס בלעדי:  אני ה' ואין עוד.  יוצר אור ובורא חשך עשה שלום ובורא רע; אני ה' עשה כל אלה

This is Harav Tzvi Kaplan, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Kodshim in Eretz Yisrael, which combines the lomdus of Brisk and the mussar of Reb Yerucham and the Mir.  He expects, and exhibits, absolute ameilus in iyun and hasmada and Yiras Shamayim, and he's a true baal chesed and rachaman.  He is holding up his right hand, his fist closed to emphasize intangible, but powerful, רוחניות'דיקע words of Torah, and he is inspiring his students to become decent, holy, spiritual people.


 Lehavdil elef havdalos, this is Metin Kaplan, called the Caliph of Cologne.  He, too, has a beard, considers himself a religious leader, and he, too, is holding up his right hand.  He has a sword in his right hand.  He is a bloody murderer.  As I said, he's in the news again, and my guess is that he will find a way out and he will join the leadership of ISIL.  He is holding up his right hand, his fist closed over a sword, and he is inspiring his followers to wage a bloody war against anyone that does not share their particular brand of soul-deadening, conscience-cauterizing dementia.

Kaplan, in Turkish, means Tiger, and it's a name his father, whose birth name was Hacaoglu, chose, so the coincidence of names probably doesn't mean anything, just one of those things.  Who knows?  The Ribono shel Olam runs the world.  In any case, it shines a bright light on the contrast.

There you have it.   סייפא and ספרא.  The title of this post comes from the Gemara in Avoda Zara 17b.  Along the same lines, you have the Medrash (Bechukosai 35:6)
תני בשם ר' אלעזר הסייף והספר ניתנו מכורכין מן השמים אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא אם שמרתם מה שכתוב בספר זה הרי אתם ניצולים מן הסייף ואם לאו סוף שהוא הורג אתכם
It all boils down to the same thing.  If the sword, not the book.  If the book, not the sword.  Everybody in the world is being given the choice.

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