Letter from Ramle Prison

The Meaning of “Teach them to Your children …while You walk on the Way” (verse from the ‘Shma Yisrael’ prayer)

To my young son Binyamin Zev,

Twice each day we say during the “The Shema”: “And you shall teach them to your children and speak of them, while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise”.

A thought came to me: It is obvious that you can teach your son while in your home, when he is beside you. But when you walk on the way, far from your home and son, how can you teach him the word of God?

The key to the answer is what is meant by the word “and you shall teach”. When it comes down to it, what really counts is not what the father gives over to the son while sitting with him and learning the written words.

The Practice of Torah is Greater then the Learning of It (Brachot, 7) The actions and deeds of the father they carry the greatest weight. We teach the child what to do – by our own actions. The child watches, observes, and understands how to live according to the spirit of the Torah. For sure, it is forbidden for the actions of the father to contract the values he wants to convey to his son. But this is not enough. The father must realize that just as the written law is impossible to understand without the oral law, so too, it is impossible for the child to get a complete picture of Torah life just through books. The actions of the father is the oral law, which clarifies to the son what the complete Torah life should be like, the life the father wants to pass down to the son.

And so, it happens that even when the father is far from his son, he can teach him the Torah truth. So often I spoke to you about emunah, and the need to give of yourself to sacrifice God’s Name. But all that remained in the realm of words only. And the child does not know the exact intention. “Emunah”? “To give of yourself”? To what extent? What is the reasonable amount of self-sacrifice that is required? To sanctify God’s Name? How?

My dear Binyamin, I sit in prison and teach you Torah. Exactly so. And by example.

Acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven How many times have I spoken to you about the concept of accepting the yoke of Heaven? How many times have I taught you that included within this concept is the acceptance of the ideas of Torah which are liable to be in stark contrast to those ideas considered correct by the majority of people. And how many times did I say that the Jew must do and say things which may bring upon him defamation. In other words, to stand up against the establishment and say the truth. Without hesitation. Without fear. All this I taught you through words. Today I sit in jail and serve as a live example of what a Jew must do when he refuses to accept the yoke of man over the yoke of his Creator. Let them scream and condemn! The Jew ignores all that and bows down to his God only.

Faith and Trust How many times have I spoken to you about deep faith and trust in the Almighty? That means, to shake off the fear of man and garb himself with the fear of heaven. And how often were these teachings left as mere words, with no significance. And how many Jews are there who call themselves “religious”, who live comfortably and confidently but fall apart in the hour of truth, when they have to translate their beliefs into actions. “In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid: what can man do unto me? (Psalms, 56:12). Today I sit in jail and show you halacha l’ma’ase (halacha in a practical sense) to what extent a Jew must go in order to prove his faith. It is Judaism which is not merely ritualism. It is “and you shall teach them to your children”.

How many times have you heard about “msirut nefesh”? How easy it is to give sermons in shul or in the yeshiva. But what does it mean? How many “religious Jews” are simply products of their surroundings, who by chance were born into a situation of being religious. For them, is it just a matter of habit. And how often do these so called “religious” Jews evade the dangerous, difficult mitzvot which demand m’sirut nefesh in the full sense of the word. Words cannot convey to the child the real and deep meaning of m’sirut nefesh: When the sages say: “And I was sanctified within the children of Israel (Vayikra, 22:32). “Sacrifice yourself, and sanctify My Name” none of this means anything until we see a practical, living manifestation of the mitzvah. I sit in jail and teach you. It is an obligation upon every Jew to do the same if the need arises. The observer of Jewish ritual, the irreligious preservers of Jewish customs will not do this. This is the meaning of “and you shall teach them to your children”.

Judaism From Torah Only …Judaism stands on its own. The concepts of Judaism are derived from Torah and only Torah. And too many kippa-wearers are in essence products of the western world Berlin, London, or America, and their souls are stained with gentile concepts. Their assimilated souls are covered by a thin layer of social ritual, a smattering of Judaism. Judaism demands of you, my child, to accept and put into action the values that Hashem determined are good and correct, even if it may go against the grain of western ethics. The true ethics are those which God gave us..

“Do not fear, and do not tremble”…”Cursed is the man who trust in man” – “blessed is the man who trust in God”… The tiny dwarfs who aspire to rule, and bring a holocaust upon us will disappear. … I sit in jail and teach you Torah. I so hope that you will find the strength to be a great man.

Abba

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