Ideology vs. Realism

Many ask: What happened to Netanyahu, Zachi HaNegbi, Limor Livnat, Michael Eitan and all the other right-wingers who are so willing to support the Oslo Accords and the evacuation of Hebron? Their answer is: “There is ideology, and then there is the reality.”

That is the difference between us and them. For them, ideology is some thing that belongs in a museum, while for us, THE IDEOLOGY DETERMINES THE REALITY. And let us not delude ourselves: When it boils down to Jerusalem, don’t be surprised if you gradually see that the issue at hand is not the holiness of the city (what is that?), or “unification forever and ever” and all the other cliches, but rather the issue will become a security one. And why not? Have we not learned that the new concept of Zionism, in a nut shell, is making a “secure peace”?

Vayishlach: The Killing of the Shchem Residents: A Torah Perspective

Two zealots are focused upon in our parsha: Shimeon and Levy. And the eternal question is if they were correct in their deed or not. This parsha has certainly been one of the more misinterpreted portions in the Torah in modern times, and as a consequence, so many improper conclusions have been drawn from it.

Why is that? Because indeed, there are verses in the Torah, which at first glance view the act of Shimeon and Levy as a mistake. One who reads Parshat Vayichi can easily reach the conclusion that the question is answered by Yaakov, when he says, “Cursed be their anger for it was fierce…” These words are directed at the actions of Shimeon and Levy in Shchem, and such words certainly seem to put the deed in a negative light. And so, this is how so many love to interpret the parsha, thereby condemning the brothers Shimeon and Levy as if they sinned in Shchem.

The Act of Shchem – The Pride of the Tribe of Shimeon!

But in contrast to this simplistic understanding, there are tremendous questions. Firstly, one who reads Parshat Vayishlach will notice that the Torah finishes the story with Shimeon and Levy having the upper hand. For in response to Yaakov’s argument that “you have troubled me, to make me odious among the inhabitants of the land”, Shimeon and Levy promptly answer him: “As a harlot should one deal with our sister?” And so the parsha ends, without a peep from Yaakov, with the brothers clearly putting the matter at rest. And indeed, the argument of Yaakov, that “you have troubled me to make me odious among the inhabitants of the land” seems to fall flat on its face, as the Almighty puts fear of G-d upon all the inhabitants of the cities from which Yaakov was afraid of. Could this not be a clear sign that the Almighty was giving an O.K. to the deed?

More than that, pay attention to the argument of Yaakov. He is not opposing them on a “moral” basis. He is not criticizing them for wiping out an entire city unjustly. No! This is not his argument. His is a PRACTICAL one – that all the goyim will come after us now. And if one is not yet convinced, know what it says in the Midrash – that on the flag of Shimeon was nothing more and nothing less than a PICTURE OF THE CITY OF SHCHEM! Now ask yourselves: How could one have on his flag a symbol of something that reminded him of his sin? But certainly the act of Shimeon and Levy was a correct and positive act, to such an extent that it waves proudly on the flag of Shimeon.

The fact is that none of the Jewish commentators condemn the act. Forexample, Rambam explains that Shimeon and Levy were justified because the people of Shchem did not put Shchem Ben Hamor on trial for his crime of raping Dina, thus violating the seven laws of Bnei Noach, and therefore being worthy of death. The Maharal argues with the Rambam, stating that one can’t expect a people to put it’s prince on trial, because they are afraid of him. He therefore offers an alternative explanation. The Maharal says that the children of Israel behaved as in all wars, where there is a law of collective punishment, and even though one is supposed to call for peace first, this is only when you were not wronged by them. But since in this case, they ‘broke the fence” first with their rape of Dina, one needn’t call them to peace. (Gur Aryeh, Vayishlach)

And so, all this makes us quite curious to know why Yaakov said in Parshat Vayichi: “Cursed is their anger for it was fierce”?

The Act – Good. The Motive – Not So Good.

The answer to this question touches upon the deep and delicate subjectconcerning the MOTIVE that stands behind the actions of a person. Yaakov, in his wisdom, evidently understood that while the act of Shimeon and Levy was a Kiddush Hashem, he also came to the conclusion later on that the motive standing behind the deed was not 100% pure. When did Yaakov understand this? When it became clear that the major culprits in the selling of Yosef were the same Shimeon and Levy (as the sages tell us in another place), Yaakov knew that their zealotry was not always
channeled in the proper direction. He said to them: “For in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they houghed an ox”. Rashi tell us that the “men” they slew were Hamor and the men of Shchem, and the “ox” they houghed was Yosef, who was termed “ox”. This was the problem. After being zealous for a good cause, they went out later to hurt their brother. The act of plotting to kill Yosef shed light on their act in Shchem. It meant that their motive there was somehow flawed; and they were not acting solely “LeShame Shamayim”. It showed that there was a characteristic of anger in them, not always directed properly. And so Yaakov said “cursed is their anger, for it is fierce.” Yaakov did not curse them, but rather their anger, to tell us that they are not cursed, but only “their anger” is. That is, the use of the attribute of zealousness derived from anger, not “Leshame Shamayim”.

Interestingly enough, we see that the tribe of Levi indeed succeeded incleansing their motives, and acting “LeShame Shamayim”. It was they who slew their brethren for the sin of the Golden Calf, and it was Pinchas who was also zealous for G-d’s sake, slaying Zimri. Zimri Ben Salu, the Jewish leader who prostituted himself, was from the tribe of Shimeon. Pinchas, who was zealous against such lewdness came from the tribe of Levy. A zealot and son of a zealot – but this time with absolutely pure motives. The tribe of Levy succeeded in sublimating it’s attribute of
anger, thereby purifying it’s motives as Yaakov requested. Shimeon apparently could not straighten out his “middot”, falling victim to the very same sin he was once zealous for.

Toledot: The Clowns in Every Generation

The rabbis tell us that when Yitzchak was born, “the clowns of the generation” claimed that Avimelech was Yitzchak’s real father. They even had a convincing argument: for so many years, Sarah had not become pregnant from Avraham. And behold, while Avraham is an old man, she suddenly becomes impregnated shortly after being taken by Avimelech. Logical conclusion: there is no miracle here, but rather Sarah has been impregnated by the evil Avimelech. The rabbis tell us that in order to refute this argument, G-d formed Yitzchak’s face identical to that of Avraham’s, to make it clear that: “Avraham begot Yitzchak.”

THE QUESTIONS

Three questions on this midrash: 1. why do the rabbis refer to these slanderers and scorners as “clowns of the generation”? It seems that their claim, as evil as it may be, is not based on frivilousness or buffoonery, but rather on rationality and logic. 2. If they are just “clowns”, why do we pay so much attention to them; to such an extent that the sages immortalize them, and G-d Himself intervenes to refute them? 3. From the midrash, it appears that their claim was not some joke. On the contrary, it seemed to be a serious matter of concern for them to prove that Avraham was not Yitzchak’s father. What do they care? Of what interest is it to them?

Our sages speak of “clowns of the generations” in several other places. For example, in the midrash Eicha Raba it says: “The clowns of the generation would utter with their mouths and hint with their eyes saying, ‘the prophesy which he (Ezekhiel) prophesizes is only for the distant future'”. The clowns of the generation in this case were the leaders who feared that the prophet’s warning of the impending destruction would enter the hearts of the masses. Instead of debating the issue at hand, they latched onto a “weak spot” in his prophesy, and used it in order to destroy the credibility of the prophet: Behold, so much time has passed since you’ve been warning us, and nothing has happened — there is still more time to party! And so again, if their claim is rational and viable, why are they termed “clowns”?

CLOWNING AROUND IS SERIOUS BUSINESS

To understand this, we must first realize that a clown is not some prankster with a funny hat and floppy shoes. The “clowns of the generation” which our sages describe are people who have a purpose. In order to nullify the truth which they cannot accept, they grasp onto certain points and make a joke out of them. But as time passes, all the ideology and seriousness that once cloaked them becomes undone, since their goal all along was to undermine the truth in order to continue in their ways of sin and falsehood.

AVRAHAM’S WAR AGAINST THE WORLD

Avraham is the symbol of the “Ivry” (Hebrew). “Ivry” comes from the root “the other side”, meaning that the entire world stood on one side (miever), and he stood on the other. When the sages tell us that he destroyed the idols, it is not just a story: It means that while spreading the idea on the One and True G-d, Avraham waged war against the false beliefs and leaders that existed in his time, shattering them.

Yitzchak’s birth expressed the continuation of this legacy, and the miraculous way in which his birth came about was a proof of G-d’s strength and the righteousness of Avraham’s cause. For many years the people of Avraham’s generation would mock him by saying: You have no one to carry on your legacy! Your teachings will be forgotten! You have no future; you are “washed up and sterile”. Then suddenly, G-d’s ancient promise is actualized and Sarah bears him a son to continue. At this point, his enemies are in danger: Avraham is revived, and his teachings will continue as his G-d promised. In order for their ideology to survive, the opponents of Avraham must launch an offensive. They find something; something logical that can be “clowned” with.

There is no doubt that the clowns of Avraham’s generation were men of stature. Their involvement in the “Who is Yitzchak’s real father” scandal was of a serious nature. However, all this was only a cover for their real motive: the war against Avraham’s ideas; the idea of the true G-d.

PROFESSIONAL CLOWNS

This tactic is alive and well today in Israel. The hellenists most powerful weapon against Judaism and Eretz Yisrael is — clowning and mockery. In the media sit people who have perfected it to an art. In the guise of “journalism”, they mock and scorn, cloaking their vicious slander in the garb of “rationalism”, “pragmatism”, “enlightenment”, etc. These are the “clowns of the generation”, whose goal is to destroy all values by setting down the axiom that there really are no “values”, other than the one value whose very essence is anti-value. And what is that? Democracy. In essence, democracy says that anything goes, and that there are no absolute values or objective truths. Anything running counter to this “value” is made into a laughing stock. Mitzvot? G-d? That’s for the primitive (as a first stage), and for the racist (as a second stage).

Vayera: Who Sees and Who is A Donkey?

The midrash “Pirke Divre Eliezar” deals in length with the “Akeidat Yitzchak”, and relates the following: “On the third day they arrived at Zofim (Avraham, Yitzhak, and the two boys) When they arrived at Zofim, (Avraham) saw the “Schina” (Divine Presence) on the top of the mountain, as it is written, ‘on the third day Avraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar’. What did he see? He saw a pillar of fire leading up from the ground to the heavens. He said to Yitzchak his son: My son, do you see anything on those hills? He said, yes. He said to him: what do you see. He said: I see a pillar of fire leading up from the ground to the heavens.And Avraham understood that the boy was desired by Hashem to be an offering. He said to Yishamel and Eliezar: Do you see anything up in those mountains? They said: no. He considered them donkeys and said to them, ‘sit here with the donkey’. He said to them: Just like a donkey doesn’t see anything, you don’t see anything either.”

A tremendous lesson is learned here. After all, why is Yitzchak so special for seeing the pillar of fire? Why is this in itself enough to make him worthy of being a pure offering to God? By the same token, why are Eliezar and Yishamel at fault for not seeing the pillar of fire? Perhaps they have poor eyesight? Is it not a bit harsh to call them donkeys for this? Obviously, we are not talking about ordinary seeing. Avraham is determining who has the power of sight, who has the eternal spark – and who is the donkey, static and transient, here today and gone tomorrow.

And Avraham discovers that indeed, Yitzhak is the one who sees, the man of vision. He sees things which the pragmatic, myopic, “now” people do not. Yitzhak is not frightened by the pillar of fire which seems so distant, apparently unattached to the realities of the day. This is why Avraham tells Eliezar and Yishamel to sit in their places. He considers them donkeys, the sages tell us. The donkey sees the food two feet in front of his face, and no further. Anything beyond that does not exist for him. It is only he who has elevated himself above donkey status who sees the TRUE reality.

My father and teacher, Rabbi Meir Kahane, z”tl, H”yd, — saw. He did not see things which others could not see, but rather what they did not WANT to see, because it simply scared them. For it is always more pleasant to look at the here and now, the practical, the immediate benefits.

The tragedy is that there was no Avraham who was able to appreciate and recognize the fact that, yes, here is a man who sees. And so, all those immersed in their donkeyism shouted at the extremist who saw so many strange things. They so opposed him that they simply decided to take the pillar of fire which he saw, and make it illegal.

Today we live in a time when pragmatism dominates our thinking. He who is not practical, who doesn’t face “realities”, who isn’t willing to compromise on his ideals and forego Kiddush Hashem here and there – HE is told to sit on the side, because he doesn’t understand “politics”. A severe sin indeed. If you don’t understand “politics”, you are guilty of the crime of seeing the pillar of fire. You are guilty of not allowing people to live in their illusions and with their compromises. The “seers” are supposed to put their pillars of fire and their visions on the side.

Let us learn this lesson today, on the Yahrzeit of my father, H”yd, the man who was ready to pay the price for seeing the pillar of fire – the price of the walk to the Akeida. Let us finally see the pillar of fire, and not succumb to the plague of pragmatism which threatens to turn us all into donkeys who only see the straw in front of their noses. Let us remember that we are not the descendants of the donkey Yishmael and Eliezar, but rather the descendants of the seers – Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov.

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