Why the Chofetz Chaim Stressed Kodashim
Chillul Hashem or Kiddush Hashem
The Non-Zionist Turkey Prince
The Zohar’s Prediction
Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon… (21:1)
And the Kohanim, the Levites, the sons of Tzadok, who kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel strayed away from Me – they will draw near to Me to serve Me, and they will stand before Me, to offer Me fat and blood, said Hashem G-d. (Yechezkel 44:15)
In the 1890’s, the Chofetz Chaim began to devote himself to the study of Seder Kodashim, the laws of the Beis Hamikdash and the offerings. He began to write his Likutei Halachos on the tractates of the Talmud that deal with this subject. The Rif and the Rosh had distilled the halachic conclusion from the parts of the Talmud that apply to us nowadays, but they had left the subject of offerings untouched. The Likutei Halachos covers nineteen tractates and fulfills a similar function to that of the Rif. (The Rif’s sefer was called “Halachos,” but the Chofetz Chaim, in his humility, added the word “Likutei” to show that he had no intention of comparing his work to the Rif’s.)
The Chofetz Chaim also established a kollel for young married men studying to become rabbis, and he made a rule that every member of the kollel must learn Kodashim for at least three hours a day, to become so fluently versed in its laws that they could answer and decide any practical question in its subjects that might arise. “We must be prepared,” he would often say. “The Beis Hamikdash will soon be rebuilt, so suddenly that there will be no time to learn all the laws. The Jewish people will come with questions about offerings, tumah and taharah, terumah, bikurim, maaser, and kilayim. They will ask the rabbis, but if the rabbis have learned only Yoreh Deah they will be unable to answer.”
More than once he gathered the kohanim in Radin who could not study Torah by themselves, and explained to them the chapter Eizehu Mekoman in the Siddur, which sets forth the basic types and rules of offerings. (The Chofetz Chaim, pp. 362-363)
Rabbi Yankev Kamenetsky said that the Chofetz Chaim had another reason for encouraging the study of Kodashim. Those were the years of the so-called First Aliyah: Russian Jews, forerunners of the Zionist movement, were selling their homes, packing their bags and setting out for a new life in Eretz Yisroel. The Chofetz Chaim saw their goal, to establish an independent Jewish colony in Eretz Yisroel, as an implicit denial of the coming of Moshiach and the complete redemption to be brought by Hashem. Therefore he taught the Jewish people to make a point of studying the laws of the service in the Beis Hamikdash, in order to reinforce the belief in Moshiach. (Bimechitzas Rabbeinu, p. 31)
And he shall wave the Omer before Hashem to appease for you; on the day after the day of rest the kohein shall wave it. (23:11)
The Oral Tradition teaches that the “day of rest” referred to here is the first day of Pesach; thus the Omer was always harvested on the night following the first day of Pesach, and offered in the Beis Hamikdash on the second day of Pesach. The Mishnah in Menachos (65a) says that the heretical Baithusian sect disputed this tradition of Chazal, and held that the Omer should be harvested on the first Saturday night and offered on the first Sunday after the first day of Pesach. To combat the influence of this sect, Chazal enacted that the Omer be harvested with great fanfare, before a large crowd of people. The man designated to cut it would say to the crowd, “Has the sun set?” They would say, “Yes!” “Has the sun set?” “Yes!” “Has the sun set?” “Yes!” Then he would ask, “With this sickle!” They would say “Yes!” And so on three times. “With this basket?” “Yes!” “Should I cut?” “Cut!” Each question and answer was repeated three times, in order to reinforce the true interpretation of the Torah handed down to us by Chazal.
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch in his commentary to the Siddur (p. 703) points out a similar instance in the fourth blessing of Birkas Hamazon. It reads, “He did good to us, He does good to us, He will do good to us; He bestowed upon us, He bestows upon us, He will bestow good upon us forever.” He explains that this threefold repetition, like the repetition used when cutting the Omer, was intended to combat a heretical idea. The blessing was composed after the uprising of Bar Kochba, when the Romans gave the Jews permission to bury their dead. “When the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error,” writes Rav Hirsch, “it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important fact; namely, that they must never again attempt to restore their national independence by their own power; they were to entrust their future as a nation solely to Divine Providence.” When reciting this blessing, we emphatically state our belief that it is G-d alone Who has bestowed goodness upon us in the past, that He continues to do so, and to Him alone do we look for our future good, our redemption. (Rabbi Yonasan Shteif, Introduction to Chadashim Gam Yeshanim on Chullin, p. 33)
Do not desecrate My holy name; I will be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel.” (22:32)
One of the most commonly cited concepts in the debate over Zionism is Chillul Hashem, the desecration of Hashem’s name. The Zionists are certainly guilty of this sin on many levels, yet we often hear them accusing religious Jews who maintain their traditional opposition to Zionism of making a “Chillul Hashem.” Therefore it would be appropriate to spend some time defining what Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem really mean.
The Torah tells the story of how Yosef was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, and he resisted her day after day. Finally there came a day when she was the only one at home, and Yosef “came to the house to do his work” (Bereishis 39:11). The Gemara (Sotah 36b) says: Since Yosef sanctified G-d’s name in secret, one letter of G-d’s name was added to his name (“He made it a testimony to Yehosef, when he went out into the land of Egypt” – Tehillim 81:6) How did Yosef sancify G-d’s name in secret? “And it came to pass on that day, that he came to the house to do his work.” This euphemistic expression teaches that both Yosef and Potiphar’s wife intented to commit a sin…at that moment the likeness of his father appeared to him in the window, and said to him, “Yosef, your brothers’ names will one day be written on the stones of the ephod, and your name will be among them. Do you want your name to be erased from among them? Do you want to be known as a shepherd of harlots?” Immediately he strengthened himself and resisted the sin.
This Gemara seems to contradict itself. It begins by saying that Yosef sanctified G-d’s name in secret, implying that he held himself back from sin even though no one but G-d would ever know. But then it says that Yosef would have succumbed to temptation, if not for the fact that his father appeared to him and told him that the entire Jewish people would one day know about his sin.
The Satmar Rav explained that we must first understand why the righteous Yosef ever contemplated committing this sin. The answer is that the Gemara (Yuma 35b) says that Potiphar’s wife threatened him in several ways. She said she would put in jail, but he said, “Hashem frees the captives.” She said she would make him bent over, but he said, “Hashem straightens the bent.” She said she would blind his eyes, but he said, “Hashem gives sight to the blind.” The Midrash adds that she threatened to spread rumors about him and make him hated in the mouth of all – a threat that she actually carried out. The Midrash does not say what Yosef replied to this threat. We can assume that this was the threat that broke his resolve. He thought, “If I refuse to sin, she will tell everyone that I did sin. Everyone knows that G-d is with me and the name of G-d is frequently on my lips (Rashi on 39:3). This false rumor will be a tremendous Chillul Hashem! Better that I should commit the sin secretly and no one will know about it, than that I should refuse to sin and make this great desecration of G-d’s name in public.”
But then he saw the likeness of his father in the window. This means that Yosef, who looked similar to his father (Rashi on 37:3), saw his own reflection in the window, and he saw that he was still pure and clean from sin. He realized that his father and brothers would one day be reunited with him, and because of their great righteousness they would be able to see on his face that he had sinned. That would be the true Chillul Hashem, no matter if the wicked Egyptians knew nothing of the sin.
Furthermore, G-d put into Yosef’s mind the thought that the ephod would publicize the truth. The Chillul Hashem of a false rumor could only be temporary, for in the end his name engraved on the ephod stones would bear testimony that he had not sinned, as it says (Tehillim 122:4), “The tribes of G-d are a testimony for Israel.” And if he would sin, his name would be erased from the ephod, which would mean that there could be no ephod – since every part of the kohein gadol’s garments had to be made exactly as described in the Torah (Divrei Hayamim I 28:19). Without the ephod, there could be no Urim Vetumim, no kohein gadol, and no moshiach – since moshiach will establish the lineage of every Jew based on the Urim Vetumim (Rambam Melachim 12:3).
Now we understand why the Gemara says that Yosef made a Kiddush Hashem in secret. True, Yosef knew that what he decided to do would one day be public knowledge, but at the time it was a secret, and not only that – he knew that the immediate result of his refusal to sin would be a Chillul Hashem. Yet he overcame the challenge and realized that the future Kiddush Hashem was more important.
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:29) says that Avraham Avinu overcame a similar challenge: “I do not doubt that when he attacked the doctrine of all his fellowmen, he was cursed, despised and scorned by these people who adhered to their erroneous opinions. When he submitted to this treatment for the sake of G-d, as ought to be done for the sake of His glory, G-d said to him, ‘And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you’ (Bereishis 12:3). The result of the course which Avraham took is the fact that most people, as we see at present, agree in praising him and being proud of him, so that even those who are not his descendents call themselves by his name.”
Jews today who take a stand for Torah and emunah and refuse to accept the Zionist doctrine are often subject to ridicule and scorn. Zionists often claim that their stubbornness creates a divide in the Jewish people and a Chillul Hashem. This is a fulfillment of the prediction of Chazal that in the generation preceding the arrival of moshiach, those who fear sin will be despised and those who turn away from evil will be called fools (Sanhedrin 97a). The challenge of Torah Jews today is thus similar to that of Yosef (Divrei Yoel pp. 316-319).
We must know that a time will come when people will look back and recognize the folly and the heresy of Zionism. Then they will see the Jews who stood up against Zionism as the only ones truly loyal to G-d and His Torah – just as everyone speaks highly of Avraham Avinu today. Then it will be clear that they were making the true Kiddush Hashem – the Kiddush Hashem that really matters. This week’s Haftarah begins, “And the Kohanim, the Levites, the sons of Tzadok, who kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel strayed away from Me – they will draw near to Me to serve Me, and they will stand before Me, to offer Me fat and blood, said Hashem G-d (Yechezkel 44:15). In the same way, those Jews who remain faithful during the Zionist era will be greatly honored in the future and will be G-d’s choicest servants.
And the son of a Israelite woman – but he was the son of an Egyptian man – came out amidst the Children of Israel, and they fought in the camp… And the son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name and blasphemed… (24:10)
Once a Mizrachist came to see the Satmar Rebbe. As soon as he entered the room, the Rebbe asked him, “Where is Yom Haatzmaut mentioned in the Torah?” The Mizrachist did not have an answer. The Rebbe said, “In Parshas Emor, all the festivals are listed, and at the end the Torah tells of the son of a Israelite woman – who called himself Israel, but was actually an Egyptian, since his father was Egyptian (before the giving of the Torah, one’s Jewish status was determined by his father – see Ramban in the name of Tosafos). Not only did he blaspheme, but he wanted to include his blaspheming among the festivals of Israel. That is why the Torah tells us that he was the son of an Egyptian man and had no connection to Israel.” (Gilyon Haemunah, Iyar 5742)
The Zionists have dared to include their holiday in the holy “At Bash” – a trick designed by the Tur (Orach Chaim 428) to figure out which day of the week each Yom Tov will fall. Alef, the first day of Pesach is the same as Tav, Tisha B’av. Beis, the second day of Pesach is the same as Shin, Shavuos. Gimel, the third day of Pesach is the same as Reish, Rosh Hashanah. Daled, the fourth day of Pesach is the same as Kuf, Krias Hatorah (Simchas Torah). Heh, the fifth day of Pesach is the same as Tzadi, Tzom (Yom Kippur). Vav, the sixth day of Pesach is the same as Peh, Purim. The Zionists added: Zayin, the seventh day of Pesach, is the same day as Ayin, Atzmaut.
We who consider Yom Haatzmaut a day of mourning don’t have to dismiss this fact as mere coincidence. It could be that just as Tisha B’av is counted among the festivals because it will one day be transformed into happiness, so too the Zionist independence day will one day be transformed into happiness (see Divrei Yoel, Parshas Tazria, p. 366), when the state comes to an end and the Jewish people is saved from the danger the state has brought upon them. And just as we will merit to see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash only by virtue of our mourning on Tisha B’av, so too we will only merit to see the end of Zionism if we maintain our understanding of why that day and the events connected with it have brought so much suffering and tragedy to the Jewish people.
Today the Zionist ideology has spread among many who do not consider themselves Zionists and do not celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. This can be illustrated with Rabbi Nachman of Breslav’s famous parable of the Turkey Prince: Once the king’s son went mad. He thought he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit under the table without any clothes on, pulling at bits of bread and bones like a turkey. None of the doctors could do anything to help him or cure him, and they gave up in despair. The king was very sad… Until a Wise Man came and said “I can cure him.” What did the Wise Man do? He took off all his clothes, and sat down naked under the table next to the king’s son, and also pulled at crumbs and bones. The Prince asked him, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” “And what are you doing here?” replied the Wise Man. “I am a turkey,” said the Prince. “Well, I’m also a turkey,” said the Wise Man. The two of them sat there together like this for some time, until they were used to one another. Then the Wise Man gave a sign, and they threw them shirts. The Wise Man said to the king’s son, “Do you think a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” The two of them put on shirts. After a while he gave another sign, and they threw them some trousers. Again the Wise Man said, “Do you think if you wear trousers you can’t be a turkey?” They put on the trousers. One by one they put on the rest of their clothes in the same way. Afterwards, the Wise Man gave a sign and they put down human food from the table. The Wise Man said to the Prince, “Do you think that if you eat good food you can’t be a turkey anymore? You can eat this food and still be a turkey.” They ate. Then he said to him, “Do you think a turkey has to sit under the table? You can be a turkey and sit up at the table.” This was how the Wise Man dealt with the Prince, until in the end he cured him completely.
Most understand this as a parable for the proper way to reach out to Jews who have become estranged from Judaism. Instead of telling them that their whole lifestyle and self-image is wrong, we should focus on persuading them to keep practical mitzvos. We should tell them that keeping these mitzvos won’t change who they are.
But the Evil Inclination knows this trick as well. He says to each of us, “So you’re not a Zionist? Good, I’m not a Zionist either. But who says that someone who is not a Zionist can’t live in Eretz Yisroel, or send his children to live there? Who says that someone who is not a Zionist can’t appreciate the fact that Jews today can come easily and pray at the holy places of Eretz Yisroel? Who says that someone who is not a Zionist can’t appreciate the fact that almost six million Jews have a safe place to live? Who says that someone who is not a Zionist can’t appreciate the soldiers who risk their lives to protect all those Jews? Who says that someone who is not a Zionist shouldn’t oppose returning land to the Arabs?”
As an example of this, there is actually a prominent Chassidic Rebbe who explained that his Beis Midrash does not say Tachanun on the fifth of Iyar because “on this day 62 years ago, the nations of the world, in a supernatural way, agreed to open the gates of Eretz Yisroel to millions of Jewish refugees who had no safe place to live, and the nations of the world agreed to allow them to settle in the Holy Land. For most of these refugees, this saved their lives. This is relevant to all of us in this generation, when, boruch Hashem, through the kindness of Hashem, we are able to live in Eretz Yisroel, and to pray at the graves of the Avos and other holy places, and at the Western Wall, the remnant of our Temple.” He added that “this has nothing to do with what they call Yom Haatzmaut.”
In a few short lines, this Rebbe has embraced the Zionist principle that the establishment of the state saved lives and that it provides a safe haven. Although he does not mention statehood explicitly, he has forced himself into the position that advocates statehood, because most Jews believe that the only alternative to a Jewish state is a state run by people who would not allow Jews to live there safely. May Hashem purify our hearts to serve Him in truth!