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Parsha Pearls: Parshas Pekudei

Every Jew Must Fight Heretics
Shlomo’s Admittance to Olam Haba

And Moshe saw all the work, and behold, they had done it as Hashem had commanded, so had they done; and Moshe blessed them. (39:43)

The Baal Haturim writes (40:21) that the words “as Hashem commanded Moshe” appear 18 times in Parshas Pekudei, and this is why the Sages enacted the 18 blessings of Shmoneh Esrei. Additionally we have the above verse – “as Hashem had commanded, so had they done” – and corresponding to this, they enacted the nineteenth blessing, the Blessing Against the Heretics.

Once a man complained to the Satmar Rav, “My son is caught up with the kannaim – he is always leading demonstrations and protests against the Zionists. I know it’s important to fight the Zionists, but shouldn’t it be the gedolim and rabbanim who do the fighting, not simple Jews?” The Satmar Rav replied, “No! Every Jew must fight the heretics; the rabbanim do not exempt the others from this obligation. Look at the Baal Haturim’s comment on Parshas Pekudei. The verse “so had they done” corresponds to the Blessing Against the Heretics, because this verse does not say that only Moshe did the work, it says that all the Jews did it. Fighting heretics is something for which every Jew must take responsibility.” (Toros Ve’uvdos Mibeis Raboseinu, p. 209)

To elaborate on this theme, we might add that Chazal say that the total number of prophets who ever lived was one million two hundred thousand, or twice the number of Jewish men who left Egypt (Megillah 14a). The commentators explain the significance of this number based on the concept that there are six hundred thousand souls in the Jewish people. This means roots of soul, so that although there have always been more than that number of Jews living in the world, every Jewish soul is a branch of one of these root souls. Every root soul has a different nature, and so he needs to hear his rebuke in a different way and from a different prophet. Therefore, it was not sufficient to sent one prophet to rebuke all the people; Hashem had to send two per root soul, so that every root soul should receive two rebukes. The same is true of the fight against heretics. There are today, unfortunately, a large number of religious Jews who have never been taught what is true Torah belief and what is heresy. They need to be enlightened, but no single person, not even a gadol hador, is able to reach everyone. Moreover, people are more likely to be influenced by the views of someone they know well and trust. It is therefore incumbent on everyone, great or small, to reach out to those under his influence – family members, students, friends, co-workers – and to make some protest, in his own little arena, against the pervasive heresy of our time.

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The Blessing Against Heretics begins as follows: “And for the informers let there be no hope, and may all the heretics perish in an instant…”

During the war of 1967, when the Jewish world was swept away by the Zionists’ swift victory, the Satmar Rav was very upset. He lamented this great downfall in the Jewish people’s faith, that so many people who had until then been clean of Zionism were suddenly infected with this poisonous heresy, the heresy of believing that Jews were permitted to stand up and fight for themselves during exile, or that Eretz Yisroel should be under Jewish control. During the tense period before the war, the Rebbe had prayed tirelessly that the Jews in Eretz Yisroel might be saved from danger in such a way that no trial of faith would result. However, some Zionists attempted to dampen the Rebbe’s influence by claiming that he had wanted the Arabs to win the war and then, G-d forbid, take out their anger on the Jews of Eretz Yisroel.

The Rebbe was very upset by these false accusations, and he spoke about them at Shalosh Seudos of Parshas Naso, just after the war ended. “I always wondered,” he said, “why the informers are mentioned in the Blessing Against the Heretics. What do informers have to do with heretics? But now I have an answer. The informers mentioned here are not only people who speak to the gentiles against the Jews, but also people who speak to the Jewish people in general against those Jews who carry on the fight against heretics. They try to blacken us in the eyes of the world with falsehoods, claiming that we hate Jews, that we have no sympathy for Jews, so that our fight will not be successful. Therefore we pray, “For the informers let there be no hope” so that “all the heretics perish in an instant” – for only when the informers are stopped will we be able to fight the heretics.

And the silver of those counted in the congregation was one hundred talents, and one thousand, seven hundred and seventy-five shekel, by the holy shekel. (38:25)

The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 105) is uncertain as to whether the Temple accepted half-shekel contributions from those who commited idolatry or violated the Shabbos. The Maharam Schick, in his work on the 613 commandments, says that they did not accept them, and brings proof from the Gemara. But it seems that we can bring a simpler proof from the above verse, which says that the silver used for the Mishkan was exactly 603,550 half-shekels, that is one half-shekel for each Jew descended from the Twelve Tribes. The Eirev Rav, comprising much more than that number, clearly did not contribute.

The Alshich writes in the name of the Maharash ben Alkabetz that the purpose of the half-shekel was to teach the Jewish people to be united. Every man by himself is only a half; to become a whole he must unite with his fellow Jews. Similarly, the Yismach Moshe writes that a census, by its nature, divides a large group into individual units. Each man counts as one, and he is thus severed from the group. Therefore it was necessary when taking the census for each Jew to give a half-shekel, in order to unify the people. So we see that the donation of the half-shekel had two functions: unification of the good Jews, and separation from the bad company of the Eirev Rav.

The Tanchuma in Ki Sisa (2) says: “Come and see how beloved the Jews are, for even their sins bring about good things. If this is what their sins do, imagine how much more their merits can do! Yosef’s brothers met together and decided to sell him into slavery, and that decision supplied the world with food throughout seven years of famine. Here too, the Jews sinned with the golden calf, and as a result they had to give the half-shekel as an atonement for their soul. If such a great sin brought about such a mitzvah, imagine what a mitzvah done by them can accomplish!”

The Tanchuma’s comparison seems very strange. True, the sale of Yosef turned out to be a positive development in G-d’s plan, although from the brothers’ viewpoint it was a sin. But the sin of the golden calf had no positive aspect. G-d in His great mercy forgave them for the sin and allowed them to give a half-shekel as an atonement for their soul, but of course it would have been better had they never committed the sin and never required any atonement.

But according to the above, we can explain that the sin of the golden calf was a wake-up call for the Jewish people to separate from the Eirev Rav. At first, when the Jewish people left Egypt, they saw no harm in mingling with the Eirev Rav. But after the Eirev Rav induced the Jews to make the golden calf, G-d gave them the atonement of the half-shekel, which symbolized both separation from the Eirev Rav and unification of all good Jews.

In the same way, we can understand another passage of the Tanchuma (Ki Sisa 5): “For G-d is the judge, this He lowers and this He raises” (Tehillim 75:8). Rabbi Yonah explained this as referring to Israel: with the word “this” they were lowered when they made the golden calf, saying, “For this man Moshe…” (Shemos 32:1); and with the word “this” they were raised, as it says “this they shall give” (30:13). The sin of the golden calf indeed lowered them immensely, but this incident was the cause for their rise, for they realized the necessity of separating from the Eirev Rav and unifying all good Jews. (Divrei Yoel, p. 394)

These are the deposits of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony (38:21). Rashi: This is an allusion to the Beis Hamikdash, which was taken as a security deposit for the sins of Israel in the two destructions.

With this verse begins the haftarah of Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach, about the dry bones resurrected by Yechezkel Hanavi. The Ben Ish Chai (Yedei Chaim, Hilchos Tefillah for Chol Hamoed Pesach, Section 9) asks: Chazal say that this story took place in Tishrei, so why do we read it in Nissan? He answers that our Sages (Sanhedrin 92b) tell us that these were the bones of the tribe of Ephraim who forced the end, left Egypt before the foreordained time, and were killed by the Philistines. Since we hope for our future redemption in Nissan more than in any other month, as our Sages say, “In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we will be redeemed” (Rosh Hashanah 11a), we read this Haftarah as a warning to the Jewish people not to force the redemption, as Scripture says (Shir Hashirim 2:7), “I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the deer of the field, not to arouse or awaken the love before it is desired.” In view of this, it is no coincidence that we read Shir Hashirim on that very same day, Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach. 

The author of Shir Hashirim was Shlomo Hamelech. The Gemara tells an incredible story about Shlomo Hamelech. The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 90a) lists three kings who lost their share in Olam Haba: Yeravam, Achav and Menashe. The Gemara (104b) says that this list was written by the Men of the Great Assembly. They wanted to list one more king (Shlomo Hamelech), but an image of his father’s face came and pleaded with them not to list him. They paid no attention to him. Fire came from heaven and scorched their chairs, but they paid no attention to it. A Heavenly Voice called out, “Have you seen a man who is quick in his work? He will stand before kings, not before darkened ones (Mishlei 22:29) – this refers to the one who built My house before he built his own house, and not only that – it took him seven years to build My house, but thirteen years to build his own house. Such a man will surely stand before kings in Olam Haba, and not before darkened ones in Gehinom.” But they paid no attention to this Heavenly Voice. Finally another Heavenly Voice called out, “Will reward be paid by you? You may have despised [Shlomo Hamelech], but will you choose [who should get Olam Haba] and not I?” (Iyov 34:33) 

Why did the Men of the Great Assembly want so badly to exclude Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest man in history and the author of three books of the Tanach, from Olam Haba? The Satmar Rav, speaking in the town of Margareten in 1932, explained it as follows. The Men of the Great Assembly were prophets and men of Divine inspiration. They foresaw all the suffering that would come upon the Jewish people throughout the centuries of exile, and they sought to avoid the exile by forcing the complete redemption to come right away. However, they could not do so because of the oath in Shir Hashirim “not to arouse or awaken the love before it is desired.” So they sought a way to exempt themselves from the oath. An oath cannot be forced upon a person; the person must accept the oath himself. Therefore the mere fact that Shlomo Hamelech wrote or spoke this oath does not automatically mean that the Jewish people have to keep it. It must be shown that the Jewish people actually accepted the oath. And even if Shlomo Hamelech did gather all the Jews of his time and they accepted the oath, one cannot impose an oath on unborn people (Yoreh Deah 228:35). If so, perhaps the oath of Shir Hashirim does not apply to future generations who were not alive at the time the oaths were made. 

Now, if Shir Hashirim is part of the Tanach, then we can apply the words of the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 28:6) that all the words of the prophets were said at Sinai, and the prophets’ souls, who were standing at Sinai, learned their words from there. The Jewish people, including the souls of all future Jews, accepted all of the Torah given at Sinai (Rashi on Devarim 29:14), and this included the oaths. 

The Men of the Great Assembly realized that the only way out of this oath was to issue a ruling that Shlomo Hamelech was a sinner, thus excluding him from Olam Haba and excluding his books from Tanach. They stood by this decision with self-sacrifice, unfazed by Heavenly fire and Heavenly Voices, until they heard the Voice say, “Will you choose and not I? You may not understand why the exile is for the Jewish people’s benefit, but it is, and therefore you have no right to interfere in these matters.” (Machzor Divrei Yoel, Pesach) 

For what sin did the Men of the Great Assembly wish to exclude Shlomo from Olam Haba? The Maharsha says it was the sin of marrying many foreign wives, who turned his heart aside. We can explain that the Men of the Great Assembly’s argument against Shlomo Hamelech over the foreign wives was related to their argument against him over the oaths. The reason why Shlomo married the wives was as follows: His father Dovid had wanted to build the Beis Hamikdash, but Hashem told him (Divrei Hayamim I 22:8) that he could not build it because he had shed much blood during his many battles. The Ramban (Bamidbar 16:21) explains Dovid was a man of justice and therefore could not build a house of mercy. The Ramban means that Hashem knew a time would come when the Jews deserved destruction for their sins, but He would be merciful and take out His anger on the sticks and stones of the Beis Hamikdash (Tosafos Kiddushin 31b), while the Jews achieved atonement through exile. Had Dovid built the Beis Hamidkash, it would have been a house of strict justice, and would not have allowed itself to be mercifully substituted for the Jews. Shlomo knew that he would be the one to build the Beis Hamikdash, and therefore he could not be a fighter. But he was worried: what if another nation attacked during his reign and he had to fight back? Therefore he married a thousand wives – from the royal families of every nation in the world – so that the kings of all the nations would be his allies and never attack his country. Thus he was assured that he could build a Beis Hamikdash of mercy, which could one day be destroyed and atone for the Jews. This is why Chazal (Shabbos 56b) say that on the day Shlomo married his first foreign wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, the angel Gavriel came down and placed a stick in the sea, earth accumulated and it later became the site of Rome, the empire that destroyed the Beis Hamikdash. 

But the Men of the Great Assembly, who wanted to avoid the exile and nullify the oaths by excluding them from Tanach, held that Shlomo was wrong for marrying the foreign wives. Of course, all agree that he was wrong to violate the Torah’s prohibition against a king having many wives. But he did not lose his Olam Haba because of this sin, since he had noble intentions. The Men of the Great Assembly, however, wished to argue that exile was unnecessary and thus even his intentions were wrong. Hashem answered them, “Will you choose and not I?” Hashem knows better, and He knows that we need exile to get to the tachlis, the geulah shleimah bb”a.


Three Oaths