Parsha Pearls: Parshas Shlach

The Miraculous Survival of the Jewish people
The Zionists’ Success Was Predicted
Zionism: Fact or Opinion?
Hashem Does Not Desire Our Wars
The Hebron Massacre and Its Lesson

“And Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun Yehoshua.”

The Meforshim ask why Moshe prayed only for Yehoshua י-ה יושיעך מעצת המרגילם and not Kalev.

We’re going to arrive at an answer to this, but first I’m going to argue a bit for the side of the Meraglim. Let’s see if we can find the hole in their argument.
“Moshe Rabbeinu, you asked us to spy out the land and we did. I’m not sure what you want from us. We went in, we saw what was doing, and we came back and reported it – as is. Yes, we know that Hashem said we should go conquer the land, but the fact is it’s a sakanas nefoshos to go in there now and try to do it. Is the Mitzva of conquering the land now stronger than the Mitzvah to keep Shabbos? If someone would tell you that there is a one in a thousand chance of someone dying unless you’re mechalel shabbos, you would not hesitate. So now we come and tell you that there is a sakanas nefoshos to go fight for Eretz Yisroel. Yes, Hashem said to go into Eretz Yisroel but Hashem also said וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם – didn’t He? He also said ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם – didn’t He?
“Didn’t all of us not do bris milah in the desert for so many years because it was a sakana? Is the command to go into Eretz Yisroel more important than bris milah? All we’re saying is that yes, there is a command to enter the land, but the fact is pikuach nefesh is docheh kol haTorah kulah! If the doctor would tell you it’s a sakanah to fast on Yom Kippur you wouldn’t fast. Even if the choleh himself says the doctor is wrong! So we, after diagnosing the facts on the ground, are simply saying: It is a sakanas nefoshos to try to conquer Eretz Yisroel at this time! Ain somchin al hanes!”

Why were they wrong?

The answer is that while it’s true that if a doctor tells an individual Jew that he has to do something to take care of his health he has to listen, even if he has to be mechalel shabbos if it means saving his life, that is only true regarding an individual Jew. Individuals have to follow the normal derech hatevah and not rely on miracles.

But that’s only true regarding the individual. Klall Yisroel as a whole is a different story. Even though Hashem runs the world al pi derech hateva for each individual (with certain exceptions) Klall Yisroel as a whole does not run that way. Klall Yisroel’s very existence is nothing but a Nes of the highest order – Klall Yisroel should have been gone a long time ago, if you consider the derech hateva according to the normal way that nations live and die. But what makes other nations live and die does not affect Klall Yisroel. We live by a different set of rules, a different teva.

A fish needs water, and a cow needs air. A cow living under the water is a nes but a fish living under the water is derech hateva. What is a nes for the nations of the world is the teva for Klall Yisroel. Yitzchok gave Eisav a brachah: Al charbecha sichyeh – By your sword you shall live. Whichever nation has a bigger sword, lives. The stronger, physically, a nations is, the better it will survive.

But the brachah for Yaakov was: ויתן לך האלקים מטל השמים. Klall Yisroel has nothing to do with the principle of על חרבך תחיה. If Klall Yisroel has more weapons or better weapons than its enemies, it is absolutely irrelevant – לא מעלה ולא מוריד. Klall Yisroel lives and dies, succeeds and fails, is strong or weak, based on קיום תורה ומצוות. That is not relying on a miracle. It only looks like that because we live in a world where every other nation lives by the sword. It’s like a fish living in a world of cows. When they see him jumping into the water to survive, it will seem to them that the fish is relying on a miracle. But that’s not a miracle – that’s השתדלות – for a fish.

So too Klall Yisroel’s nature is different than the rest of the nations. Physical weapons for us is like air for a fish – irrelevant. If we have water, we survive and flourish; if not, we succumb ר”ל. Klall Yisroel is, when seen through the eyes of the commonly applied derech hateva, a nation whose very existence is miraculous.

It’s like, for example, Rav Chaim Brisker’s shemen nes that miraculously came into being so the Chanukah menorah could stay lit for eight days (incidently, the Chidushei HaRim preceded Rav Chaim with that answer to the Bais Yosef’s kushya). If a scientist would analyze the properties of the shemen nes, what would he find? Would he find the same molecular structure, the same nature as shemen zayis?

I don’t know, but it’s very possible – and let’s assume for now – that he would not. Because the shemen nes was a miraculous substance to begin with, for all we know it may have had a completely different nature than shemen zayis. Maybe it would lower HDL cholesterol; maybe it wouldn’t become rancid even without refrigeration.

Klall Yisroel is like shemen ness. It has a different makeup and follows a different nature than the rest of the nations. We cannot equate what works for the nations al pi derech hateva and what works for Klall Yisroel.

This is one of the reasons given as to why, even though we do not pray for Hashem to make miracles for us, that is only when we are praying for miracles to happen to us an individuals. But for miracles to happen to Klall Yisroel as a whole, we do pray! As we say on Chanukah: הרחמן הוא יעשה לנו נסים!

Because miracles happening to Klall Yisroel as a whole is not a change in the teva – it is the teva – the teva of Klall Yisroel as a nation.

Now we understand the mistake of the Meraglim. Their idea that entering Eretz Yisroel was a sakanas nefoshos was based on the assumption that because Klall Yisroel was physically weaker than the anakim they would therefore be in danger if they tried to fight them. But physical strength is really not a factor at all. Klall Yisroel is not in any danger if they are physically weaker than their enemies. Physical strength plays no role in Klall Yisroel’s survival.

Therefore, even if the Meraglim had come back saying that we could conquer Eretz Yisroel because we are in fact physically stronger than the anakim, their aveirah would have been the same. It’s not that they came back with the wrong answer that was the problem – it’s that they asked the wrong question. They asked “Are we physically strong enough to conquer Eretz Yisroel?” No matter what they would have answered, their sin would have been the same.

The Meraglim thought that a militarily strong Klall Yisroel is a safer Klall Yisroel. That was their mistake – and that was their aveirah. Such a thought does violence to the basic concept of what Klall Yisroel is.

But the Meraglim were not the first to make this mistake. The Bnei Ephraim left the Golus of Egypt early, and, while in the desert, were slaughtered by the Pelishtim. The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Divrei Hayamim 1 1077) tells us that the Bnei Ephraim thought they could escape Egypt because they were “from the royal family, and strong military warriors.”

The Bnei Ephraim said their military strength would allow them to succeed– the Meraglim said their lack of military strength would cause them to fail. Two different answers, but the same wrong question. The same mistake. The same aveirah.

Now we can better understand why Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for Yehoshua to be saved from the advice of the Meraglim and not Kalev. Each Shevet had its own representative among the Meraglim. The representative of Shevet Ephraim, the ones who had previously made the same error that the Meraglim were making, was none other than Yehoshua. Yes, Yehoshua went to the wrong “cheder”, and he was therefore at risk of falling prey to the advice of the Meraglim. But that is not all. The Medrash tells us that this misbegotten idea for the Bnei Ephraim to escape Egypt by the strength of their arms originated with one particular member of Shevet Ephraim:

ר’ אליעזר אומר כל אותם שנים שהיו ישראל יושבם במצרים היו בני אפרים יושבים בטח שאנן ושלו, עד שבא נון מבני בניו של אפרים ואמר נגלה עלי הקב”ה להוציא אתכם, בגאות לבו שהם מזרע המלוכה ושהם גבורי כח במלחמה, עמדו ולקחו בניהם ובנותיהם ויצאו ממצרים ועמדו המצריים והרגו כל גבוריהם.

Nun, the father of Yehoshua. Not only did Yehoshua go to the wrong “cheder”, he also grew up in the wrong family. No wonder Moshe prayed only for Yehoshua – he was the one who needed the prayers, to ensure that he would not fall prey to the same bad Hashkafa that his father believed in, and that his Shevet followed.

Shevet Ephraim escaped Egypt, only to be slaughtered by the Pelishtim, but their giborim, the Medrash tells us, did not even make it that far. They were slaughtered by the Egyptians.

לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם ברוחי אמר ה’ צבקות.

Throughout history, the great Tzadikim, the Manhigei Hadoros, used this piece of knowledge as their guiding light – that Klall Yisroel’s survival is dependent solely – solely! – on the spiritual factors that our unique Teva requires. And that is the long sought-after secret of Klall Yisroel’s survival in Golus. To wonder how a scattered, battered nation can survive in 2,000 years of exile when stronger, more established nations with homelands and robust infrastructures, which were much more suited for survival have all been destroyed is like wondering how a fish can survive under water when mighty creatures such as lions die there. The air that they lack – physical strength – we do not need; what we need – Torah and Mitzvos, they do not have. This secret has been the guiding light of our Gedolei Yisroel throughout the generations, and the more it was utilized, the better we have survived.

Secular Jews looking back at history cannot understand this. They are oblivious to the unique, spiritual nature of the Am Yisroel, and so they are bewildered at the actions of our Tzadikim who explicitly instructed our nation to stay away from “dry land.” To the secular Jew, this seems like suicide – and for any other nation it would be. But to us, we understand that it is the only means of survival.

As an example, we have the following diatribe written by B. Netanyahu (that’s one “B”. He’s actually the father of the two B’s.) According to the back cover of the book this is from, his was a “Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies at Cornell University. It is in his epilogue of a biography he wrote (afra lepumei) about the Abarbanel (emphases mine; my comments in brackets):

Abravanel’s messianic doctrine reflects … in large measure, the tragedy of the Jews in the middle ages. It was the tragedy of a people who built castles in the air, who breathed the atmosphere of dreams rather than reality. The most sinister aspect of the tragedy was that, while the soul of the people floated among the bright clouds of heaven, its body was dragged on the ground, torn and bleeding from a hundred wounds. The gulf between the ideal and the real was utterly unbridgeable. Reality and ideal constituted two distinct worlds, the first as applying to the Jew as an individual, the other to his collective life [He hit the nail on the head here but he has no idea that this was exactly the point.] The strange dualism is strikingly represented in Abravanel’s own career. A realistic statesman when other nations were concerned, he was completely swayed by imagination when his own people were involved.… he regarded as futile any attempt on the part of the people to effectuate the exodus and gain salvation by their own efforts. Sternly and repeatedly Abravanel warned that salvation would not come by human will and planning, but by divine power alone.

One is tempted to ask what would have been the historic course of the Jewish people if at that moment of disaster – when the tragedy of Jewish homelessness, accentuated by the Spanish expulsion, became all too evident – a man of the stature of Abravanel had risen and propagated a realistic course, a plan of regaining the Promised Land by settlement and colonization [We know what would have happened – we would have ended up like the Bnei Ephraim r”l.]… Such advocacy might have changed the entire historic attitude of the Jews toward their national problem [sic] and kept their eyes fixed on earth, rather than upon the heaven. But this was not the fate of the Jews. The political Jewish leader of the age was agitating against a realistic [sic] approach to the question. The man who was filled with deep yearning for redemption was warning against any action on its behalf [as opposed to the Bnei Ephraim]. It was the most sensitive moment in Jewish history, one of those moments in a people’s life when the national soul is forged and cast anew by the people’s spiritual leaders. This was a time for turning Israel’s historic direction away from the Diaspora and toward Palestine, if there was some measure of political realism in Jewish leadership of which Abravanel was the outstanding figure.

Only one generation after Abravanel’s time there appeared a great Jewish statesman with a realistic approach to the Jewish problem and a concrete plan for its solution. I refer to Don Joseph Nasi , the Duke of Naxos [Not of the Gedolei Hador] , and his plan for Jewish settlement in Palestine. He issued a call for Jews to begin energetic colonization in the Holy Land. But his call fell on deaf ears. The Jews of his time were accustomed to thinking of the redemption in a supernatural way. They were infatuated with the predictions of the Abravanel and the miraculous messianic powers which could effect their deliverance in one fell swoop. The long, arduous and prosaic process of settling in a semi-desolate land did not attract them. Abravanel’s maxim that the Jews can and should do nothing for their salvation was their “practical” motto. In brief, it was the influence of Don Isaac Abravanel that destroyed the influence of Don Joseph Nasi.” (Don Isaac Abravanel – Statesman and Philosopher, pp.255-256)

Mr. Netanyahu is bewildered as to why the Abarbanel (and all the rest of the Gedolei Yisroel) had such an “impractical” approach to Galus, as opposed to the approach that he (and the Bnei Ephraim) advocates. He may also be wondering how in the world we survived for two thousand years without following his sage advice. The answer is, we survived two thousand years in Golus because we did not follow his advice. He sees us insisting on staying under water when we could be safe on dry land with the rest of the nations of the world. He doesn’t understand that what works for lions and bears kills fish.

As a nation, we are shemen ness. What works for shemen zayis is irrelevant to us.

And they said to all the congregation of the children of Israel, “The land through which we passed to spy it out is very, very good. If Hashem desires us, He will bring us to that land and give it to us, a land that is flowing with milk and honey. But do not rebel against Hashem!” (14:7-9)

Rabbi Moshe Tzvi of Savran (d. 1838), when asked by his chassidim if they should move to Eretz Yisroel, said, “It depends. If someone is a true servant of Hashem, separating himself from the vanities of this world, it would be very good for him to go, for the holiness of Eretz Yisroel will help him to reach high spiritual levels. But for those do not serve Hashem truly, who are more caught up in worldly things, it is better for them to live outside of Eretz Yisroel, because Eretz Yisroel is a place of extremes. Just as there is more holiness, so also the evil inclination is more powerful there, and a person can become much worse there than in other places. This is hinted at in the words of Yehoshua and Calev, who said, ‘The land is very, very good…but do not rebel against Hashem.’ The land is indeed very good, but only for true servants of Hashem, not for those who rebel against Him.” (Likutei Shoshanim)

* * *

In a similar vein, the Chasam Sofer writes: Why did Moshe have to send spies to see if the land was “good or bad”? Didn’t Hashem promise repeatedly that it was a land flowing with milk and honey? The answer is that as the Ramban writes in Sefer Haemunah Vehabitachon, Hashem’s promises all referred to the spiritual goodness of the land: “a land good and broad” – good for Torah and broad for mitzvos. “Milk and honey” refer to the secrets of Torah, as it says, “Honey and milk are under your tongue” (Shir Hashirim 4:11). The spies were sent to see if the land was physically good as well. (See the Parables of the Dubno Maggid for a similar explanation.) When the spies returned with a bad report, the Jews reasoned as follows: If they are telling the truth, we don’t want to go – we will fall by the sword and our wives and children will be taken captive! And if they are lying, how could such righteous people (see Rashi on 13:3) become so wicked? It must be that when they walked through the land, they were spiritually influenced by it to become wicked. If so, the land is a place of spiritual defilement, not of holiness!

To this, Yehoshua and Calev replied: “The land is very, very good.” They repeated the word “very” to signify that it was good both spiritually and physically. However, the peculiar nature of the land is that it makes holy people holier, and casts out and defiles the wicked. So if Hashem desires us, the land will truly be good in all ways. But do not rebel against Hashem, like these spies, for if you do it will affect you adversely just as it affected them, and you will not be able to exist there physically either. (Chasam Sofer)

And Moshe said, “Why do you transgress the command of Hashem?! And it will not succeed. Do not go up, for Hashem is not in your midst, that you might not suffer defeat by your enemies.” (14:41-42)

The Targum Yonasan on Shir Hashirim (2:7) draws a connection between this verse and the Oaths: “After this Moshe received a command from Hashem to send spies to spy out the land, and when they returned from spying they spread a bad report about Eretz Yisroel and they were delayed for forty years in the desert. Moshe opened his mouth and said, ‘I adjure you, congregation of Israel, by Hashem Tzeva-os and by the strong ones of Eretz Yisroel, that you not dare to go up to the land of Canaan until it be the will of Hashem, when all the generation of the war dies out from the camp, just as your brethren the children of Ephraim sinned and left Egypt thirty years before the end, and they fell into the hands of the Philistines of Gath, who killed them. Rather, wait forty years, and then your children will you go in and inherit it.’”

Thus these “mapilim” – Jews who invaded the land without Hashem’s permission after the sin of the spies – were actually transgressing this oath written in Shir Hashirim, the same oath that is applied by the Gemora in Kesubos to the Jewish people in exile today. Moshe Rabbeinu’s warning to them – “and it will not succeed” – should then apply to a violation of the oath in any generation. Many people are puzzled by the Zionist state’s apparent successes. If it is truly a violation of the oath, they wonder, it should have been condemned to immediate failure, like the “mapilim” of Moshe’s generation.

Rabbi Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, in Tzidkas Hatzadik 46 (written 1848, first published in 1913), sheds some light on this question. He writes that the “mapilim” knew that their act was against the will of Hashem, but justified it based on the statement of Chazal, “All that the host tells you to do, you must do, except for leaving” (Pesachim 86b). They understood this to mean that for the sake of coming close to Hashem, one may sometimes violate the command of Hashem; we need not listen when He tells us to leave Him. Despite these good intentions, they were punished severely for their sin. But Moshe said to them, “And it will not succeed” – this time it will not succeed – hinting that there would come a time, in the era known as “the Footsteps of Moshiach,” when such a sin would have success. “In the Footsteps of the Moshiach, chutzpah will increase” (Sotah 49b). That is the time when such a brazen idea – to conquer the land in violation of Hashem’s command – will meet with some success.

However, we must keep in mind that their success does not change the fact that they are acting against Hashem’s command, and that the success is only temporary. Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa (1770-1832), in his commentary Emes Leyaakov on the Agados of the Talmud, also predicts the temporary success of the Zionists and their downfall. The Gemora says in Bava Basra 73b: “Rabbah Bar Bar Chanah said: One time we were traveling on a boat, and we saw a fish on whose back sand had settled, and a swamp of reeds had grown up on it. We thought it was dry land, so we went up and baked and cooked on it. And when its back got hot, it turned over, and if the boat had not been nearby, we would have drowned.”

The Emes Leyaakov explains this as an allegory: “He (i.e. Rabbah Bar Bar Chanah) saw with holy inspiration that it will happen before the coming of Moshiach that Israel, which is under his dominion, will lift itself up over the other nations. And the nations are called ‘the fish’, and this is what it means, ‘sand settled,’ for chalsa (sand) is from the word choleh (sick), so it means that this nation’s power was weakened, and ‘a swamp of reeds had grown up on it’, for agma (swamp of reeds) is a language of subservience and lowliness, as the Aruch says, from the words, ‘bowing the head like a reed’ (Yishaya 58:5). In other words, subservience grew on the nation. ‘We thought it was dry land’ – in other words, they thought that their (i.e. the nations’) hopes had dried up, ‘and we went up and baked and cooked’ – in other words, Israel wanted to lift itself up over them and rule over them. ‘And when its back got hot, it turned over’ – in other words, they (i.e. the nations) turned over and became stronger over them. ‘And if the boat had not been nearby we would have drowned’ – in other words, this thing will happen shortly before the redemption, and when they turn over and become very powerful over Israel, if not for the closeness of the redemption, we would have drowned.”

These are the names of the men that Moshe sent to spy out the land; and Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun “Yehoshua”. (13:16)

Rashi says that the name “Yehoshua” was a contraction of the two-letter name of G-d and the word “save”. By giving Yehoshua this name, Moshe was praying that G-d save him from the advice of the spies.

Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Rabinowicz, the Biala Rebbe (d. 1905) asks: why did Moshe word the prayer this way? He should have simply prayed that G-d keep Yehoshua from committing the sin that the other spies committed.

He answers that since man has free will to choose whether or not to sin, one cannot pray to G-d to save him from sin. He can only pray to be saved from the advice of the evil inclination or wicked people who attempt to convince him to sin.

Sometimes the wicked speak in such a way that it is not readily obvious that they are giving advice; they seem to be simply stating facts. In such cases, our prayer should be that G-d open our eyes to recognize the advice of the wicked as such, and avoid it. Such was the case of the spies. The spies were sent by Moshe to gather and report facts, not to give advice, and on the surface it seemed as if they were merely doing their job. However, a closer look reveals that they added opinions and advice: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us” (13:31). Foreseeing this, Moshe prayed regarding Yehoshua, “May G-d save you from the advice of the spies.”

The Biala Rebbe continued, “This is similar to the advice that the wicked people of our generation have given us in regard to settling the Land of Israel. Their entire wicked desire is to cause the Jews to believe false ideas that the future redemption will come about through natural means, G-d forbid, as is known from their lies and falsehoods. Just as Moshe prayed for Yehoshua, we must pray that that G-d illuminate our eyes to see that all of this is the advice of the wicked. Once we recognize the advice of the wicked for what it is, we will automatically be able to overcome the sin. Through this, we will be worthy to see the true complete redemption, soon and in our days.” (Divrei Binah)

The Biala Rebbe’s words are even more true today than when he wrote them. In his time, Zionism was a fledgling movement with far-fetched ambitious goals, and their ideas were clearly in the category of advice. Today, however, many people are overwhelmed by Zionism’s apparent successes and feel that we must submit to the facts and make the best of what we have. They see opposition to the existence of a Jewish state as an outdated phenomenon. We must pray to G-d that He save us by opening our eyes to see that the path of Zionism is not a fact, only the advice and opinions of wicked people. Then we will be able to overcome this trial and choose the alternative to Zionism: belief in G-d’s plan of exile and the coming of moshiach.

“Do not go up, for Hashem is not in your midst, and then you will not be defeated by your enemies!” (14:42)

The Be’er Hagolah is a sefer written by an anonymous author in Amsterdam during the period of the Sabbatean movement (late 1600s). In Chapter 25, Section 2, after describing the wars fought by the Jewish people in times of old, he writes:

But now the mighty men of Israel have fallen and their weapons have perished. Since the enemy overcame us and the anointed kohein and the general failed and were smitten in battle, Israel has known that the Holy One, blessed is He, no longer desires their wars; Hashem has departed from them until the time of the coming of moshiach. And regarding this matter, and regarding the exile of Israel, David prayed and said, “You, O G-d, have thrown us away, and You do not go forth, O G-d, with our army” (Tehillim 60:13). And now, if Israel will arise and wage wars against the desire of the Holy One, blessed is He, they will fall by the sword, as it is written, “Do not go up, for Hashem is not in your midst, and then you will not be defeated by your enemies!” (Bamidbar 14:42). For just as the Holy One, blessed is He, used to fight their wars when the those wars were in accordance with His will, so too He will become their enemy when the war is against His will, as it is written, “And He became their enemy; he fought against them” (Yishaya 63:10).

The Be’er Hagolah continues in Section 5:

And when Israel saw this, they chose to scatter themselves in all four corners of the earth, so that the nations might see that they had no thought of waging any more wars with them, and that they would not emerge from the exile until moshiach comes. And even if during that time they have some mighty men, still they will not wage war against the nations, for this is what Shlomo, the king and prophet, made them swear by the name of Hashem when he said, “I have adjured you, daughters of Jerusalem, not to arouse or awaken the love before it is desired” (Shir Hashirim 2:7). Behold, he said to the daughters of Jerusalem: If you be in exile among the nations, do not arouse or awaken with them any war because of the love of Eretz Yisroel, until it is desired – until it is the will and desire of Hashem Yisborach to do so, and He sends you the moshiach, just as He sent Moshe to Egypt to say, “So said Hashem: I have surely remembered you” (Shemos 3:16). Then they will know that it is the will of the Holy One, blessed is He, that they should gather themselves from all the four corners of the world and become a great and powerful nation, to take their land away from the Ishmaelites. The prophet Yishaya expressed amazement at them and said, “Who are these who fly like clouds?” (60:8) “Who bore me these?” (49:21) “Can a land have birthpangs in one day…for Zion has had birthpangs and born her children” (66:8). And since it is so, all of Israel has decided not to study warfare anymore, even to assist one nation against another, unless it is the will of their kings under whom they live. And each one prays in the land where he lives that Hashem grant peace and success to the king who rules over that land.

Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl, in his famous 1948 article entitled, “Who Delivered Israel to the Plunderers” (printed in Toras Chemed, p. 337), begins as follows:

Chazal, the true lovers of Zion, said in Tractate Kesubos 111a, that the Holy One, blessed is He, made Israel swear not to go up to Eretz Yisroel as a wall, which Rashi explains as together, with a strong hand; and that they should not rebel against the nations. And the Holy One, blessed is He, said to Israel: If you keep the oath, good, but if not I will permit your flesh like the gazelles and deer of the field.

Rabbi Weissmandl proceeds to quote the above section of Be’er Hagolah, and then continues:

And Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshutz writes similarly in his work Ahavas Yonasan, and so does our teacher, the Chasam Sofer, in Toras Moshe, Shoftim. The same position was taken earlier by the Rambam in Igeres Teiman.

“A man does not truly understand a matter of halacha unless he stumbles in it” (Gittin 43a). We must now admit that Chazal in their Divine inspiration were correct. And in their wisdom, they foresaw what would result from not following their words. For in the beginning of this generation, there arose a man from the seed of Israel who did not know of the Torah of Israel, and with convincing words he adjured Israel to do the opposite of what the oaths of Hashem Yisborach dictate. And although the gedolim and the tzaddikim of that generation opposed him, our sins caused his false ideal to become dressed in the form of a few misguided talmidei chachomim, who joined with the source of heresy in order to actualize the plans of a man estranged from Torah.

Chazal teach that when someone comes to do something against the Torah, Heaven opens up a path for him (Shabbos 104a). They opened a path for them with the Balfour Declaration, and in the course of a few years the heresy became powerful both in Eretz Yisroel and the rest of the world to a degree never seen before. Almost all of Israel, unfortunately, became deniers of the principle of moshiach.

And certainly, for this also the Holy One, blessed is He, became angry at Israel, and punished them according to His attribute, measure for measure. They sinned and said that not Torah but blood makes Israel a nation. They sinned and said that not our holy Torah, but rather seed and birthright, race and descent, language and land, flesh and blood cause a son of Israel to be a Jew. Measure for measure, a hater of Israel arose in Germany who heated up the entire world’s latent hatred against the race and the descent of Israel, against his flesh and blood.

Rabbi Weissmandl goes on to describe at length the misconduct of Jewish leaders during the Second World War, and then writes:

And now, Daas Torah and good sense would dictate that we should arouse the mercy of the victorious Allies, and ask of them something that the Torah permits, something that they can fulfill, namely: that each of the fifty-one victorious nations should grant refuge, each in its own land, to some of these unfortunate and poor survivors.

Daas Torah and good sense would tell us that, unfortunately, the Jewish people have lost this war even more than the accursed Germans, for the best and greatest part of the Jewish people has fallen. And just as it would not occur to any German to start a new war now, certainly after the loss of the six million, the best of the Jewish people, it is forbidden to launch a new war, to endanger the weak, tiny and homeless remainder of the Jewish people. Rather we must beseech the nations of the world to permit the remaining Jews to settle in their lands, some here and some there.

But this is not the position these Jewish leaders took. They cried out right away: “Only to Eretz Yisroel must all these refugees go, not to any other place in the world! Israel declares war on Britain! Israel declares war on the Arabs! Israel declares war on the whole world!”

The poor Jews in the refugee camps thought, “What do these leaders care? They don’t live in camps. They live on the silver and gold of the charity funds in America, and use our plight to make their business deals. Millions more Jews can perish, G-d forbid, as long as they don’t lose their honor.”

On the advice of these people, these bitter survivors of the death camps launched a war against Britain, come what may… And on the advice of these people, these bitter souls insulted and angered the Arabs, who have been at peace with the Jews for many generations. If Britain has never lost a war for generations, and if the Arabs number in the hundreds of millions – what do they care? They are stronger than them; they are stronger than the whole world.

And if Moshe Rabbeinu commanded the Bnei Ephraim, after many generations of slavery in Egypt, when they thought that the time of redemption had arrived, to wait until he would tell them the time had come, but they did not believe him, and so they perished, as it is written in the Tanach… and if Yirmiyahu Hanavi commanded Israel to surrender to the wicked Nevuchadnetzar, but the sinners of his generation refused to listen, and thus the first exile came about… and if Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and his colleagues commanded Israel to surrender to the wicked Romans, but the zealots of his generation refused, and thus the second exile came about… and if the Holy One, blessed is He, Himself commanded Israel under oath to be subservient to the wicked Edom, and not to go up as a wall against Yishmoel, but the sinners of our generation refused to listen to the tzaddikim, and thus this latest churban came about…. What do these leaders care about a single chapter in Jewish history?

They say words that no mouth can bear to utter. Yirmiyahu Hanavi, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and his fellow Tannaim, and the tzaddikim of our generation brought the Jews to the Babylonian exile, to the Edomite exile, and to Auschwitz. But they and their predecessors in Yirmiyahu’s and Rabbi Yochanan’s generations were the true redeemers of Israel!

Even if we were to assume that some of these people do what they do for the sake of a mitzvah, for love of Eretz Yisroel… but if the choice is between Eretz and Yisroel, who doesn’t know which comes first? During exile, settling Eretz Yisroel is not a mitzvah that one must die rather than violate. And on the contrary, these people’s proposed state transgresses in many ways the three cardinal sins that one must die rather than commit.

The wicked Pharaoh launched the Egyptian slavery with the argument “lest there be a war and they be added to our enemies” (Shmos 1:10). And this same argument was that wicked man’s excuse in the last war, leading to the murder of millions of our kedoshim. And these people place the remainder of Israel in danger, by placing the possibility of Pharaoh’s argument with all its implications in the mouth of some leader, G-d forbid, if there is ever another war.

And if you ask: is there any way out now? The answer is yes! 1) We must completely relinquish any claim to a Jewish state. 2) We must accept the compromise [trusteeship] proposed by the United States. 3) We must ask Britain to take part in the government of Palestine. 4) Our representatives must meet with the Arabs face to face and reach an agreement, under the auspices of the United States. 5) We must ask the United Nations, and the U.S. and its neighbors especially, to quickly move all the Jews from the camps in Germany and from the rest of Europe to countries overseas and also to Palestine.

This is all possible on condition that we throw all those Jewish leaders who brought us to the current situation out of leadership. Let the nations know that Israel is a “debased and unwise nation” (Devarim 32:6) only when it follows the counsel of its sinners, but we are a “wise and understanding people” (ibid. 4:6) when Torah scholars and tzaddikim lead us.

And now, do not be disheartened over the Jewish masses who, until now, have believed in this false messiah, even at the cost of their lives. The Jewish people is holy, Ahavas Yisroel burns in their heart, and after thousands of years of bitter exile they allowed themselves to be taken in by inciters to sin such as never existed before in our history, who wore a mask of Ahavas Yisroel but only had one goal: to uproot the Torah from Jewish hearts.

And now, do not be disheartened over the future redemption of Israel and its kingdom. We have an old Father, our Father in Heaven, and a young child of old age, a poor man riding a donkey. The leadership will be on his shoulder, and on his throne no stranger will sit!

And they awoke early in the morning, and they ascended to the mountaintop, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place of which Hashem has spoken, for we have sinned.” And Moshe said, “Why do you transgress the command of Hashem? And it will not succeed. Do not ascend, for Hashem is not in your midst, so that you do not get smitten by your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you will fall by the sword, because you have turned aside from following Hashem, and Hashem will not be with you. And they defiantly ascended to the mountaintop, but the ark of the covenant of Hashem and Moshe did not move from the midst of the camp. And the Amalekites and the Canaanites, who lived on that mountain, descended, and they smote them and pounded them until Chormah. (14:40-45)

The Minchas Elazar (1872-1937) interpreted these verses as a prophecy about the Zionists of his time: “The Zionists went up to Eretz Yisroel with a strong hand to found colonies and fight with the gentiles. They defiantly ascended to the mountaintop, against the command of Hashem Yisborach through our Sages and our forefathers, who warned that this is not the way, and said that their end would be bitter, G-d forbid. They went in the path of strength and brazenness, as Rashi explains the word ויעפלו (v. 44).

“Yet the ark of the covenant of Hashem – the holy Torah, for we believers have nothing else left over but this Torah – and Moshe – the Torah leaders and tzaddikim (as we find in Shabbos 101b that a great sage can be called Moshe) who cried out against the Zionists and did not ascend with them or join them – did not move from the midst of the camp – the loyal, believing Jews. And the Amalekites and the Canaanites, who lived on that mountain…this is a reference to the evil inclination, which will one day appear in the form of a mountain (Succah 52a). And they smote them and pounded them until Chormah – as unfortunately occurred with the destruction and the killings in Jerusalem, the Holy City, near the Kosel Hamaaravi (in 1929) through these wicked people. May Hashem save us and help us and redeem us soon, in our days, for the sake of His name and His Torah, with love.” (Chaim Veshalom, Parshas Shlach)

The Minchas Elazar’s contention, that the events of 1929 were the result of Zionism and not of inherent Arab hatred toward Jews, is borne out by a recently published account of the pogrom. Rabbi Dov (Benny) Cohen was brought up in Seattle, Washington. In 1926, shortly after his thirteenth birthday, his parents sent him to study in the famous Slobodka Yeshiva of Lithuania, which had recently relocated to Hebron, Palestine. He witnessed the pogrom of 1929 and the events leading up to it, and he miraculously survived it all. After 1929, he moved back to Seattle, where he raised a family and lived to an old age.

Like all the surviving yeshiva students, he was shaken up by the events, and for fifty years he kept silent. Only his diary preserved his memories of the slaughter. But 15 years before his passing, Rabbi Benny Cohen opened his heart and mouth, and began to tell his family the events he had witnessed. He visited Hebron and gave interviews. After his passing, his family found his diary and has published his story as a book, “Vayeilchu Shneihem Yachdav.” The following are excerpts from the book.

“Hebron is called by the Arabs ‘Al Khalil,’ which means ‘the Beloved,’ their expression for the Avraham Avinu – the common ancestor of Jews and Arabs. On this note, we can say that a strong friendship existed among all residents of the city.

“The friendship found expression in the fact that we used to go to attend Arab weddings and wish them mazel tov. Of course we didn’t eat anything at the weddings, but we were welcome guests at all their happy events. Sometimes we would come there even before the ceremony, while they were cooking the lamb and rice, the main dishes served at their parties in those days.

“The Arabs, and even their sheikhs, used to attend Jewish weddings as a sign of friendship. I remember that my mother as well, who spend a few months in Hebron after bringing me before returning to America, participated in an Arab wedding, at the dancing ceremony. The custom was that the bride danced before the groom, a ceremony at which only women were present. The Arab neighbors invited my mother, and she came.

“The friendship and trust was such that we, the yeshiva students, used to go down sometimes to the village of Tarkumia to buy eggs and other products, sometimes even after midnight. In those years we walked around freely, without security patrol and without any weapons of self-defense, in all the Arab villages. No one had any fear. It happened once that as we were returning from shopping in Tarkumia, a group of villagers came out to greet us with dances and timbrels. When we asked what the occasion was for such rejoicing, they said that they were doing it in our honor, to express the villagers’ respect for the yeshiva students.

“Every month on Erev Rosh Chodesh, the yeshiva, including Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein and Rabbi Leib Chasman, would go to pray at the Cave of Machpelah. We were welcomed there. I remember that the Arab caretaker of the mosque used to watch over the rosh yeshiva’s gold cane, and he even allowed us to go above the famous seven steps, sometimes one extra step and sometimes more, I think until the eleventh step. It was well-known that when the yeshiva considered moving to a different location, the local Arab leaders stood up to prevent it.

“The events leading up to the pogrom began at the Western Wall on Yom Kippur, 1928. Until that time, Jews had prayed at the Wall in an unofficial way, without tables or chairs, and without a partition between men and women. On that Yom Kippur they set up a partition, brought benches for the elderly, and installed lighting. The Arabs, under the leadership of Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, saw this as an encroachment on their territory, and they threatened to attack the Jews if nothing was done to stop them. So the British Mandate police entered the praying crowd and removed the partition by force.

“In the course of time, the British government, in an effort to strike a fair balance between Jews and Arabs, set exact regulations for what could be done at the Wall and what could not be done. Reading the Torah was permitted on some days but not others, blowing shofar was prohibited at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, and the chazzan’s prayer stand could not be above a certain height.

“The Zionists seized on the conflict over the Wall as an opportunity to start a dispute with the Arabs and the British authorities. Over the heads of the poor, humble Jews who prayed at the Wall, the Zionist leaders opened a wave of protest, for they saw the stones of the Wall as symbolic stones of conflict, over which there could be no compromise. On Tisha B’av of that year [1929], which fell on Thursday, the Zionist Jews held a massive demonstration, which culminated in a march to the Wall, accompanied by the cry, ‘The Wall is our Wall!’

“These cries, which were heard clearly in the houses of the Muslim Quarter, spurred the Arabs to prove that the Wall was theirs… Following the demonstration, the Mufti’s agents spread rumors that the Jews were trying to conquer the Temple Mount. The next day, Friday, the Arabs held their own demonstration, during which they struck many of the Jews praying at the Wall, broke tables and burned prayerbooks.”

“After the Mufti’s speech in the Al Aqsa mosque that same day, an Arab mob armed with knives marched out of the Damascus Gate toward the Jewish neighborhoods. Over the following week, nineteen Jews were killed in Jerusalem.” Rabbi Benny Cohen goes on to describe in great detail how on the following Shabbos, 67 Jews were massacred in Hebron.

Unfortunately, the general Jewish world failed to learn the lesson the Minchas Elazar learned from the events of 1929. The Zionist movement reacted by transforming its Haganah forces from a tiny, untrained militia to a capable underground army of 50,000 soldiers. In the 81 years since then, Zionism’s actions have only led to more bloodshed and sorrow. It is time to heed the words of Moshe Rabbeinu: “Do not ascend, for Hashem is not in your midst, so that you do not get smitten by your enemies!”



Hebron Massacre