Doh Is Lichtig

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rabbi-pinchos-lipschutz-By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

It has been said that Jewish history is quite simple.

There is an old fable which depicts the Jewish condition. The drinking water all the animals depended upon was being contaminated. Nobody was able to identify the culprit. Finally, the animal leaders met, examined the facts, and sentenced a poor, hapless goat to death for the crime.

The goat protested that it was unfair to blame him for something he could not have done. He had a perfect alibi: He had never even been near the water.

“You’re right,” replied the wolf. “Maybe it’s not your fault. but we have to kill you.”

In the Middle Ages, when plagues spread throughout Europe, the Jews were always blamed. “The Jews poisoned the wells!” was the refrain that led to the butchery of tens of thousands of our forebears. Whenever there was a problem afflicting the general population, Jews were the scapegoat.

Ever since those dark days, Jews have been attempting to prove that they are normal, productive, loyal citizens. Usually for naught.

“You’re right,” the anti-Semites inevitably respond, “but we hate you anyway.”

Back at the very beginning, the nochosh was victorious with his venomous power of leitzonus, scoffing to Chava about the Ribbono Shel Olam. To persuade her to sin, the snake mocked holiness. Ever since, cynicism and scorn have been realities we must deal with. Kedushah, holiness, has for eternity encountered contemptuous resistance. The face of the opponent may be charming, but the motivations are those of the snake.

The sinas am ha’aretz for a talmid chochom is nothing new. As long as there have been Yidden doing mitzvos, they have been scorned by others. Under the guise of concern over social welfare and with calls to “share the burden,” those who fear Hashem have been accused of being anti-social parasites almost forever.

Rabi Akiva (Pesachim 49b) said regarding himself, that in his earlier years as a shepherd when he was not yet familiar with Torah, his hatred of a talmid chochom was intense: “If I saw a talmid chochom,” he recalled, “I wished to bite him like a donkey (whose bite hurts more than that of a dog).”

In telling the story of how Rochel, daughter of the fabulously wealthy Kalba Savua, chose the shepherd, Akiva, for a husband despite her father’s protestations, the Gemara (Kesubos 62b) depicts him as a kind and humble person.

Tosafos points out that although he was gentle and compassionate, he still wished he could bite another human being with the aim of causing him great pain. Despite the fact that he was a shepherd, engaged in a vocation that requires tenderness, and notwithstanding his nature as a good, kind, sympathetic and loving individual, he was consumed with hatred for talmidei chachomim.

Such is the malice of genial, gentle am haaratzim towards talmidei chochomim. That is the way it has always been ever since the Torah was given on Har Sinai, and that is the way it is today.

So get ready for the onslaught, because here we go again.

The media is licking its collective chops in anticipation. A new government has been formed in Eretz Yisroel and its coalition will exclude everyone’s favorite scapegoat. The chareidim are out. The ones who cause so much trouble have been banished to their insular corners. Enough ink to fill the Kinneret will be spilled with self-congratulatory, exultant editorials about how this new government is so much better, friendlier, and more in touch with the people. The politicians will gloat about how much more they can accomplish to benefit the country with the chareidi stranglehold broken.

With Yahadus Hatorah and Shas out of the way, there won’t be anyone to object to empowering liberal rabbis to water down conversion procedures, welcoming all who wish to be accepted as Jews, even if they don’t halachically qualify. Kashrus will also suffer, as will Shabbos and halachic marriage requirements. A revolution will ensue, with the kind, thoughtful, enlightened ones turning back decades of Neanderthal strangulation.

The government bulldozer will aim for the yeshivos, seeking to stem their remarkable post-Holocaust rebirth and growth. They will undo what Menachem Begin and every successive government since his has done to support Torah study. The long-forgotten Mizrachi party, newly revived and revitalized, will roar back to life, proudly waving its compromising agenda. Their all-inclusive Ahavat Yisroel passes over those most scrupulous in their Torah observance, as their concern for all the country’s citizens frighteningly points them to starve the poor children of the contemptible Torah scholars.

While the outside world will focus on Israel’s existential problems, namely the Iranian threat, the festering Palestinian issues and the general outcry against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, beneath the radar the new coalition partners will be busy at work turning back the clock on matters of religion and state.

Davka at a time when the country requires zechuyos to remain viable in an inhospitable neighborhood, Torah and mitzvos, in whose merit the world and Israel exist, will be under attack.

People who don’t appreciate history and the underlying points of conflict, will be lecturing us on how we should have behaved and what we should have done differently while the going was good. The advice to be more welcoming, open and loving will come from all sides, and many will indeed be convinced that if only the chareidim would be more tolerant of deviant behavior and more charitable to all types of Jews, Shas would still be heading up vital ministries, UTJ Knesset members would still be functioning as ministers and in charge of the Knesset Finance Committee; and chareidim would still be chief rabbis and dayonim.

Of course there is always room for improvement and not everything every member of the community says or does is always proper or beneficial to the way we are perceived by our secular brethren and the general world. By and large, however, we are good people, dedicating our lives to growth in Torah, mitzvos, and good deeds. We follow a Divine guide to life, which, while we take it for granted, is singular in the world. Our lives have meaning, as we realize that we each have a mission to complete. We build schools and clinics, and we support the poor and those in need. We give more charity and spend a greater percentage of our days studying than anyone else. We are moral and kind and don’t need to be lectured by anyone.

Sure, every so often there will be positive articles about us in the press, if for no other reason than for them to be able to portray themselves as being objective when they attack us. Just as we should not be overly enthralled when they condemn, we should not be overwhelmed with their sparing embrace. We are not impressed by their platitudes or by those of the apologists. 

There will be trying times ahead and we must be strong and resolute as we wait for the pendulum to swing back in our direction. In the alter heim, no matter what Jews did, it wasn’t enough. No matter how much they paid in taxes, it was never enough. No matter how patriotic they were, they were always accused of having dual loyalties. No matter how friendly they were to their neighbors, come Pesach-time, the local pastor would preach against the bloodthirsty Jews who kill innocent Christian children to use their blood for matzos. Despite all the pogroms, our grandfathers and grandmothers didn’t veer from the path. They never buckled and they never wavered in their beliefs and fidelity to Torah. They possessed the self-confidence and buoyancy to proudly march forward.

The Brisker Rov once spent Shabbos in a hotel for the sheva brachos of one of his sons. The Rov, as is the habit of others, did not benefit from Israeli electricity on Shabbos, because the electric company is operated by Jews. A talmid volunteered to arrange for the hotel to provide a large room in which the electricity was shut off, for them to  daven and eat in.

For whatever reason, the job wasn’t done, and when the Rov walked into the room, the lights were shining brightly. He immediately left that room and found a small, dark area where there was no light. He announced that they would be using that room over Shabbos.

In obvious distress, the talmid approached the Rov to apologize. “I am so sorry,” he said, “that the large room is lichtig (illuminated).”

The Rov responded with a surprised look on his face. “Dort iz lichtig?” he asked, indicating the first, well-lit room. “Doh iz lichtig!” he said, pointing to the small, darkened room around him where Yidden sat davening.

We have to reaffirm our belief that as bright as the lights may seem, as wide as the smiles on the coalition members’ faces appear, and as exultant as our enemies seem, doh iz lichtig. We have a rich, vibrant mesorah and the tools to rise above the pettiness and small-mindedness all around us. Our strength and confidence come from horeving in learning, from maasim tovim and chessed, and from tefillah and bitachon. We aren’t the Ribbono Shel Olam’s salesmen, compromising on His Torah, Shabbos or geirus for material gain. Our mission remains to preserve the gaon Yaakov asher oheiv selah. We don’t compromise our ideals in the pursuit of fleeting human accolades.

We have to learn not to get squeamish or bent out of shape when we are attacked over silliness. Nor should we get drunk with excitement when some secular Jew relates a nice anecdote about frumeh Yidden.

The fundamentals of our emunah must be strong. We must have bitachon that when one does what is right and proper; the correct outcome will eventually result. We don’t have to feel apologetic to the women’s libbers who claim that the Torah is unfair. We don’t owe anything to the goyim who want to be codified as Jews. Torah has always been our lifeblood and always will be. Torah and halacha are eternal truths. They are Divinely given and are not subject to passing fads, political needs, or the prevailing zeitgeist.

Popularity is not proof of truth. Of course we have to treat all people the way we want to be treated – with kindness, civility, humility and gentleness – but not out of a feeling of submission and weakness, but rather because the Torah is a Toras Chessed, and mussar and middos tovos are chalokim and s’nifim of the derech we follow.

And if the penetrating truth in that isn’t enough, it behooves us to study the stories of those who came before us and faced the spiritual fathers of Yair Lapid and Naftoli Bennett. One example is that of the Ponovezher Rov, who built Torah at a time when Zionism, with its trappings, uniforms and ideals, was the wave of the future. Speaking in 1941, he famously predicted that one day the children of the most left-wing, diehard, anti-religious Kibbutz Ein Charod would be wearing tefillin.

Many mocked the Rov, as they did when he began building his yeshiva on an empty hill in a small, dusty, hot town. They said that he was an unrealistic dreamer. Yet, the Rov told his son how he knew that what he said wasn’t empty hyperbole. To him, it was as real as the pesukim in the Torah. Like so many who sacrificed themselves so that we can live Torah lives, he knew that the truth would triumph.

Their victory is temporary. Torah is eternal.

The recently departed Reb Yossel Friedenson would tell the story of Reb Akiva Goldstoff, who found a way to bake matzos in the concentration camp in which he was thrust. His overjoyed bunkmates were cherishing their crumbs of a mitzvah when a Nazi strode into the barracks.

“Fools!” he mocked them. “Do you really believe that your G-d is here for you? Why don’t you look around and see how He has forsaken, forgotten and abandoned you?”

With a knowing smile, Reb Yossel would recount the timeless reply of Reb Akiva Goldstoff: “Nisht in gantzen, un nisht oif eibek. It may appear that we are forgotten, but it’s not total and not forever.”

Boruch Hashem, today we can bake matzos and eat as much as we want. As the threatening sounds of derision come our way, we should remember that the scoffers only have the upper hand temporarily. Nisht in gantzen and nisht oif eibek.

My friend, Rav Yechiel Spero, recently shared with me the following story. After World War II, one of those who undertook a campaign to rebuild the ruchniyus of Klal Yisroel was Rav Gershon Libman, the founding rosh yeshiva of the Novardok Yeshiva in France. At a time when many people were disoriented from the ravages of the awful war and were bitter toward G-d, wanting nothing to do with Him, Rabbi Libman yearned to ignite the spark of Yiddishkeit once more.

He traveled to meet with members of the Joint Distribution Committee, hoping they would support his cause and provide funding for the yeshiva he dreamed about building. After a long wait for his chance to speak with them, he went through his plan, soliciting their assistance to help him resurrect the lives of yeshiva bochurim, shattered by the war. When he finished his pitch, the head of the committee spoke.

“It is very noble that you are helping these young men rebuild their lives,” the man told Rav Gershon, “but we will not support the worthless bonk-kvetcher practice of sitting on a bench and learning. If you tell us that after learning in the yeshiva they will go to a university to become doctors, lawyers or accountants and become productive citizens, then we can give you money to support them. If not, we can’t waste our money on them.”

Rav Gershon was surprised, but not shocked. He knew that these people were not supportive of his way of life, but he could not tolerate the way they mocked yeshivos and bochurim. He stood up and proclaimed, “In this yeshiva, we will develop mentchen!”

Until that point, the leader had been firm, but polite. Suddenly, however, he turned red, pounded on the table, and raised his voice. “Don’t tell me about mentchen!” he hollered, rolling up his sleeve to show the numbers tattooed on his arm, revealing that he was a survivor of the Nazi atrocities.

“You are not the only one who survived the camps,” he continued. “I also went through them. I saw what life was like there. I witnessed the way people acted. We were nothing more than animals struggling to survive. Now, all humanity, all mentchlichkeit, is gone! I’m sorry, but our answer is no!”

Rav Gershon quietly left the room. He walked back and forth for a few moments and then, suddenly, made a beeline toward the meeting room. He informed the secretary that he had to speak to the committee again. She politely explained that he had his chance and there were others who needed the time. Rav Gershon promised her that he was done asking for money and just wanted to tell the committee members in the room a story. He walked in and this is what he said:

“If you don’t want to give me money, I understand. But you said that there are no more mentchen. That’s not true, however, for I was privileged to be among a group of them in the war.”

This was his story:

We worked fourteen-hour days in the camp. The labor broke us, body and spirit. There were many who did not survive. Even those who did were forced to degrade ourselves to walk down into a ditch to retrieve our “food.” It wasn’t much, a paltry bowl of murky, muddy soup. We were each given a bowl and made our way toward the large container. When we got there, our masters would put a ladleful of soup into our bowls, bark at us, and send us on our way.

Holding our bowls, we had to walk back up the hill, contending with the throngs of people who were rushing to get to their meal. They were also starving and unable to take us into account as we carefully walked with our bowls. By the time we got to the top of the hill, there were only a few spoonsful left in our bowls.

There was an older fellow who had lost his will to live. His whole family had died and he was all alone. He just wanted to die and be with his family again. But we would encourage him every day, and we would help him down into the pit to get his soup.

But one day, it seemed that the man’s spark had been extinguished, and all of his spirit was completely sapped. More than ever, he looked as though he had one foot in the grave. And no matter how hard we tried, we could not convince him to go down to get his food. We knew that if he did not get some nourishment, he would die.

Suddenly, we saw a man emerge from the throngs with two bowls of soup. Since he was walking toward us, for a second we thought he had gone to get some food for this man. But as soon as we saw that he was not coming toward us, we asked him if he would be able to share one of his bowls with the man who was dying. He looked at us defiantly and refused. “Over here, it’s each man for himself.”

It did not take long. Within a couple hours, the old man was dead. That night, we didn’t eat supper. Instead, we took the lonely man’s body and buried it.

Rav Gershon turned once more to the group and said sharply, “Don’t tell me that there are no longer mentchen. That group of bnei Torah gave up everything for a fellow Jew. And he was a stranger.”

The leader of the group started crying as Rav Gershon finished the story. At first, the tears trickled slowly and quietly down his cheeks. And then he began to sob. And through his tears, he blurted out, “I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help myself. We were starving and I thought that I would die. I was the fellow with the two bowls. You are right. Among your kind, there are still mentchen.

The man said that he would give much more than Rav Gershon asked for and added, “Yes, Rabbi Libman, you are correct. Even in the darkest moments and the most difficult times, there are still those who are able to shine.”

That’s our heritage. That’s who we are. That’s the world of Torah.

Let not let the headlines or the grim prognosis get us down. Let us learn to internalize and proclaim, with confidence and joy, the words of the Brisker Rov: “Doh is lichtig!”

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  1. Very well written. Thank you.
    I needed this. Really beautiful and inspiring.

    “Davka at a time when the country requires zechuyos to remain viable in an inhospitable neighborhood, Torah and mitzvos, in whose merit the world and Israel exist, will be under attack.”

    So true and sad

  2. Thank You Rabbi.
    This article is great. I”m happy to see that there is still someone that has the courage to stand up and defend our Mesorah and give us Chizuk at the same time.
    Keep on writing.

  3. If the political strategy of the past isn’t working now to protect our interests in Israel, we need a better strategy. No matter how much pride we rightfully take in ourselves, we have to get our message across to others.

  4. “We have to learn not to get squeamish or bent out of shape when we are attacked over silliness.”

    Thank you.

  5. the tantrum continues from R’ Lipschutz unabated.

    Lacking any nuance whatsoever, he compares other Yidden to murdering Christians, maskilim, and to top it all off he paints anyone who doesnt agree with the most extreme chareidi point of view – as enemies. Wow…

    I told you this last week R’ Lipschutz, and it remains true,… no matter how many times you frame this debate as “they hate Torah” it remains patently false. Your analysis is one-sided, full of hyperbole, and would be better suited to a Soviet propaganda rag.

    And other than the cute story at the end, you accomplish NOTHING with such articles except to further alienate Jews and perpetuate sinas chinam through the lack of hakaras hatov.

    And because of this lack of hakaras hatov, R’ Lipschutz, you owe a public apology to all those whose intelligence you insult regularly, but especially to mothers and fathers who have lost children in battle defending those who choose to sit and learn – with your callous and outrageous comments.

  6. i am embaraced by the self-richest, condescending – diatribe above

    It is precisely because of this arrogance, which is a plaque among frun people, that the chiloni / Bennet camp choses not to make an alliance with the charieidi parties. Why should they be subjected to being treated as second class jews

    I just wonder .. what makes this author and the likes of him think that they are the holders of the ONLY truth.

    As they say .. there are many ways to serve the ribbon shel olam .. not only one.

    Beware of one with such monumental Gaiveh !!

  7. to number 10 your last pp see avoda zara 2b the nations say all their toil was for the jews to be able to learn torah hashem said fools your intention was for yourselves we all know the idf does not have intentions to defend those who sit and learn

  8. it would behoove this website to show just an iota of journalistic integrity and post 1 report (compared to all the many posted blasting it) what the final agreed upon plan for “sharing the burden” actually entails.

    Readers would be surpised to see that under the plan there would be:

    -NO attempt to close yeshivos,
    -NO roundup/arresting of bochurim,
    -NO forcing of bochurim into the army
    -NO criminal sanctions at all
    -NO requirements for girls

    On the contrary people would be thrilled to see:

    -MORE funding for individuals who learn who choose to serve in the IDF or perform national service
    -MORE funding for those Yeshivos
    -draft age is 21 (not 18)
    -LOWER age to legally enter the workforce (down to 21 from 28)
    -NO requirement to serve in the IDF or national service in order to work
    -1800 exemptions for 18yr old geniuses who will be allowed full support PER YEAR (that’s 1800 out of 7000 chareidi men who turn 18 every year; over 20%)

    Of course there are financial implications for bochurim who refuse to serve, but those who wish to learn anyway are still able to.

    Where exactly is the harsh Gezeira? Can you imagine if in the USA, Obama was to offer financial incentives/support to 20% of all yungerman? We’d be jumping for joy.

  9. Despite all of his rantings and ravings, Rabbi Lipshutz fails to mention or comment on the most significant issue of all: “sharing the burden”.

    Please answer, dear Rabbi, how many Kollel Yungerliet have been killed during “training exercises” similar to the deaths yesterday, r”l., of the two Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots?

    How many bucherim have been kidnapped by terrorists? I know that our enemies have plans to kidnap soldiers, but I have not heard of any plans to kidnap bucherim for the purpose of a prisoner swap.

    The Haredi camp, dear Rabbi, preaches that learning Torah has the same (if not more) value in protecting Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael than IDF soldiers. For arguments sake, let’s say I agree. I ask you: how many bucherim have given their lives al Kiddush HaShem while sitting in the Beis Medrash?

    Final question(s), learned Rabbi: Is the blood of your sons more valuable than the blood of my sons? They (and their batlle buddies) should die r”l. so that the Mir and Brisk can continue on their merry ways?

    In what Mesechta do we find that Sugya?

  10. torahis1 shows himself to be an ignoramus, defending bennet who made a deal with the religion-hating lapid and wouldn’t budge from it no matter what. Yes, they hate Torah. That is what all the Israeli gedolim say, and they know alot better than the anonymous torahis1. So, way to go Rabbi Lipschutz. Thank you for giving voice to our community and gedolim.

  11. to Ben Torah comment #15):

    Lapid hates Torah? yeah sure… Thats why he’s got 2 Rabbonim (1 chareidi) in his party.

    Listen up – – Allying your self with someone for one purpose doesnt mean you buy into everything they believe.

    Chareidi parties ally with non-frum parties all the time. Are they also “haters of Torah?”

    …and I’m the ignoramus?

  12. #16,

    Simple. Did Yair Lapid clearly state that a goal of his is to give reform and conservative “Judaism” exact equality to Torah-Judaism in Israel?

    Yes, he has. Thank you Mr. ignoramus.

    His making use of a “rabbi” is skilled politics.

  13. to #19. that still doesnt make him a hater of Torah.

    nor does the fact that his father was outspoken either make him a Torah hater. In that case Avrohom Avinu also is a Torah hater because his father Terach was an idol worshipper. ?

  14. RPL consistently manages to be the lone voice of Torah true hashkafa, with great writing and moving stories.

    Kol hakovod.

  15. #12 with the fake moniker

    “it would behoove this website to show just an iota of journalistic integrity and post 1 report (compared to all the many posted blasting it) what the final agreed upon plan for “sharing the burden” actually entails.

    Readers would be surpised to see that under the plan there would be:

    -NO attempt to close yeshivos,
    -NO roundup/arresting of bochurim,
    -NO forcing of bochurim into the army
    -NO criminal sanctions at all
    -NO requirements for girls”

    Pleasse do all this.
    Bring it on

    They would have done this too ,except it would mean civil war
    -which they would have lost.


    An analogy would be Boxer in Orwell’s Animal Farm

    Which You and your ilk like to be.

  16. #16
    That says more about you ..

    Yiroel Hayom
    O5 /03/13
    Dr. Haim Shine

    Shortly after the elections, when Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid proclaimed that he would only join a government bloc “without the Zoabis,” I thought he had been filled with the patriotic fervor to defend the honor of the Knesset, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit. Now, it seems we can add to his list a government without Litzmans, Atiases, or haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in general. Despite all of Lapid’s promises, nothing has changed. We’ve reverted back to the arrogant, smug and snobbish hatred of the other — a hatred that shows clear signs of racism towards whomever doesn’t think like you, dress like you, or go out to the same pubs as you.

    Murky waves of disdain have passed among our brethren since the founding of the state. It’s an abysmal kind of hatred that stems from the old elite’s fear of losing hegemony. This is the elite that founded the state and then claimed its main assets for itself; the elite that called Holocaust survivors “soap” (because of the largely unfounded rumor that the Nazis had made soap from the fat of Jewish bodies); the elite that pushed Jewish immigrants of Middle Eastern descent into the outermost peripheries and called them the “Second Israel” (the Ashkenazim being the “First Israel”); the elite that ridiculed immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The apex of elitist hatred now is directed at the haredi and settler communities, and is expressed in slogans no propagandist would even dare use.

    It took decades to dull the blade of hatred, and for that we ought to thank Menachem Begin, who for many years suffered humiliation and alienation at the hands of the Mapai elites. The revolution of 1977, when the Likud first came to power, wasn’t just a political shift, but also a change in consciousness. It allowed outcasts and rejects nationwide to raise their heads proudly. The old elite, which was stripped of its power in one evening, never conceded its loss of hegemony. Its representatives, who sought refuge in the judiciary, the media and the economic sector, worked tirelessly and subversively to maintain the supremacy of the ruling elite. Lapid, who loyally follows in his father’s footsteps, carries that legacy. By using sweet talk, finesse and a pseudo-ideological shell, he is trying to drill a hole in our ship with the determination of a martial artist (Lapid himself has a black belt) — a black hole of rejectionism, delegitimization and hatred, which is liable to founder the entire vessel.

    It appears that haredim are bothering Lapid and his friends’ hedonistic revelry. The birthrate in the ultra-Orthodox community is high and threatens to skew Israeli demographics. And who wants the kind of Judaism that haredim so vehemently defend, anyway? Lapid and his crew share the vision of being a free nation in the Jewish homeland — without haredim, settlers or minorities. The Jews survived Pharaoh because they never gave up their language or names; were
    victorious over Haman even though the elite in Shushan joined Ahasuerus in his feast.
    Those who think they can stamp out Torah learning and religious Judaism should remember Exodus 1:12: “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread.” The Israeli spirit cannot be defeated. The Eternal One of Israel will not lie.

    It’s unclear, though, how Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and MKs Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan and Orit Struck got so mixed up about which side they should be on. It’s too bad that their GPS malfunctioned at the moment of truth.


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