By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The trajectory of this country has been transformed drastically since the presidential election. With the arrival of the new administration, entire concepts have changed, definitions of words have been revised, things that were considered dangerous for the country have been embraced, protections have been done away with, and borders have been thrown open for illegals, though you’re not allowed to refer to them as illegals anymore.
Last Thursday, Congress basically declared the Bible racist and discriminatory and may yet seek to criminalize it, as the morals and values that have held the world together and governed human interaction since the Bible was given have been junked, and if you dare speak or write of them in a positive way, you are derided and cancelled.
President Trump earned the votes of 75 million Americans, more than any previous incumbent president running for re-election, but he couldn’t compete with a lethargic candidate who barely campaigned and nobody really liked or cared about. Joe Biden couldn’t speak a coherent sentence unless he was reading it from an ever-present teleprompter, and even then he made so many mistakes that his handlers kept him locked up in his basement away from the public and media.
Yet, every time the media mentions the contention of Trump and his voters that the election was not wholly kosher, they make sure to let you know that such claims are “false” and “baseless.” Press neutrality is done. The press now acts as advocates for the leftist positions they have lobbied so hard for over the past few years.
Iran’s claims are not labeled as false. That would be going against the administration’s drive to enter into an agreement with one of the country’s most bitter foes. Trump brought Iran to its financial knees, now Biden seeks to regenerate them and enable them to return to their bitter terror war against the interest of democracy and freedom. Palestinian lies are never disputed. After all, boosting them hurts Israel. In addition, Biden and his group are restoring their relevance and funding that Trump removed as punishment.
On Purim, Israel was under a strict lockdown. Police were stationed around Yerushalayim to ensure that no chareidim enter, as they might mingle with their families and that can’t happen. On Monday, the Cabinet met and decided that the lockdown could be eased and stores, hotels, restaurants, and catering halls could begin opening.
What happened? Was there a new scientific report that enlightened the Cabinet members? Did the medical experts decide overnight that the coast is clear and the virus is beaten? Don’t believe that that is what happened.
A political decision was made that if they don’t stop torturing the people, there will be a heavy price paid at the election polls in three weeks. Voila! It’s all safe now. The vaccines have done their job and it’s time to restore the people’s freedoms lest they revolt.
This is similar to what is going on in this country in the public school system. Millions of children are not allowed back into school and it has nothing to do with science and nothing to do with medicine. It has everything to do with lazy teachers, powerful unions, and feckless Democrat politicians.
New York’s governor was touted by politicians across the country as the go-to guy for corona. He won awards and shamelessly promoted a book he wrote on leadership, because he was the undisputed expert. He bashed President Trump at every opportunity, despite Trump’s best efforts to help New York and the country.
The governor targeted the frum community for public derision and whipping, doing his best to besmirch us and ruin the summer for thousands of our children. Those who mock us at every opportunity joined the bandwagon. After all, they were following the leadership of the governor, and everything he said and did was based on science. Shouts of aivah and dina demalchusa were thrown in our direction, and when Cuomo was sued, the yefei nefesh were aghast. “Don’t you guys know that we are in golus?” they cried.
Well, now the truth has been revealed for all to see and Cuomo is dead in the water, as his feared emergency Covid powers, which affected the lives of 19 million people, are about to be stripped away.
How do these things happen? How are fictions successfully plied to millions of people, who blindly accept them? Had they given some thought to what was happening, they would have had reason to doubt the narrative.
Such is the way of the Soton. Once he gets his foot in the door, it’s hard to get him out. We have got to be smart enough to perceive what is real and what is fake, who is good and who is evil, who is working for our benefit and who is consumed and motivated by selfish ego.
Covid cases are rapidly dropping across the country, but you wouldn’t know it. There seems to be a move afoot to suppress that information, for Covid gives the left a perfect cover to suppress freedoms and press ahead with its socialist programs. As Covid recedes, the economy rises, but you wouldn’t know that either, because if the economy is improving on its own by capitalist forces, who needs a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, only a tenth of which goes to fight the coronavirus and help those affected by it? But that’s a different story.
It is not hyperbole to say that our freedoms are at stake, that white people are under attack, that taxes will soon go the direction of gas prices, and that many things that have been taken for granted will disappear.
Such is the pattern of socialists around the world. After promising a utopian paradise, they go on to destroy all economic growth. Inflation rises to no end. There are shortages of everything. Wherever they go, ruin follows. Great speeches and promises of free stuff and free money never materialize. First everyone gets all the goodies they want and then everything begins to dry up. Look at Venezuela, a prosperous country, flush with oil revenue, with a bright future. The people fell for a socialist leader and voted him into power. Within a couple of years, the good times were replaced with corruption, destruction, bankruptcy, hunger and starvation.
How does it happen? Why would anyone give up freedoms, wealth, decency, sensible laws, a comfortable life, and everything that comes with it? Why would they trade that for a concept that has failed wherever it has been introduced?
Because that is the way of the Soton and the Yeitzer Hora. They present to you alternate realities and convince you that what is detrimental is beneficial and what is wrong is right. They use every tool available to prove to you that night is day and evil is virtuous.
Anybody who is not principled with a strong moral character and blessed with faith and solid beliefs can be corrupted. The only question is the difficulty in flipping them.
This week, we will learn Parshas Ki Sisa and once again review the catastrophic collapse of the Jewish people as they were at their apex. And then it all fell apart. As Moshe Rabbeinu was receiving the Torah, the people were collecting their golden jewelry to melt them down and create a little calf to replace their leader.
The idea is bizarre and baffling. How can the most knowledgeable Jews who ever lived, known as the Dor Dei’ah, have forsaken their Moshe and the Torah and traded them in for a little cow that they themselves made that morning?
These were people who personally witnessed more miracles than anyone else. It didn’t require faith for them to believe in the makkos and the nissim at Yetzias Mitzrayim. They themselves were there and had seen them with their very eyes. And then they were ready to give it all up.
Rashi (32:1) quotes the Gemara (Shabbos 89a) which goes to the root of the error. It says that Moshe had promised the Jewish people that he would return in forty days. They became confused in their count and the Soton created darkness and confusion in the world so that they would assume that Moshe had died. But the people did not fall for that and told the Soton that Moshe was alive. They believed he would return as he had promised them that he would.
Then the Soton produced an image of Moshe’s body being carried in a casket in heaven. The people saw that and became convinced that Moshe would not be returning to lead them. They created the Eigel and we are still being punished for their act to this day.
The question is often posed: Why was the sin considered so great that they were deserving of severe punishment? Since they were shown the bier of Moshe, why are they blamed for trusting their eyes?
The Alter of Kelm explains that a person must work hard to develop a deep intelligence. We must be smart enough to ensure that nothing can ever convince us that the truth is not true. We have to have a proper understanding of the world that cannot be shaken, no matter what proofs are thrown at us.
If Moshe promised that he would return with the Torah, they should have had enough faith in him to know that he would be returning and nothing should have been able to shake them from that conviction.
When we know that the Torah is a Toras Emes and represents the absolute truth, nothing that anybody says can change that. No proposed theories or proofs can alter the fundamental knowledge of the veracity of Torah.
When the people saw the vision of a dead Moshe, they should not have permitted what they saw to fool them. A room full of people can all see the same thing and each person can view it differently. What they say is based upon their intelligence, understanding, biases, and previous experiences.
The story is often told of the teacher, or rebbi, or mashgiach who took a blank sheet of paper and placed a small dot on it. He held it up to the class and asked the students what they see. Most students said that they saw a blank page. Only the perceptive ones saw the dot staring at them.
Rav Berel Soloveitchik, rosh yeshivas Brisk, once told a story during Chumash shiur. He then went around the room, asking talmidim to repeat the story. Each one retold the story differently than it was originally said. He made the point that people repeat anecdotes that they heard from other people, who heard them from other people, and then they draw lessons from the story, while, most likely, by the time you hear the story, it bears slight resemblance to what actually occurred.
The Dor Dei’ah, the people who had experienced the loving Hand of Hashem and had studied from and been led by Moshe, should have seen past the subterfuge and known that there was something wrong with what they were observing. With their depth of understanding, they should have perceived that there was a sleight of hand manipulating the image and the picture had been photoshopped.
Once the Soton has convinced you to veer from the teachings of the Torah and your teachers, he has you firmly in his grip and will continue plying you until you are in a netherworld you never thought you would occupy.
Once the Soton was able to convince the Jews that Moshe was dead, from there he was quickly able to send them down the slippery slope, and by the next morning they were sunken in a sea of promiscuity and sin as they celebrated their new leader, the cow. Overnight, they had gone from being the holiest to the most depraved, despicable bunch.
By the time Moshe returned some hours later and called for those loyal to Hashem to rally to him, only shevet Levi raised their hands. The others were too far gone. They had despaired when convinced that Moshe was gone, and then, when he did return as he promised he would, they ignored his call. They had gone over to the dark side and couldn’t come back.
Life often throws challenges of this sort our way. Things appeal to our senses, tempting us against our better judgment. We find ourselves being seduced by outward appearances and scenes that the Soton paints for us. We disobey our teachings, traditions and common sense, because we are dazzled or enraptured by something we can’t resist pursuing. We convince ourselves that there is nothing wrong with our behavior. We resort to all kinds of excuses and rationales to justify our actions.
Ever since Covid began, the internet has invaded our lives more than ever. People who had avoided it and limited its use are now all in, doing all their shopping, fundraising, communicating, and much else there. Besides everything else, it dulls people’s thinking and sensitivity. Everything is boiled down to quickie glances. People look at something for a few seconds and think they understand it, while, in fact, all they have is a superficial glance and a superficial description of whatever it is that they are interested in. Everyone becomes an expert in things they know nothing about, and it becomes that much harder to reach and teach them.
If the intelligence of the am chochom venavon gets crimped, it becomes much easier for the Soton to play with us and send us down the path of those who sinned with the Eigel.
Just look at the Democrats and what they were able to do, from convincing millions of people to vote for a deeply flawed candidate to having the entire country sit quietly on their hands as they set about remaking it in an image a majority of the voters were unable to foresee.
We need to be smart about what we do and how we lead our lives and what we permit into our house. It is not a conspiracy theory to note that the Soton plants subliminal messages which affect the thinking of those who lack the depth of understanding that is required to be aware of the hazards and inducements to veer just a drop from the proper way. The drip-drip influences change the perceptions and thought process so that without realizing the change, a person begins viewing things differently.
The question was posed to the Chidushei Horim why the Aseres Hadibros had to be written on the luchos. Everyone heard them as they were being transmitted at Har Sinai, why was it necessary to write them. The rebbe answered that the Aseres Hadibros were written as well on the hearts of the Jewish people.
And what good was having the Aseres Hadibros written on their hearts?
In 1930 the Chofetz Chaim called a gathering of rabbonim to discuss a certain issue he felt was of great importance. At the meeting some of the gathered disagreed with him about how necessary it was to fight the government edict he was upset about. One of the rabbonim, gave voice to what others were thinking. He asked the Chofetz Chaim “vu shteit dos,” on what basis did he conclude that this matter was of enough significance that it was worth jeopardizing the community’s standing with the government over this. “Where is this written in halacha?,” the man concluded.
The Chofetz Chaim raised himself, opened the buttons of his kapota and pointed to his heart. “Es shteit duh. It says it right here.”
That is what is meant when we say a person has a “Yidishe hartz,” a Jewish heart. Deep down we know the truth. Every Jewish person is born with the words of the Aseres Hadibros written on his heart. When we remain in touch with our core, we are protected from the Soton and his attempts to steer us wrong so that we violate that which makes us great and good.
Before we act, think or do something, we should point at our heart and consider “vos shteit duh,” what is written there. Is what I am about to do consistent with what is written on my heart or is it not. If it isn’t, we shouldn’t permit ourselves to undertake that action or entertain that thought.
Let us recognize fact from fallacy. Let us be sure that we lead our lives based on a path of truth and fidelity, following the Torah every step of the way and the guidance of our Torah leaders in our day-to-day lives. We will thus become conduits of Kiddush Sheim Shomayim, reflecting the truth of Hashem and His Torah for all to see.