Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Separated from the Nations, Undivided within Our Own

Source Sheet by Mordechai Lewis

Balak tells Bila’am to curse our nation.[1] Bila’am response was, “How can I curse? - G-d has not cursed. How can I anger? - G-d is not angry…”[2] Yet, he did prophesize that, “We are a nation that dwells alone and among the nations, we will not be recognized.”[3] [4]

Where do we see that? Just look at the United Nations.[5] They have condemned us[6] more times than any other country![7] When will we experience this the most? In the period leading up to Moshiach.[8] For we see that the UN is ganging up against us. In the words of Dovid HaMelech, “All the nations surround me… they encircle me…”[9] As the Novi tells us, “I will gather the nations to Yerushalayim for war…”[10] However, this is materializing in our times! Only liberals, leftists or irreligious Jews - who have no Torah in their life[11] - can’t see that it’s the ‘hand’ of G-d running the show and not their own efforts.

Rashi[12] says, “It is a law that Eisav[13] hates Yaakov.[14] This is referring to Jew-hatred.[15] Some of our brethren just don’t seem to understand that when our Creator makes a law, we can’t fight it, only obey it. For He told us, “Amongst the nations, you will not be tranquil…[16] Yet, there are people within our nation who ‘think’ they can eliminate Jew-hatred altogether. A certain website once wrote an article in which someone (he had a username – not real name) commented - I wrote his comment as my memory recalls it:

“If we teach our children to respect non-Jews, then Hashem, will, in turn, instill into them to have mercy on us and there will be no more assaults or stabbings etc. ever again.”

The reason we must respect non-Jews and teach our children to do the same has nothing to do with acting civilized. It’s for a higher cause: to sanctify our Creator’s Name! As the Novi informs us, “You are My servant, Yisroel, through whom I am glorified!”[17] This means we have an awesome responsibility on our shoulders!

Yet, for him to say that Hashem will, in turn, instill into them to have mercy on us and there will be no more assaults or stabbings etc. ever again, is complete and utter nonsense! It’s like Theodore Herzl, who claimed that the establishment of a “Jewish” state would cure Jew-hatred.[18] When Dovid HaMelech said, “Do not rely on nobles or on a human being, for he holds no salvation,”[19] he was referring to people like “Theodore Herzl”.

Does the Torah contain a SOLUTION for Jew-hatred?

In Parshas Kedoshim, Hashem warns us, “Do not follow the traditions of the nations that I expel from before you, for they did all of these [abominations] and I was disgusted with them… I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has separated you from the peoples.”[20]

Where else do, we find similar words “do not follow the customs of the nations”? In Achrei Mos the posuk[21] says, “… do not perform the practices of the land of Canaan to which I bring you and do not follow their customs.”

On the words, “do not follow their customs,” Rashi[22] says, “… Matters that are etched for them in their ways as if they were laws, such as theaters and stadiums i.e., (days set aside for) attendance at theaters or stadiums…”

The Gemarah[23] says, “Whenever it is stated in the Torah ‘do not,’[24] it is nothing other than a negative commandment.” Rashi is telling boys, teenagers and young adults of our nation, “Do not go to a movie[25] theater or sports stadium.”

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l[26] says that one who goes to a movie theater or sports stadium does not violate, “do not follow their customs.”[27] Yet he states the following:

“Anyone who goes to these places transgresses the prohibitions of moshav leitzim (gatherings of frivolity and unethical behavior) and bitul Torah; not only does he transgress during the time spent in those places, but he also transgresses because these activities cause him to stop learning Torah entirely…[28] in addition, he also brings upon himself the yeitzer hara of promiscuity,[29] as most of these things entail depraved speech and turning people towards promiscuity.”[30] The only time one can attend a sports stadium is when Jews are renting it out for an event, like a Siyum HaShas etc.

The Gemarah says that a person should never bring himself to a test, i.e. one should not place himself in circumstances in which he will be tempted to sin.[31] In addition, the posuk says, “And you shall beware of any evil thing.”[32] The Gemarah derives from this posuk that a person should not think immoral thoughts by day and come thereby to tumah by night.[33] Going to a movie theater involves walking through the mall. This means passing or entering certain stores that display things which are completely immodest for one to see,[34] thereby transgressing, “…You shall guard yourself against any evil matter.”

Someone once asked Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l[35] if he was allowed take his children to a circus. He responded by citing the posuk in Hoshea[36] which states, “Yisrael do not rejoice like the rejoicing of the nations.” In the words, he was saying to the person “no”.

Had that anonymous person asked Rav Kamenetsky the same question regarding a movie theater or sports stadium, he would have responded no as well. Today’s “circuses” are a movie theater or sports stadium in which people gather for entertainment.

Our Creator signs off, “You shall be holy for Me,[37] for I, Hashem am holy and I have separated you from among the peoples to be Mine.”[38]

What does this posuk sound like? Marriage! Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l[39] says, “The groom gives his bride a circular ring, which has no beginning and no end. This parallels Hashem giving Klal Yisrael the Torah, which is endless.[40] The words the groom says, ‘…הרי את מקודשת לי’ begins with the letter hei, which has the numerical value of five, alluding to the five books of the Torah – the wedding ring of the marriage between Hashem and Klal Yisrael.’”[41]

The Even Ezra[42] says, “I took you out of Egypt only to be your G-d; if you will not be holy I will not be your G-d. If you wish that I be your G-d, be holy.”

How does one stay holy? Rashi[43] explains that the only way for us to be holy to Hashem is by separating ourselves from arayos.[44]

We need to ask ourselves, “Are we still wearing the wedding ring[45] that He gave us?[46] Have we forsaken it,[47] in exchange, to develop a relationship[48] with the nations that surround us?”

G-d ‘knows’ very well if we are living by our ‘marriage contract’: “If you are separated from [the other peoples], see, then, you are Mine. But if not, see then, you belong to Nevuchadnetzer and his colleagues, i.e. your enemies [who exiled you from the Holy Land].”[49]

For instance, Rav Chaim Volozhin used to say, “If Jews make themselves holy, then – as this posuk[50] guarantees – G-d will separate us from the nations to be His. What will happen if we do not sanctify ourselves? Then the nations will separate us from their midst – for persecution and expulsion, G-d forbid!”[51]

Dovid HaMelech says, “If only My people would heed me! If Israel would walk in My ways, in an instant I would subdue their foes and turn My hand against their tormentors!”[52] Therefore the Sifsei Chachamim[53] states, “The only way it’s possible for us to achieve holiness, is by separating ourselves from the nations,[54] with our actions. For example: wearing tzitzis, donning tefillin and doing other positive mitzvos…”[55] [56] the Ba’al HaTurim[57] says, “There are seventy mitzvos in Parshas Kedoshim, reflecting the seventy nations from whom I have separated you.”

If Albert Einstein had a theory of Jew-hatred, this is what would look like:

Separation = Holiness[58] - Assimilation ≠ Holiness - No Separation = Assimilation - Assimilation = Jew-hatred - Jew-hatred = Annihilation of our nation - Hitler = the Holocaust.

The Gemarah[59] asks, “What caused that Israel shall be scattered among the nations of the world? The friendship that [the Israelites] desired to have with them. Because the Jews desired to be friendly[60] with the nations, G-d punished them measure for measure by scattering them throughout the world to live among those very nations.”

What other lesson can we derive from the Gemarah?

Don’t desire friendship among non-Jews. Rather, desire to have friendship among Jews who live differently than you or Jews that you have never met in your life.[61]

We are in The Three Weeks. Naturally, during this time period, we think about what we are being deprived of: listening to music, getting a haircut or shaving etc. this is the work of the yeitzer hara.

Instead, let us ask ourselves, “Why did G-d destroy His abode on earth?”[62] It was simply because we couldn’t live together under the same roof.[63] [64]

When parents see their children fighting with each other it literally kills them. G-d ‘felt’ the same way with us:

“My beloved children, what do I ask of you? Only that you love one another and respect one another.”[65] As Dovid HaMelech[66] said, “Indeed, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers, moreover, in unity.”

In fact, the posuk[67] says, “And He was King over Yeshurun [Yisroel] when the leaders of the nation gathered and the tribes of Yisroel are unified. Rashi[68] explains, “When is He King over Yeshurun? Only when the tribes of Yisroel are unified and not when they are divided into separate groups.”

Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l, brings Rashi’s words in practical terms:

“During Golus, the Jewish people are split, not only physically-geographically but also ideologically. One group does not see eye to eye with the other. This disparity exists not only in that the non-religious segment of our nation does not understand those who are religious, but even the people who keep the Torah and mitzvos are divided and subdivided many times among themselves.[69]

However, over 150 years ago the disciples of the Vilna Gaon[70] and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov[71] had made peace with each other. While both groups maintained their differences, both developed great respect and eventually a mutual love for each other.

So why should we be different today? The talmidim of our great yeshivos and kollelim who follow their Roshei HaYeshivah, and devoted Chassidim who follow their Admorim, are all united in their absolute loyalty to Hashem’s Torah. Why can’t we tell the other, ‘I am deeply convinced that my outlook is true. So are you. We honor each other’s conviction and sincerity without any yielding an inch of our own sacred territory.’”[72]

We’ve all heard light bulb jokes. For instance, how many men does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, but you have to nag him for a fortnight first.

Now, I ask you, “How many people does it take to bring the Final Redemption?” Hashem Himself answers this question:[73]

“I searched for someone who would stand before Me and daven on behalf of Klal Yisroel, that I should not destroy them, but I did not find anyone, so therefore I will pour out My wrath against them and consume them with the flame of My fury.”[74]

One person could have saved all of Klal Yisroel - one person could have prevented the churban. If even one person would have stood up and prayed on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

Hashem would have rescinded His decree. This is a message of Hashem which is repeated by another one of His prophets as well:

“Go in the streets of Yerushalayim… and seek in its plazas if you will find a just man if there is one who dispenses Justice and seeks emunah if you find even a lone man like this then I will forgive the whole city.”[75]

If there would have been even one person in all of Yerushalayim who was just, Hashem would have forgiven the entire city.[76]

Mesillas Yesharim states the following:[77]

Now, if a person should say, “Who am I? What is my importance that I should pray about the end of the exile of Israel and about the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, etc.? Will my prayer cause the exiles to be ingathered and the redemption to sprout forth?” The Gemarah[78] responds to a person with such a mindset: Man was created as an individual: so that each person should say to himself, “For my sake, the world was created.”

The Gemarah is teaching us that was worthwhile for Hashem to create the world for the sake of a single person! Thus, each individual is of inestimable importance and his prayers may indeed have a powerful impact.[79] Moreover, in any case, it is a source of satisfaction to [Hashem], blessed be He, that His children request and pray for this. Even if their requests are not fulfilled because the appropriate time for the Redemption has not yet arrived or for whatever other reason, they have, regardless, done their [part] by praying for it and the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices over this concern of theirs for His honor.

With Hashem’s help, let’s put our effort into becoming united as one nation, but separated from the others. In the words of Avraham Fried,[80] let’s merit to, “Bring the House[81] down”[82] on the fifteenth of Av![83]
[1] See Bamidbar 22:5 and 6.

[2] Ibid 23:8.

[3] See Bamidbar 23:9.

[4] See Why Us? Reflections on the Cause of Anti-Semitism by Rabbi Finkel, page 25, who explains this posuk.

[5] Roy Neuberger says, “Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner referred to the United Nations as the place where the seventy wolves were gathering to plan their strategy on how to eat up the Jewish People, G-d forbid” ( As Dovid HaMelech said, “He turned their hearts to hate His nation, to plot against His servants” (Tehillim 105:25).

[6] I.e. Israel.

[7] Israel is the target of at least 77 UN Resolutions and the Palestinians are the target of 1 (

[8] See Ba’al HaTurim to Bamidbar 23:9 “לבדד” and “לבדד ישכן”.

[9] Tehillim 118:10-11.

[10] Zechariah 14:2.

[11] As the Gemarah says, “Those who are bereft of Torah knowledge become more foolish with age” (Shabbos 152a). Conversely, “Whoever engages in Torah study, the Torah makes him great and exalts him above all things” (Avos 6:1).

[12] Bereishis 33:4 “אמר רבי שמעון”. See also Sifrei, Beha’aloscha 69; Tanchuma, Parshas Shemos #27; Bereishis Rabbah 84:6; and Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 2:77. For an actual example of this, see Shemos Rabbah 1:8.

[13] I.e. the progenitor of the Western Nations.

[14] I.e. the Children of Israel.

[15] See link:

[16] Devarim 28:65. See also Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, page 1083, note 66 and Rashi to Devarim 28:66 “חייך תלאים לך”.

[17] Yeshayahu 49:3. To understand this principle, see Yuma 86a. In addition, Rav Eliyahu Dessler says, “A person should first sanctify Hashem’s Name before other Jews by teaching them the proper way and from there he should proceed to the next level, to sanctify His Name before the nations” (See Michtav Me’Eliyahu volume 3, page 118). Each one of us is an ambassador onto our fellow Jew(s) and the world at large.

[18] See link -

[19] Tehillim 146:3. See also 118:5-7 and 8-9.

[20] Vayikra 20:23 and 24.

[21] Ibid. 18:3.

[22] Ibid. “ובחקתיהם לא תלכו”.

[23] Sotah 5a.

[24] The words לֹא and אַל are interchangeable.

[25] Watching a movie itself is whole different issue which is beyond the scope of this article.

[26] Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim volume 2, siman 95; Yoreh Dei’ah volume 4, siman 11(1) []; volume 2, siman 33 (; Even Ha’Ezer volume 2 siman 13. See also Yichaveh Da’as 4:7 by Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l.

[27] See note 21.

[28] The Reishis Chochmah forewarns us:

“Everything that a person looks at, the image penetrates and fixes itself in his mind* and when he comes to pray or to study Torah, those material images appear in his mind, and they damage and invalidate his thoughts** and he will not be able to concentrate as required, because the eyes only see through the power that resides in the soul and the soul receives those images that come through the eyes and if the person looks at nakedness, he causes nakedness to penetrate in a high place” (see Sha’ar HaKedushah, chapter 8, “ודע”).

*Therefore, “One must guard his mind more than anything else for it produces all the results of life” (Mishlei 4:23). Why? Because that’s where the soul resides (see Rabbeinu Bachayei to Bereishis 2:7 “וצריך” and Even Ezra to Shemos 23:25 “אמר”).

**Thought conforms to the neshamah level of the soul. It is the element that gives the ability to know and understand the holy Torah. For this reason, the neshamah resides in man’s brain, the organ of thought and the neshamah being the highest of the three levels (Nefesh HaChayim 1:14).

[29] See Chagigah 11a.

[30] See Sparkling Speech by Rabbi Elysha Sandler.

[31] See Sanhedrin 107a.

[32] Devarim 23:10.

[33] see ArtScroll Avodah Zarah 20b, note 24.

[34] see note 28.

[35] See B’Mechitzos Rabbeinu by Rabbi Reuven Amar, page 92 “קרקסאות בזמננו”.

[36] 9:1.

[37] Our Creator tells us, “You are a holy nation (Shemos 19:6) and ‘a holy people… that is treasured from all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.” (Devarim 7:6)

[38] Vayikra 20:26. See also Positive Vision by Rabbi Neuberger, page 33.

[39] Made in Heaven. See also Positive Vision by Rabbi Neuberger, page 27.

[40] See Avos 5:22.

[41] As the Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says, “Hashem, the Torah and Yisrael, are one” [(Zohar volume 3, Acharei Mos, page 73a). In addition, the Novi says, “I will set for you for a covenant to the people, for a light to the nations…” (Yeshayahu 42:6)

[42] Mikra’os Gedolos Vayikra 11:45 “וטעם כי אני ה'”.

[43] Vayikra 19:2 “קדשים תהיו” and Vayikra Rabbah 24:6.

[44] Regarding the definition of arayos, see ArtScroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi, Vayikra, page 226, note 3.

[45] As Mishlei (7:3) says, “Tie them [i.e. words of Torah] to your finger; write them on the slate of your heart.”

[46] I.e. which allows us to maintain a relationship with Him.

[47] I.e. the Torah (see Mishlei 4:2).

[48] To follow their customs, i.e. values and culture. The Novi tells us, “Do not learn from the ways of the nations.” (Yirmiyahu 10:2).

[49] Rashi to Vayikra 20:26 “ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי”.

[50] Which is, “and I have separated you from among the peoples to be Mine” (Vayikra 20:26).

[51] The Netziv says, “When a Jew claims to be “a Jew at heart” but is ashamed to practice Judaism, then the gentiles regard him with contempt and treat him like a useless vessel, to be discarded and thrown away” (see Why Us? Reflections on the Cause of Anti-Semitism by Rabbi Finkel, page 35). In the words of Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l, “If you are an authentic Jew, you will be respected because of this, not in spite of it.” [As for why the nations of the world hate us, see Artscroll Shabbos 89a, note 41]. Remember, “Who is like Your people Yisrael, one nation on earth” (Shmuel II 7:23).

[52] Tehillim 81:14.

[53] See Mikra’os Gedolos Vayikra 19:2 “דהא”.

[54] See Michtav Me’Eliyahu Volume 1, Kuntres HaChesed, pages 35-38.

[55] See Rabbeinu Bachayei Al HaTorah, Parshas Vayikra 20:26 “ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי”.

[56] Regarding the concept of a mitzvah, see Rav Schwab on Prayer, page 33 and Tefillin by Aryeh Kaplan, page 238.

[57] Vayikra 20:24 “אשר הבדלתי אתכם”.

[58] See Positive Vision by Rabbi Neuberger, page 22.

[59] ArtScroll Pesachim 118b, note 49.

[60] See Why Us? Reflections on the Cause of Anti-Semitism by Rabbi Finkel, page 25.

[61] See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 28:12, Sanhedrin 27b and Shevuos 39a.

[62] I.e. the Beis HaMikdosh.

[63] We had hatred for no good reason against our fellow man.

[64] See Yuma 9b and Yerushalmi, Yuma 1:1.

[65] Tana D’vei Eliyahu Rabbah, chapter 28.

[66] Tehillim 133:1.

[67] Devarim 33:5.

[68] “ראשי” citing the Sifri.

[69] Rav Schwab on Prayer, page 468.

[70] I.e. Eliyahu Kremer.

[71] I.e. Yisroel ben Eliezer.

[72] Selected Speeches by Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l, pages 72-79.

[73] see Days Are Coming by Rabbi Moshe Silberstein, page 80.

[74] Metzudas Dovid on Yechezkeil 22:30-31.

[75] Metzudas Dovid on Yirmiyahu 5:1.

[76] There’s a poster which has a picture of Uncle Sam pointing his finger at you, saying, “I want YOU for U.S. army.” Similarly, our Creator says to each and every one of us, “I want YOU to have a part in hastening the redemption.” As Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz said, “Every person may change the course of history; it is in the power of every individual to shorten the exile.”

If you think Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz is exaggerating, here are the words of the Rambam:

“A person should view his life all year long as if his merits [for his mitzvos] and his guilt [for his sins] are exactly balanced, and that a single mitzvah could tilt the scales in his favor. Likewise, he should view the entire world as if it is exactly balanced in this way and that his mitzvah could tilt the entire world toward favorable judgment” (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4 and Kiddushin 40b).

[77] Excerpted from ArtScroll Mesillas Yesharim, pages 403-408.

[78] Sanhedrin 37a.

[79] Rav Tzadok HaKohein of Lublin writes, “Just as one must believe in Hashem, so too, one must believe in himself. Hashem wants us to BELIEVE in our strengths, capabilities, ability to overcome evil and achieve greatness” (Tzidkas HaTzadik #154).

[80] See links - and

[81] I.e. the Beis HaMikdash.

[82] See Artscroll Rosh Hashanah 30a, note 44, second paragraph. See also Rav Schwab on Prayer, page 489.

[83] See Maayan Bais Hasho’eivah by Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Parshas Emor, page 287. Regarding the significance of Tu B’Av, the fifteenth of Av, see Ta’anis 26b and 31a.
Thank you so much Mordechai for this excellent presentation. May Hashem bless you and your loved ones.


  1. Kochav ?

  2. Rab Menachem,thank you very much for your extended,
    strong, analitical and very informed work, and
    thank you for sharing to us.
    A lot of work in it!
    Sara from Mexico City

  3. The writer (R' Menachem Robinson or Mordechai Lewis?) asks the question: "Why can’t we tell the other, ‘I am deeply convinced that my outlook is true. So are you. We honor each other’s conviction and sincerity without any yielding an inch of our own sacred territory.’”[72] ....and the bottom line answer is pride and arrogance. This is the major Klal Teshuva we all must do.

    1. I wrote this article.

      However, had R' Menachem Robinson not posted it on his blog, you would have never read it. He gets the merit, not me.

      If you have any comments, please email at:

    2. I take no credit at all for this excellent article. Since I know how much work it takes to study, research and construct such a masterpiece, I definitely give complete credit to Mordechai Lewis; all I did was format it for this blog post.

      Thank you Mordechai.