By Rabbi Naftoly Bier
The Talmud, Tractate Shabbos 89a, questions as to why הר סיני, the mountain on which משה רבינו, Moshe Rabeinu received the Torah, where Hashem spoke to us, has its given name? The answer is that the nations of the world who didn’t accept the Torah from then on despised the Jewish people.
In the same manner, the name הר חורב, the mountain of Chorev, contains the same lesson. סיני can be read שנאי, “my haters”. The word חורב can be translated as חורבא, destruction and desolation.
HaRav Yeruchum Levovitz explained that we are being taught a fundamental, profound, basic lesson of the interaction of the Jewish people and the non-Jewish world until the advent of Moshiach. Commensurate to the spiritual development of those who follow the Torah, the despicable hatred and jealousy of those who don’t follow it as the manual of positive and edifying living, will increase or come to the surface.
In this week’s portion, Numbers 18:2, the Torah admonishes the Jewish people not to emulate the actions of the Egyptians, in which their country we resided and not to emulate the actions of the inhabitants of the land that we will reside in (Land of Israel).
Why did Hashem specifically cause us to live in Egypt, a place whose people are conducted themselves in a manner antithetical to what we must aspire for? On one hand, Hashem wanted us to fully reject their way of life due to our keen perception of how their depraved behavior, hedonism, idolatry, and materialism rob a person of true fulfillment, and consequently to accept the Torah with complete dedication.
Rav Yeruchum adds that one can discern that the nations’ loathing of us is increased specifically in the places where there is a greater concentration of Jews. In turn this leads to even greater immorality amongst the countries. The reason being that there is an inborn metaphysical conflict and tension between קדושה and טומאה, positive moral and ethical practice dictated by Hashem, and the constant desire to be free of all instruction and mandated directives.
Rav Yeruchum זצ”ל focuses on the anti-semetic “Protocols of Zion”, in which we are blamed and detested for our absolute domination of all governments in a secretive manner with the intention of destroying and annihilating all of the world population in order to gain complete supremacy. Why and how can one truly believe this? The answer: it’s the inner, subconscious trepidation that the path of life of Klal Yisroel will be accepted by non-Jews.
Why else would an adult expectorate a mouthful of saliva all over me when I was ten years old? It’s the detestation, fear, and abhorrence of the symbol of G-d, the idea of true spirituality—the Jewish people who are endowed with the Torah.
But there is an inner dynamic that Hashem instituted in the world to safeguard Klal Yisroel.
In Numbers 23:9, it states, “As I (בלעם, Bilaam) see them from the mountaintops and gaze on them from the heights; there is a people that dwell apart, not reckoned among the nations.”
The נצי”ב, Netziv explains; Contrary to all of the nations of the world that when they are living amongst another one, they naturally want to assimilate in order to gain love and respect from their new “neighbors”, we, Klal Yisroel, only gain respect and serenity when we maintain our unique mission and characterization. Inherently, due to the perception that the “name of Hashem” is part of our existence, they treat us with awe and reverence.
On the other hand, when the Jew loses his uniqueness, when a Jew desires to assimilate; antisemitism rears its ugly head. You, Jews, you declare you are the messengers of G-d to the world, you are gifted to understand the mission of humankind—then why are you acting like us? “And amongst the nations you are considered as worthless” — this is the metaphysical dynamic that Hashem instituted in the world.
Despite the force of טומאה, defilement in the world; the force of קדושה, spirituality is dominant and respected if it is carried by its people in an absolute manner. When its gift is marginalized, then we are despised by the forces of טומאה, immorality, hedonism and materialism.
The inherent inability for קדושה and טומאה to coexist, is manifested by the verse 18:28, “Let not the land, (ארץ ישראל) disgorge you for having contaminated it, as it disgorged the nation that was before you.” The Torah enumerates three sins that would cause this to happen—idolatry, illicit sexual behavior and murder which are defined as טומאה, defilement. It is inherently incompatible for “Hashem’s land” to maintain its unique essential holiness if actions that are the opposite are prevalent.
Though today there is no form of idolatry; Rav Pam זצ”ל, said that the worship of wealth is akin to idol worship. The Talmud teaches us that embarrassing another publicly is akin to murder. And unfortunately we witness an avalanche of immoral sexual behavior.
It would follow that the more we are focused on maintaining our inherent gift of קדושה, holiness the more we can minimize the insidious and now rampant spread of anti-semitism all over the world.
In Ethics of our Fathers 5:5, the משנה enumerates ten miracles that took place in the Holy temple. Two of these are that a snake or scorpion never harmed anyone in Jerusalem and no person ever complained that the city was congested.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky זצ”ל explained that in Hashem’s abode it is logically impossible for there to be any pain or discomfort, His love and caring would be antithetical to any negativity. In the same vein, Rav Yaakov implores all to respect our בתי מדרשות וכנסיות in a manner that manifests our cognizance that Hashem resides in His holy places. In this manner we can indeed, undeniably, feel the Kedusha “factor”, and strive to protect it.