Parshat Lech Lecha 5775: The Impropriety of Coercing Stringencies onto Others and the Avraham Avinu/Pollard Correlation

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Lech Lecha is being sponsored by Zev and Sarit Schonberg and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh who dedicate this vort in honor of Avraham Avinu who taught us that sometimes the path less traveled is the right way to go. To the Schonberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued your kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Lech Lecha 5775: The Impropriety of Coercing Stringencies onto Others and the Avraham Avinu/Pollard Correlation

by Moshe Burt

This author says over a line each year on the first night of Succot, where Avraham Avinu is the Ushpizin (the one for whom the day in the Succah is dedicated). This brief line is a parody on a line from the classic weekly Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In comedy hour of the late sixties and early seventies:

And now, the man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew, Avraham Avinu!

In Parshat Breish’t, this author spoke of our current finite state, and that in this state, what we do here on earth is critical, for when we are no longer here, our Mitzvot, our kindnesses that we do, because they are needed, whether for family or for the Kehal — they live on, attached to the collective memory of the do’er by his/her friends, family, the Kehal and beyond. His yeomen chinuch efforts in post-Migdal Bavel (Tower of Babel) times to bring awareness and intellectualization of Hashem — The Creator of the universe, of man and of all things stands as Avraham Avinu’s remembrance, his legacy for all time.

Midrashim tell how Avraham Avinu deduced at an early age that Hashem was the Creater and Ruler of the world. He tried worshipping the earth, the rain, the sun, the moon, etc. but deduced that not one of these forces regulated the world and that:

There must be a higher intelligence directing them [the various forces].

“I have not seen Him,” said Avram, “but I can understand that only a mighty and merciful G-d could have created the… world around me, and only his superior intelligence is able to keep it going. To Him will I bow.” (The Midrash Says, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 118.)

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin comments in “Growth Through Torah” on the war of the four kings vs the five kings from our parshat Lech Lecha (page 40):

After Avraham’s victory over the five kings, the king of Sodom was so grateful to Avraham that he offered him much wealth. Avraham refused to take anything for himself…

Our parsha records (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 14, posukim 21-24):

“The king of Sodom said to Avram; ‘Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself.’

Avram said to the king of Sodom; ‘I have raised my hand to Hashem, G’d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, if so much as a thread or a shoestrap; or if I take anything that is yours! So you shall not say, It is I who made Avram rich. Far be it from me! Only what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who accompanied me. Aner, Eshkol and Mamre — they shall take their share.'”

The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary on the above posukim cites Gur Aryeh, Tanchuma 13:

Avram did not refuse the king of Sodom’s offer of payment out of arrogance. He did it for the glory of Hashem, so that people would see that his wealth was the work of Providence.

Avram’s refusal of the king of Sodom’s offer stands as epitomizing Avraham Avinu’s eternal paradigm for all mankind.

But while Avraham took a stringency upon himself Al Kiddush Hashem, R’ Pliskin cites (“Growth Through Torah”, page 40) the Chofetz Chayim:

…Each person has a right to be stringent when it comes to himself. But it is not proper to force others to be more stringent than is actually obligatory. (Chofetz Chayim al HaTorah)

It is easy to tell others not to do things. But it is important to differentiate between an obligation and that which is beyond the dictates of the [Torah] law. The more elevated one acts, the more praiseworthy. But do not place excessively heavy burdens on others. The Chofetz Chayim was a completely spiritual person who symbolized the essence of a Tzadik. Yet he was the one who taught the above message.

Oh, that the kannoi’yim (criminal element) of certain sectors would learn the Chofetz Chayim and understand his way, as it applies in today’s religious world, i.e. that one segmant can’t foist or coerce their chumrahs, their understandings and extremes, educated or uneducated — under threat of violence or other forms of character defamation, onto others who hold by what they were taught according to their Rabbonim, their Mesora.

And perhaps politicians and “leaders” representing certain “religious” political alignments ought to internalize this principle imparted by Chofetz Chayim as applied to their rhetoric, on occasion, of “jumping ship” on the rest of B’nei Yisrael and on Eretz Yisrael due to the policies of a sitting government, or of any Israeli government whose policies are at variance with theirs.

As we learn about Avraham Avinu and his having derived the existence of The Supreme Creator and King, we surmise that he heard a cerebral Divine message.

We learn that Avraham Avinu went on to have great influence on the people of the world and to amass great wealth. But he could have spared himself the years of suffering in prison, as well as the incident in the fiery furnace, had he simply followed his father’s directions, watched over the business, been quiet about A Divine Creator and not shown impudence to king Nimrod. No earthly superior stood forcing or ordering Avraham Avinu to destroy avodah zora and to promote HaKadosh Borchu. But, to repeat that parody from the Laugh-In line: “The Man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew — Avraham Avinu.”

Avraham Avinu’s recognition, acknowledgement of, and Ahavat (love of) Hashem was self-learned, self-directed — coming only from within himself.

As with Avraham Avinu, Jonathan Pollard was not instructed or ordered by superiors or by a handler to provide Israel with the dire information she needed. Pollard could have been a free man today and over these past 26 years, and been successful in his employment within the American intelligence community, had he just looked the other way as America betrayed Israel via the abrogation of the intelligence-sharing treaty between the two nations. But what would be the fate of Israel, of the Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the world had the knowledge about Iraqi weaponry and capacity for chemical, nerve warfare not been revealed to Israel? That modern Israeli homes and apartments are required by law to have been built with sealed rooms is directly attributable to the information provided Israeli intelligence by Jonathan Pollard. Yehonaton ben Malka just couldn’t turn away and couldn’t ignore what he saw as the potential for Jewish blood-letting. He couldn’t ignore the fate of his people in order to maintain his own well-being.

And so too, in our times, as we leyn from Parshat Lech Lecha, we bear witness to a great “Kiddush Hashem” in the personage of Jonathan Pollard — Yehonaton ben Malka. Prayers for his freedom, for his aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, are constantly on our lips and in our hearts.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.