In a world overrun with falsehood, the only antidote is the truth of the Torah. Here are five short teachings to lead us out of this year of increasingly vicious, preposterous lies and guide us to a new year in which God's truth will be revealed to the entire world.
האמרים קרב אליך אל תגש בי כי קדשתיך אלה עשן באפי אש יקדת כל היום
Those who say, "Keep to yourself! Do not come near me for I am holier than you"; these are smoke in My nostrils, a burning fire all day long. (Yeshaya 65:5)
Chapter 65 in Yeshaya foretells a time when Hashem will distinguish between those who hear His call and those who forsake Him, between those who truly seek Him and those who follow their own thoughts toward the eventual path of idolatry.
The latter create a two-tier society in which the former are unwelcome. “Stay away from me! I am holier than you, and you are filthy!” Ring a bell, anyone?
Guess who Hashem is going to save.
כי הנני בורא שמים חדשים וארץ חדשה ולא תזכרנה הראשנות ולא תעלינה על לב
For behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth, and the first ones will not be remembered or come to one's mind.
There will indeed be a new world order, and the old way of life will be utterly forgotten. It will be a world in which those who merit to be there will enjoy long life, health, prosperity, peace, joy, and an intimate connection with Hashem.
Those who are “socially distancing” themselves from the “lower tier”, declaring themselves holier and superior, had best do teshuva immediately. They are running out of time.
ואתה תאזר מתניך וקמת ודברת אליהם את כל אשר אנכי אצוך אל תחת מפניהם פן אחתך לפניהם
And you shall gird your loins, get up, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not break before them, lest I break you before them. (Yirmiya 1:17)
This was Hashem's first instruction to the young prophet about to start his career as public enemy number one. Hashem warned him not to be afraid of the people, for Hashem would protect him from their efforts to kill him. If, however, Yirmiya feared them, they would have power over him.
This is not a message just for Yirmiya, but for all of us. Although we are not prophets with specific instructions to carry out, we are following their example each in our own way. Whatever our individual mission is, let us carry it out with fear only of Hashem. They thrive off our fear. If we fear “them”, we give them power over us, and Hashem will allow them to break us, God forbid. If we fear only Hashem, they will crumble like the accursed dust that they are.
הכהנים לא אמרו איה ה' ותפשי התורה לא ידעוני והרעים פשעו בי והנבאים נבאו בבעל ואחרי לא יועלו הלכו
The Kohanim didn't say “Where is Hashem?” and those who carry the Torah didn't know Me, and the shepherds rebelled against Me, and the prophets prophesied in the name of Ba'al, and they followed after that which cannot help. (Yirmiya 2:8)
This is just one of many reprimands of the leaders, including the rabbis of the Sanhedrin and other spiritual leaders, for observing the Torah only on the outside while they were in fact distant from Hashem. They led their followers down a path of idolatry and moral decay to their eventual doom – all in the name of Torah.
We are living through just another showing of the same tired play. The actors are different, and their script is slightly different (see the ridiculous readings from the government-owned shepherds of Baltimore and the Five Towns), but the story is the same as it was thousands of years ago. If we simply allow the words of the prophets to speak to us, we will easily be able to tell the difference between real spiritual leaders and charlatans who serve Hashem only on the outside but lead their followers to idolatry.
A Jew sinned and the Sanhedrin has found him liable for lashes. As per Jewish law, the sinner has undergone a medical examination to determine how many lashes he can bear without endangering his life (with a maximum of 39 regardless).
One of the judges is counting out loud before each lash to ensure that the one administering the lashes does not go overboard. However, the judge himself loses track, and mistakenly adds an additional lash. In a horrific turn of events, the Jew dies from the additional lash.
The judge who miscounted will carry his guilt for the rest of his life, but he receives no specific punishment for his mistake. However, according to Jewish law, the court officer who administered the extra lash has blood on his hands. He must flee to a city of refuge, where he must remain indefinitely, quite possibly for the rest of his life (Bava Kamma 32B).
This seems like a rather severe punishment for someone who was only following the orders of one of the greatest rabbis, a judge on the Sanhedrin. It was the judge's responsibility to count the required number of lashes, and the officer's job to administer them. Who was a simple man with a whip to stop everything and accuse the great rabbi of counting incorrectly? Especially when none of the other great rabbis or onlookers had spoken up about a possible mistake?
The Torah's message transcends the law in this specific case. If you know, you know. One who inflicts harm on another person is responsible for his actions, regardless of the stature of the one who instructed him, and regardless of the consequences he might suffer if he defies those instructions.
If the court officer speaks up, he may well be jeered by everyone, lose his job, and be ostracized from his society. His family might suffer. He might never be vindicated.
But that is his avoda. That is his obligation. If he pins his actions on the judge who miscounted, he is the murderer. The blood of the dead Jew is squarely on his hands, and he will be judged most severely for being the one to spill it.
There are some very corrupt people who are issuing murderous instructions, and they will all be judged in full. However, those who are holding the syringes and injecting them into people will not be able to pass off their guilt. All of them are guilty to some degree. For those with a greater level of knowledge, even a city of refuge will not protect them. Excusing themselves that the rabbi said so will certainly not protect them.
Share this with the doctors you know. Maybe one will take heed.
Hashem decrees on Rosh Hashana how much rain will fall in Israel. Of course, Hashem judges everyone on Rosh Hashana, but Israel receives greater focus, for it is the epicenter of the world.
The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 17B has a fascinating teaching. Let's say Israel was guilty and Hashem decreed a small amount of rainfall for the coming year, but then the Jews repented. According to the Gemara, Hashem is “unable” to increase the rainfall, for the decree has already been issued. However, He will make sure the rain falls at the right times in the right places so they receive maximum blessing from it.
The reverse is also true. If Hashem decreed abundant rain, but the Jews later sinned, He will make the rain fall at the wrong times in the wrong places, so they get nothing from it.
This teaching came to mind when I saw videos of the massive, unprecedented floods in New York, at the same time the west coast is experiencing a biblical drought and wildfires. The same is true in other parts of the world; unprecedented floods in some areas, bone dry in others. There is plenty of water to grow the crops and nourish everyone, but Hashem is bringing it where it is not needed or wanted. The crops are wilting and the animals are parched, while the subways and streets are full of water for everyone.
These are not quirks that we should allow godless people to explain away. They are messages from Hashem. Whoever doesn't get it will get it.