Categorized | Education



Parashat Balak

“Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman over to his brethren, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole Israelite community, who were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. When Phineas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest…he took a spear in his hand…and he stabbed both of them, the Israelite man and the woman, through the belly” (Numbers 25:6).

In the portion of Shelach we showed that a person who accepts the Torah’s laws is forbidden to investigate and clarify for himself if our Torah is indeed G-d’s. In the portion of Korach we showed that one is permitted to kill people consecrated to G-d with no court of law or witnesses. In the portion of Chukat we showed that even acts of idolatry are permitted if the Torah allowed them. In this portion we shall show that according to the Torah what is written in Genesis 9:6, “In His image did G-d make man,” are not said of every man on earth. And it is known already of Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai’s statement in Yevamot 61a, “Thus did Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai say…you are called ‘man’ and idolaters are not called ‘man’.”

Zimri the son of Salu desired a Midianite woman and took her before all of Israel. Phineas the son of Eleazar took a spear and killed both of them without law or judgement, and even received a reward. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Phineas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites…therefore I grant him My covenant of peace.” It is true that one should not commit acts of passion in public, but the death penalty? For what? Whom did those two hurt?

Woe to a society which makes such laws for its citizens, cruelty for its own sake. More than that: In the wake of that past evil, let us see what Rabbi Hertzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote when asked about a cohen who married a gentile woman in a civil ceremony–should she be converted? While discussing the issue he wrote in Responsa “Heichal Yitzchak,” Even HaEzer 1, section 19: “In this issue, it is in public, and therefore the zealous may harm him, for an overseas civil marriage is considered in public.” In our enlightened days, in a country of law, the chief rabbi writes and invites an act of murder.

This is exactly what he decrees, based on our holy Torah, that if a Jew marries a gentile woman they both may be killed on the street, just so, with no trial, no witnesses, and no warning. We have not seen religious Jews carrying this out every single day, everywhere, because we do not have amongst us those as zealous as Phineas, but who’s to say whether someone as zealous will not come along and kill them? We have already seen zealots killing in the recent past.

Not only do zealots harm the man for a gentile woman, but even for a Jewish woman who has turned apostate. She is considered like a gentile, and the law is that the zealous may harm her husband!

As Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef wrote in his book “Yabiyah Omer,” part three, Even HaEzer, section 21: “And more than this, I say that even if we clarify through witnesses that the husband and wife, at the time they married, were both irreligious, and some time afterwards the spirit of G-d began to move him, and he repented and demands of his wife that she should no longer disobey the laws of Moses and women’s customs in Judaism…she is divorced without paying off the sum stated in her marriage contract…Anyway, the matter is clear…if she violates the Sabbath in public or eats non-kosher meat simply to anger, there is no greater violation of the religion that this, she is like an idolater in everything, and according to several halachic arbiters he [her husband] is as one who has wed a gentile, whom the zealous may harm”! This is what one who was a chief rabbi of Israel wrote, one whose salary was paid from the taxes of those women who violate the Sabbath and whom he sentences, along with their husbands, to death and the loss of the money due to them according to their marriage contract. Happy is he who grasped this and did not loose that either; not only he drank from the well, but also spitted therein.

You should know that the rule “the zealous may harm him” without a trial or judgement is valid only during the act itself, and applies only to who weds a gentile or convert away from Judaism, but according to a convert away from Judaism himself, one may kill him at any time and any place, as Maimonides wrote in The Laws of a Murderer, chapter four, halacha 10: “Heretics, which are those among Jews who deny the Torah and prophecy–it is a commandment to kill them, and if he has strength to kill them with a foil he does so in public, and if not, he should act against them with cunning, until he causes them to be killed.

If he sees one fall into a well and the ladder is in the well, first he should remove the ladder and say, ‘I must take my son down off the roof, I’ll bring it back’ or some such thing.” Not only may he kill with the Torah’s permission, but he may defraud and trap innocent people to kill them. What is the other’s fault? That he thinks differently? That he does not believe in a Divine Torah? So what?! Let him believe what he will. Does anyone think that another can be forced to believe by death threats? Is this how one defends the faith?

In recent generations the arbiters’ and rabbis’ fear, that these laws would actually be carried out, had risen, and therefore the Chazon Ish wrote on Yoreh Deah, The Laws of Ritual Slaughter, section two, paragraph 16: “And it seems that this law applies only in those times when His supervision is clear, like in the time when there were miracles and a Heavenly voice and the righteous of the generation were under clear personal supervision.

Heretics were then especially perverse in swaying the impulses towards lust and lawlessness, and at that time clearing out the evildoers was protection of the world, for all knew that the pushing the generation away [from the ways of the Torah] bring punishment to the world and causes pestilence, war, and hunger to come upon the world. But when Divine supervision is hidden and faith has been uprooted from the doorways of the nation, such acts do not build a fence against lawlessness but add to the lawlessness, for they will see it as an act of destruction and violence, G-d forbid. Since we are supposed to fix things, we should not apply this law when it does not lead to correction. But we must return them through ties of love and put them in the rays of light as much as we can.”

We should say several things about the words of the Chazon Ish. First, that in the time of the prophets People of Israel did really do what was evil in the sight of G-d, in the time of King Manasseh they forgot the Torah, and in the time of Ezra they violated the Sabbath and married non-Jewish women, but that is not a “special perverseness,” different essentially from what happened in other generations.

Another thing we should note is that the Chazon Ish saw it would be inappropriate to permit killing in our days, so he went and changed the halacha, for the preferences of people had changed. This is what we’ve said often–the sages determine what will be practiced in their generations. Sometimes they will say that reality had changed and halacha had not, sometimes they will say that reality had changed and the halacha had, too. See what we wrote about this in Pamphlet 8.

But what is especially difficult is that the Chazon Ish did not take his “ties of love” to the logical conclusion and only permitted not killing those who violate Shabbat. On matters of ritual slaughter and wine, their fate remained as those who worship stars and the zodiac. Who can explain why in these laws the Chazon Ish did not think it worthwhile to bring closer those who destroy the fences, using “ties of love”? Love which does not allow one to raise a glass of wine in toast with a Jew is definitely love dependent on something.

Not only are apostates and idolaters sentenced to death, but so is a gentile, even a Noahide. Their blood is permitted according to the Torah; the Shulchan Aruch in The Laws of Sabbath, section 330, subsection two, wrote quite explicitly: “One does not help a gentile woman give birth on the Sabbath.” The reason is that saving a life overrides the Sabbath only for those who observe Sabbath in the first place.

And the others? Let them die! The Mishnah Brurah in that section screams about the actions of doctors: “Know that the doctors in our time, even the most religious, are not careful about this at all, for every Sabbath they travel beyond the allowed limits to heal those who worship stars and the zodiac…and G-d save us, they are completely in violation of the Sabbath.” Certainly they, too, are sentenced to death, for to save a Jew is permitted and even required, but a non-Jew? Such a one is not even called a person. (Note that it is not spoken of people who actually worship stars, the sun and the moon, for there were no such idolaters in Chafetz Chayim’s milieu.

He meant all non-Jews. Why did he call them “worshippers of stars and the zodiac”? Only because he was afraid of gentile authorities and their anger with the Jews.)

Come see how far the matters go. In “Yabiyah Omer,” part eight, Orach Chaim, section 38: “About an outstanding non-Jewish doctor who loves Jews, and who had saved several Jewish souls from death and habitually treats poor Jews for free and who has become dangerously ill and calls a Jewish physician to come and let his blood–if he does not come it will be an act of great animosity and will turn the non-Jew’s heart, so that he joins our enemies. He will give only bad and will stop treating Jewish patients,” and the rabbi permitted curing the non-Jewish doctor “because the Jewish doctor is not doing it for the non-Jew’s benefit but to save himself and Jewish patients from danger…There is no Torah prohibition, and one should rule to permit.”

All the non-Jewish physician’s merits and good deeds, the fact that he is one of the righteous among the nations, are worth nothing; if it is permissible to save him it is only for selfish, utilitarian, and petty reasons. A Jewish physician will not say to himself, “I am lucky to be able to return good for the good done by this worthy man,” but according to the Halacha must have the intention “only to save himself and Jewish patients.” What can we say of this?

Not only is this the law for righteous among the nations, but also for those who publicly violate the Sabbath. One may not violate the Sabbath to save them, as is written in the Mishnah Brura, The Laws of Sabbath, section 329, paragraph four: “A Jew who sins…but if he does it only to anger others it is forbidden to save him, even during the weekdays, and it is certainly forbidden to violate the Sabbath for him.” One may ask about religious doctors, perhaps even Charedi ones, who work in the hospitals, even on Sabbath, and save non-Jewish patients, and non-religious patients who publicly violate the Sabbath, but Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef was already asked about this in Responsa “Yabiyah Omer,” part eight, Orach Chaim, section 38: “I was asked by G-d-fearing physicians who work in public hospitals, even on Sabbath, whether they are allowed to treat gentile patients who are dangerously ill and are hospitalized in public institutions, even if it would mean violating Torah prohibitions.”

And the rabbi answered: “We learn that in our times, when there is fear of greater animosity in the world, if Jewish doctors forbore from treating non-Jew on the Sabbath and left them to die, even this issue is one of saving Jewish lives, for if non-Jewish doctors heard this they would stop treating Jewish patients.” No morality, no human decency, and no compassion. Only calculations of utility and benefit. It is as though he said, “A non-Jew? Save him? No, he ought to die. But his death might harm Jews, so we are permitted to treat him.”

Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (b. 1917, served as head of the religious court in Jerusalem) added his own personal touch in “Reponsa Tzitz Eliezer,” part eight, section 15, essay Meshivat Nafesh, chapter six: “And therefore we have a clever idea for physicians who must treat, according to universal law accepted by all, dangerously ill idolaters, for whom one has necessarily to violate even the Torah prohibitions on Shabbat: he should intend not to save the idolater, but himself, so that he not be punished, and through himself all the Jewry…in this way he will not violate the Torah prohibitions by his actions, but only the Rabbinical ones.”

For that reason he allowed also saving a non-religious Jew, “From what was said, we have a general permit to consider the time and situation in which we find ourselves, because of our many sins, that medical treatment involving the violation of Torah prohibitions is required to be given to heretics who publicly violate the Sabbath…for if a religious doctor did not give this treatment, non-religious doctors would withhold treatment as payback…and from this they would be in danger.”

Why is one allowed to save a secular Jew from death on Sabbath? Only to prevent payback by non-religious doctors! The author of “Tzitz Eliezer” can rest easy; non-religious doctors are truly moral and decent and would not neglect any patient for any reason. The followers of “Tzitz Eliezer” can continue to decide that religious doctors should not treat the seculars on Sabbath, and nothing bad will happen to their public, though they will have to battle their own consciences.

Thus the Torah given by God, who “created man in His image” is turned on its head. According to halacha a “man” is only a Sabbath observant Jew. Is this the Jewish viewpoint? Of the billions of people on earth, only a million and a half or so are men and all the rest are as beasts of the field? Are all the interpersonal commandments in the Torah only between Sabbath observant Jews? In place of an answer we will bring here what “Hagahot Maimoniyot” wrote in the Laws of Opinions, chapter six, halacha three: “Every person is commanded to love each and every Jew (and not gentile) as himself, for it is said, ‘Love your fellow-man as yourself.’ It is because he is your fellow-man in fulfilling the Torah and the commandments, but an evil man who does not accept admonition, him it is a commandment to hate, as it says, ‘the fear of G-d is the hating of evil,’ and it is written, ‘I hate those who hate You, O Lord…’.” Simply thus: it is a commandment to hate! Did not the hands of he who wrote this shake?


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