A Freilichen Tomid!

ב”ה עש”ק פר’ תשא, שושן פורים, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק

Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!

Sholom U’Brocho!

A FREILICHEN PURIM, a FREILICHEN SHUSHAN PURIM, and A FREILICHEN TOMID, and the simcha should continue and increase throughout the year!

Thank you as always for the feedback, it is much appreciated.

In the famous maamar of the Frierdige Rebbe וקבל היהודים, that was said on Purim Kotton 5687, he quotes a midrash on the Posuk ויהי בימי אחז. The midrash is based on the premise that ויהי בימי always indicates something negative, and is explaining the disturbing events that were taking place during the reign of Ochoz. The midrash is found in various places, as well as in gemoro, with a number of variations. Following is the version quoted in the maamar, which is based on the midrash on Megilas Esther:

Ochoz was a Jewish king of Yehuda. He came from good stock, his father and ancestors were tzaddikim; – in fact, to such a degree that Hashem said that He could not raise a hand against Ochoz, despite his evil ways, because of his righteous predecessors. But Ochoz himself was extremely evil, promoting sin and opposing the service of Hashem (yes, the history of the anti-religious go back very far). It was to such an extent that in some maamorei Chazal he is said to have forfeited his share in olam habo. Following is the description of his strategy to ch”v suppress Torah and Yiddishkeit:

Ochoz said to himself ‘If there are no small lambs there will be no sheep, and if there are no sheep, then there will be no flock, and if there is no flock then there will be no (need for a) shepherd. And without any shepherd the world cannot last’.

So too (he deduced) ‘If there are no children (learning Torah) then there will be no grownups (learning Torah), and if there are no grownups (learning Torah) then there will be no wise men, and if there are no wise men then there will be no elders, and if there are no elders then there will be no Torah (study), and if there is no Torah then there will be no more shuls and Batei Medrash, and without any בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות the Eibishter will not dwell amongst Yidden’

“Aha”, he said, “I now have a sure plan to prevent the presence of G-dliness amongst the Yidden ch”v. I don’t need the media, I don’t have to provoke strife between the charedim and the secular, my approach is simple”. And he went, and locked all of the shuls and beis midrashim.

In fact, Chazal tell us that his name, Ochoz, was a reflection of this dastardly act that he did, his attempt to overtake the places of learning and of worship and close them down.

[The Eibishter, however, said – through the novi – that his efforts would be futile, because he had already guaranteed כי לא תשכח מפי זרעו the words of Torah would never cease being heard from the mouths of the Jewish children].

The midrash (in this particular version, משא”כ some of the others) seemingly raises a very obvious and challenging question: If Ochoz was able – and intended – to close the beis medroshim, knowing that this would prevent the presence of the shechina from being amongst the Yidden, then what was the relevance of the rest of his calculation? Why is it important that אם אין קטנים אין גדולים etc., if that is just a way to bring about the closure of the shuls אין בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשים and he was going to close them directly?

If we say, we want to eliminate terrorism. So we figure that the funding comes from the Iranian oil, and if we destroy Iran, then there’s no more money for terrorists, and if there’s no more funding then there won’t be any more breeding of them, and if there aren’t any training camps then Iran won’t be producing all of those terrorists and we’ll be freed from this scourge. So we destroy Iran to create the whole domino effect.

One second! If you can destroy Iran, then you just solved the whole problem right there and then, because there will no longer be an issue of the Iranian-bred terrorists, so what relevance is there to the whole thought process about the funding etc. (although it may be accurate, it is seemingly not relevant)?

[Please note: the above is just a moshol, any resemblance to actual people or places is purely coincidental].

So why did Ochoz begin with his calculation about the Torah of the children?

I think that the answer to this question is a very powerful message. Indeed, the goal and objective of Ochoz was the closure of the shuls and botei midrashim. Yet, he knew that in this he was powerless. What will he do? Put a lock on the door? There will immediately materialize 2 new shuls in 2 new locations. What happened in Russia, when the communists tried just that? For every lock placed on the door of a shul, another 2 minyanim were formed in private homes or at other secret locations.

Closing the shuls and the botei midrash was just not a viable option for him, because a Jew will always learn and daven, wherever he is and whatever the circumstances, and he was powerless to prevent that.

Therefore, Ochoz devised his master plan; – his final solution. He realized that this was all true for a Jew who had a proper Torah education in his youth. But he would strike at the heart of the nation; – he would close the botei midrash in order to discontinue the cheder. If the children are not learning in cheder, then the rest would follow ch”v – אם אין קטנים אין גדולים, אם אין גדולים אין זקנים, אם אין זקנים אין חכמים, אם אין חכמים אין תורה, אם אין תורה אין בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות, אם אין בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות אין השכינה שורה בישראל . Now he would be able to effectively cause the closure of all of the places of worship, in an unchallenged way.

And his reasoning was sound, his plan would have indeed been successful r”l. If there were no cheder-educated children, then there would be no inner strength to withstand hardships, and any closures of shuls and Yeshivos would be devastating.

But he made one error. He would not be able to discontinue even the chadorim. Not because there was a flaw in his logic. But (as the midrash concludes) because the Eibishter Himself has given His guarantee that כי לא תשכח מפי זרעו!

Which helps us appreciate the importance of the cheder education. The children are not learning the mishnayos in cheder in order to know who ends up getting the talis that 2 people have been fighting over for the past 2000 years, or to know the proof about whether or not yiush shelo midaas works. Rather, the purpose and benefit of their cheder education is to provide their foundation for later in life. As a result of this Torah study in their childhood, they are fortified to survive any future challenges. Now, even if they face a situation later in life in which there is a closure of their place of worship (and – make no mistake – every single person experiences these closures in some form, at some point), they will continue to learn and to daven.

Only as a result of the fact that they were קטנים, – that they were yiddishe kinderlach learning Torah, will they be empowered to remain faithful to the Torah in their adulthood, regardless of what hardships they may face.

And this is why Mordechai fought back against the evil decrees by gathering the children, the tinokos shel beis rabon, and learning Torah with them. Because it is specifically that learning that provides the strength to overcome all obstacles!

L’chaim! May we all take advantage of the special time to draw אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר into the entire year, and למיסמך גאולה לגאולה to continue it into the ultimate geulah through the immediate hisgalus of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!

Rabbi Akiva Wagner

לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג