Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Adam: The Highs and the Lows

Two years. That’s how long the Mueller investigation lasted. Two years of wasted time, many millions of taxpayers’ dollars squandered. The hopes of perhaps half the American population rested on this inquiry. They were terribly disappointed with all the surprising results of the 2016 presidential campaign, so they were relying on this witch hunt to find the president guilty of wrongdoing, which would lead to his impeachment. But after intense probes conducted by biased Trump haters, the commission could not find evidence of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia to rig the election.

For liberals, it was a day of mourning. The news media could not contain their disappointment, with one TV reporter not being able to hold back tears while announcing what they considered tragic news. By one account, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC alone had published a combined 8,500 stories on this topic. One cannot even begin to evaluate the collective number of wasted hours Americans spent glued to their TVs, radios, smart phones, and printed publications anxiously sucking in all of the gossip and innuendo being offered.

As it turns out, this was nothing more than a hoax created by the Clinton campaign, first to undermine the opposing candidate to gain victory, but then, after their shattering defeat, there were Clinton backers in the government who tried nothing less than to have the newly elected president overthrown. Compared to this egregious plot, the Nixon Watergate scandal was child’s play. This meant that a group of disenchanted individuals attempted to nullify the choice of the electorate, one of the basic principles of freedom that is sacred to Americans. Furthermore, it stymied many of the president’s efforts to accomplish his agenda for the country. Surprisingly, despite their efforts, he has been successful in many areas and maintains a decent popularity rating, much to the chagrin of his detractors.

But it is not for us to gloat over their disappointment, as they are not finished with their plotting by a long shot. Besides, why should we sully ourselves with the mudslinging that has become part of the daily schedule in Americans lives since President Trump’s astounding victory? We should, however, learn from this just how low people can sink and what potential they have through their selfishness to make life difficult for others. Like the alter Telzer rov, Rav Yosef Yehuda Leib Bloch, would say, “The same way there is no shiur to gadlus, there is no shiur to katnus. Just as there is no limit to the lofty heights of kedusha one can reach, so is there no limit to the depths of corruption that one can sink to.”

In these last parshiyos, we learn of the impurities of animals and man. There are distinct differences between the tumah found in a person and those of animals. With animals, those that are impure are always impure, while those that are tomei are always tomei; their status never changes. Not so adam, who can become defiled with the most stringent tumah yet can change his status and become tahor once again.

Furthermore, it would seem that man is on a lower level than animals, for animals are metamei only after they are dead, while adam can be tomei even when alive. He can defile anything he sits or lies on. If he is a metzora, he defiles anything that is under the very same roof as he. All of this applies even when he is alive, and certainly after he dies. In addition, it is more difficult to become purified from the tumah elicited by man. A metzora must go through an extended process before becoming pure. Tumas meis requires seven days of waiting and having the ashes of the parah adumah sprinkled upon him. None of these apply to the tumah acquired by contact with an animal. How can it be that the most refined and prestigious of all creations has the potential of causing the worst tumah?

The Be’er Yosef, Rav Yosef Salant, explains that the Zohar Hakadosh says that man was created after all of the other creatures because he encompasses all of the powers of the entire briah. When Hashem said, “Na’aseh adam, – Let us make man,” He was saying to all of His creations, “Let us all contribute to the creation of man.” A human being has a part of every single briah within him.

With this, we can understand why man is unique in the respect that he can be tomei and then purify himself. Because he entails all of the power of creation, both tomei and tahor, and he has the koach habechirah in how to conduct his life, he can go in either direction on the road of ruchniyus. He can falter but then redirect his manner and once again elevate himself. Therefore, unlike animals, he can become defiled but then take action to become pure. This is also the reason why his impurity is much more stringent than those of animals, because man encompasses the potential for tumah of all the other creations combined.

The Zohar Hakadosh says that the letters of the word nega, plague, and oneg, delight, are the same. When a metzora repents from his sin, the plague is reformed into a delight. He has taken a lesson from his punishment, has been healed, and now has become a better person in the process. But as long as he has not repented sufficiently, the nega remains.

The rosh yeshiva of Gateshead, Rav Leib Lopian, commented about this. The word oneg begins with the letter ayin, whereas in nega the ayin is at the end. If a person uses the ayin at the beginning of his life to always look and study what the proper way to live is and to always have a self-awareness of where he is headed spiritually, then his life is oneg, a delight. But if a person does not use the ayin when he is young and he goes through life without bothering to look for the truth, and only at the end of his life does he look back and see his failings, such a life is not an oneg but rather a nega.

When man sees only his own desires, his honor, his power and his personal gain, then he will do anything, no matter how corrupt, to attain what he is longing for. It makes no difference to him that he is harming others and causing them untold pain, as long as he gets his way. This is what we have seen with those who perpetrated the Mueller investigation.

Unfortunately, this story has not yet ended. The Democrats still refuse to admit defeat and are trying to pursue the matter further. Especially disturbing is the fact that we see Jewish names in the news that are at the forefront of all of this. The world does not need any excuses for anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, we have often been on the receiving end of persecutions for no good reason. “In every generation, they have stood up against us to destroy us.” But we certainly do not have to supply them with excuses. When they see Jews abusing their power and trying to impeach the president, it undoubtedly arouses their hatred. As Rabbi William Handler wrote so eloquently in the Readers Write column of the Yated a couple of weeks ago, it brings back memories of what happened in Germany before World War II.

“He has filled me with bitterness; He has sated me with wormwood“ (Eicha 3:15). Rebbi Avihu explained that Hashem commanded us to eat bitter herbs on the night of Pesach and sent us the bitterness of wormwood on the night of Tisha b’Av. The night of Tisha b’Av always falls out on the same night of the week as the first night of Pesach. One would think that the night when we celebrate redemption and the night when we mourn the churban and golus should be at the opposite ends of the spectrum, yet here we see that there is an association between them. What is their connection?

My rebbi, the Telzer rosh yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Gifter, explains that at the very moment that we experience the exalted holiness of geulah, we must also envision before us the bitterness of golus. The simple reason for this is that in order for us to truly appreciate the chesed of Hashem in redeeming us from golus Mitzrayim, we first have to picture and feel the bitterness of slavery and how miserable our lives were. Only then can we feel the elation of geulah and thank Hashem with sincerity.

But there is a deeper meaning in why we must taste the bitterness on this night, for we must always be aware that as long as we are still in golus, we are constantly escorted by the bitterness of churban, where man, no matter how lofty his madreigah , still has the potential to stumble and fall to low levels of tumah. Even though on this night we celebrate our status of “geulim,” redeemed ones, and we have the ability to be free in serving Hashem, we are still in golus and our geulah is not yet complete. Deep within us lurk the roots of yeridah, the possibility of being enticed by the yeitzer hara, becoming ensnared in sin, which led to the churban Bais Hamikdosh on Tisha B’Av. Even during our celebration of freedom, we must never lose sight of our shortcomings in golus.

The good news is that we have the power of choice. We have the ability to garner all of the positive kochos of the briah that we possess to be mekadeish sheim Shomayim. If we are always alert and place the ayin at our helm, then we can indeed enjoy a life of cheirus and oneg.



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