Playing Ape
By Boruch Merkur

Dov is an actor - or, at least, he would be if he could get his act together and find a job. He is down and out, and ready to settle for anything, any opportunity. Finally he gets a lead. He discovers a job described in the classified ads as follows: "Actor needed to play ape."

"I could do that, " says Dov.

To his surprise, the employer turns out to be none other than the recruitment

director for the local zoo.

The director confesses that owing to past mismanagement, the zoo has spent so much money renovating the grounds and

improving the habitat, that they can no longer afford to import the ape they needed to replace Betsy, their previous ape, who is now in ape-Heaven. He then offers Dov

the job of playing a real, live ape. Out of desperation, Dov accepts the offer.

At first, Dov is at odds with his new job. His conscience keeps nagging at him, telling him that he is being dishonest by fooling the zoo-goers. And as you might expect, Dov feels rather undignified in the ape-suit, stared at by crowds of observers who watch his every move from the other side of the cage. But after a couple of days on the job, he actually begins to be amused by all the attention. He even starts to put on a bit of a show for the zoo-goers: hanging upside-down from the branches by his legs, swinging about on the looming vines, climbing up the cage walls, and roaring with all his might whilst beating his chest. Indeed, he begins to become quite a popular attraction at the zoo, drawing a sizable crowd.

One day, when showing off to a group of kids on a school trip, Dov starts swinging about on the vines with the greatest agility, when all of a sudden his hand slips, and he goes flying over the fence into the neighboring cage, the lion’s den!

Recovering from the fall, Dov lifts up his head to see the lion approaching! Terrified, Dov backs up as far as he can, covers his eyes with his paws, and screams at the top of his lungs, "Shma Yisroel Ad-nai Elokeinu Ad-nai echad!" (Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is one!)

The lion opens its powerful jaws and roars, "Baruch shem k’vod malchuso l’olam va’ed!" (Blessed is the name of his glorious kingship forever and ever!)

"Hush, you fools!" a panda bear mutters from a third cage. "You’II get us all fired!"

* * *

In this week’s parsha, the Torah teaches us how to judge the case of the sota, a married woman who has "strayed" from the path of modesty and has become suspected of adultery. According to Torah law, if a woman who has been forewarned by her husband not to enter into private quarters with a particular man is witnessed going off with that man in private, even for just a short while, she must separate from her husband and stand trial in the courtyard of the Holy Temple.

The suspected adulteress may prove her innocence by means of a miraculous "lie-detector test." The procedure requires the woman to drink from the "bitter waters," a special potion made up of water drawn from the Temple laver and made to taste bitter by a certain ingredient, some dust from the earth beneath the Temple floor, and the holy name of G-d written in ink on parchment and then mixed in and dissolved into the brew. If she is determined to be guilty, she immediately suffers physical deterioration at the hand of G-d, leading to her bitter demise. (Incidentally, the man involved also suffers the same fate, wherever he may be.)

But if she is proven to be free of the sin of adultery, she returns to her husband, and G-d grants her a special blessing to conceive and to have an easy childbirth.

As part of the trial procedure, the woman in question must also bring an offering of barley flour, a food which the Sages describe as animal fodder. Why must she bring an offering of animal food? Because the very fact that she was found in a compromising situation - being suspected of adultery - associates her actions with those of an animal. Guilty or not of adultery, she is likened to an animal, because she acted immodestly - not in a way befitting a Jewish woman, who must stay far from the faintest suspicion of impropriety.

And what caused her to act immodestly? The Sages tell us that this is only because "a spirit of folly entered into her." Indeed, she wasn’t acting herself at all. Rather, she was merely "acting," in the plain sense of the word.

Because, in truth, every Jew is an "actual part of G-d Above." Every Jew, whether he acts like a Jew or not, is really 100% pure inside, and is only concerned with fulfilling G-d’s will. Any behavior that runs contrary to this ideal is only an indication of the interference of a "spirit of folly," something entirely foreign and external to the Jew, like a garment - an ape-suit, for example.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos, vol. 2)

* * *

When we consider that everything in the world is reflected in the spiritual realm to the greatest detail, the following problem arises. It is known that the relationship of husband and wife is expressed Above as the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. It is clear from the 2nd (of the Ten) Commandment(s), "You shall have no other gods before me," that G-d has warned us at Mount Sinai - in a way that resembles the warning of the (potential) sota - not to go astray with other gods. Accordingly, if we were to disregard G-d’s warning and nevertheless go "into private quarters" with other gods, with idolatry, G-d forbid, we would expect to have to be "separated" from the Alm-ghty and stand trial according to the laws of the sota. But this scenario appears to be entirely unfathomable: How is it possible for us to go into private quarters and hide from G-d the Omnipresent, of Whom it is said, "there is no place void of Him"? Moreover, G-d is also omnipotent - He knows and sees everything. "A person hides in hidden places and I will not see him?!" says the L-rd.

The Rebbe explains: A person is said to be "hiding" from G-d when he is arrogant, as G-d proclaims "[the arrogant] and I cannot live [together]." Or, as the acronym E.G.O. reads: Edge G-d Out. In this sense, the former verse must be read with a slightly different inflection: "a person hides in hidden places and I [i.e., he brazenly asserts his "I," his ego, then G-d] will not see him." Although G-d is omniscient. He chooses not to set his eyes on the arrogant, for "G-d despises the arrogant of heart."

(Based on Likkutei Sichos, vol. 4.)

In order to prepare for the imminent revelation of Moshiach, who will usher in a time when we will all know G-d, and we will even be able to see Him - indeed, we will point with our fingers and proclaim, "this is my G-d!" - let it be in such a way that G-d will choose to look kindly back at us, seeing that we are not arrogant and despicable, but that we have already stripped away our "ape-skins" and garbed ourselves in modesty and sincerity.

Just One Attorney And We’ll All Be Free!
By Rabbi Chaim Miller

Do we really have to wait for everyone to become religious in order for Moshiach to come?!

Isn’t it funny how popular the topic of Moshiach is in the music business? Whilst rabbis and scholars find it difficult to articulate the subject of Moshiach to the masses, virtually every song that hits the Jewish charts mentions the Messiah or Redemption. Somehow, our conservatism and embarrassment about the idealism of the Messianic future just fades away with the elative quality of music.

The singer, Mordechai Ben David caused a sensation in the 80’s with his song, "Just One Shabbos and We’ll All Be Free." The song tells a simple story of an individual who had been inspired at the Western Wall to become religious, and later went on to inspire others. The song became a symbol of a generation which witnessed the return of tens of thousands of Jews to the fold of Torah observance. The song is actually based on a promise cited in the Jerusalem Talmud: if all the Jewish people were to observe one Shabbos in its entirely, then the Messiah would immediately arrive, and we would all be freed from our personal quagmires.

However, stripped of the optimism of the accompanying music, the lyrics actually seem to be rather pessimistic: Do we really have to wait for everyone to become religious in order for Moshiach to come?!

* * *

Picture a beautiful summer wedding. The crowd is assembled in their finest attire, the bride and groom are standing under an elaborately decorated chuppa, and the Rabbi is standing ready with the ceremonial glass of wine. All is running smoothly, until the groom takes the ring in his hand, about to enter into the legal bond of marriage, and, without warning, breaks into a speech: "I would like to invoke my right to attach a condition to this ceremony. The bride’s father, of blessed memory, stipulated in his last Will and Testament, that it is his expressed wish that his daughter should only marry the most righteous of men. I fear that I may not meet the standards that he would have wanted, so I am proclaiming here and now, in the presence of witnesses, that only if it is the case that I am totally righteous, do I consent to this marriage. If, however, I am not righteous, then this act is totally null and void." Without delay, amidst the gasps from the crowd, the groom places the ring on the finger of the bewildered bride.

In such a case one is in the desperate need of a Jewish lawyer. Fortunately, this case was already discussed by one of the greatest of Jewish "lawyers," Moses Maimonides, the Rambam, who came to the remarkable conclusion that the wedding is a valid one, even if the groom is known to be of wicked character.

The reason behind this ruling is the revolutionary assertion of the Talmud that, even in the brief moments of the wedding ceremony, he could have contemplated a change of character - a return to G-d - which would render the groom a completely righteous man from that very moment. In effect, Maimonides taught us that Man is capable of changing his character instantaneously, and since this transformation is internal, and hence undetectable to the naked eye, we must give him the benefit of the doubt and presume his righteousness.

Since this is the case, then we have a perfect argument for those who claim that the Redemption will only occur when all Jews are religious. From a legal perspective, there is a clear precedent to presume the instantaneous righteousness of a Jew. So, if there is a legal requirement for the Jewish nation to be righteous in order for the Redemption to come, then we have a legal proof that it is presumed we are already righteous.

So, from a legal perspective, we do not have to wait for "Just One Shabbos." Rather, even before this happens, in the merit of our good intentions alone, may we immediately merit the true and complete Redemption!


One day, Dov starts swinging about on the vines with the greatest agility, when all of a sudden his hand slips, and he goes flying over the fence into the neighboring cage, the lion’s den!



Any behavior that runs contrary to this ideal is only an indication of the interference of a “spirit of folly,” something entirely foreign and external to the Jew, like a garment — an ape-suit, for example.



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