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
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
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
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 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.
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
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!