Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Tetzaveh/Shabbos Zachor. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: email, rss feed, podcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.
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Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Tetzaveh – Parshas Zachor 5775
Calling Out Modern-Day Evil
I have been waiting for this Shabbos when we remember the actions of those who have attempted to destroy us for months now. Although I am going to speak about things I usually avoid discussing on Shabbos, as I watch the events in Europe and throughout the Middle East, I cannot help but feel that we are living Part II of the story of “And it was in the Days of Achashveirosh” (Esther 1:1). Just like in the days of Achashveirosh, we have a dispute about the leader of our own country (Megillah 12a): Is he a foolish king or a wicked king? Our President says repeatedly in every speech, “Make no mistake… Let me be perfectly clear.” And we know from experience that everything he says after that introduction is a confusing obfuscation of truth, an utter lack of clarity.
Purim is a holiday of stark contrasts. As we say in the song Shoshanas Yaakov, “Cursed is Haman who attempted to destroy me” and “Blessed is Mordechai the Jew.” We have “Cursed is Zeresh the wife of the one who terrorized me” and “Blessed is Esther [who sacrificed] for me.” The Megillah refers on one hand to “king” Achashveirosh. But it also refers to “The King,” the hidden King of all kings who acts behind the scenes. Purim means making a place in our lives for both parts.
While gratitude to Hashem, rejoicing in His salvation, gifts to the poor and to our friends, and celebration, are a major part of Purim, an equally important part of the day is hatred of that which is truly evil in the world. Therefore, when we celebrate on Purim by drinking a little bit, “when the wine goes in, the secret comes out” (Eiruvin 65a). Our inhibitions and political correctness subside and we call out the alternate text of Shoshanas Yaakov, “Cursed are all of the wicked!”
Certainly everything in Yiddishkeit starts and ends with the quality of love. In the second blessing before Shma, we say every day, “You have loved Your nation Israel with an eternal love.” In Shma, we say the pasuk (Devarim 6:5), “And you shall love Hashem your G-d will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your resources.” The Torah teaches us, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). Love is the foundation of the world and is the overarching emphasis in our service of G-d. And the ultimate goal of “turn away from evil” is to “do good” (cf. Tehillim 34:15). As Rabbeinu Bachaya says, “a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” That is always the primary emphasis.
But the truth is that love is not everything. The western world is drunk with the idea that, as the song says, “All you need is love.” That is the perverse current formulation of a concept which originated in the teachings of the well-known apostate from Nazareth. The reality is that “Those who love Hashem hate evil” (Tehillim 97:10). This is a positive form of hate; one which is not only permissible, but obligatory. In the western mind, love is always good and hate is always bad. But this extremist, black-and-white approach is foolish, false, and very dangerous. The truth is that there is a good form of love and a bad form of love. There is a good form of hate and a bad form of hate. We have an obligation to clearly identify evil and evil-doers and work to stop and, if necessary, destroy them. It is forbidden to indiscriminately love everyone and everything.
Judaism is not a religion of love. Nor is it a religion of hate. It is a religion of truth. As long as there are evil acts and evildoers in the world, there will be a limitation on where love is appropriate. If one loves wicked people, he begins to identify with them and eventually justifies and becomes caught up with them, ultimately throwing his lot in with them in every way.
The Rambam rules (Hilchos Melachim 5:5) that “it is forbidden to forget his [Amalek’s] enmity and hatred.” And the Chayei Adam (155:2) teaches us that “It is a positive commandment from the Torah to remember what Amalek did and to hate him with a hatred fixed into the heart…” Why is this? It is because “Those who love Hashem hate evil.”
The same thing that makes a person love Hashem causes him to hate evil. That is why the Alter Rebbe, zy’a, teaches us in the tenth chapter of the Tanya regarding a complete tzadik: “The extent of the greatness of his love for Hashem is the extent of his hatred for the Other Side and his complete disgust with evil.” It is not that those who love Hashem “also” hate evil. Their love of Hashem itself gives birth to hatred of evil people and their evil actions. The same way a modest, loving mother hates someone who abuses her child, a tzadik’s hatred for evil does not come from anger, jealousy, or arrogance. Rather, it arises from the powerful purity and refinement of his love for G-d. “Love is powerful like death… its coals are like the coals of the fire of the flames of G-d.” When a fiery love of G-d comes into contact with evil, that evil is completely consumed.
This is the message of Shabbos Zachor. We must clearly identify evil. We must “make no mistake” and “be completely clear.” Esther answered the question “Who is this and where is he” (Esther 7:5) without hesitation or equivocation: “This evil Haman!” (ibid. 6).
For some reason, our President has been unable to do this. He demonstrated how he has blinded himself to anti-Semitism when he characterized the massacre of four Jews in a kosher grocery store in Paris as a “bunch of violent, vicious zealots [of no particular religion]… randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks [of no particular religion] in a deli in Paris.” The President’s elves initially tried to justify this unwillingness to name radical Islam as the culprit and the Jewish people as their target. We can never fight evil if the titular leader of the free world refuses to even acknowledge the nature and perpetrators of such evil.
The evil people of the world today completely negate the image of G-d in man. They viciously behead, slaughter, and enslave Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds all over the Middle East, not to mention how they butcher other Muslims who disagree with them, including burning a Muslim pilot alive as part of their worldwide PR campaign. Shabbos Zachor reminds us that we must clearly identify and condemn evil in our own time. We cannot fall prey to the same mistake our President makes by refusing to call radical Islam out as the source of the problem and clearly identify Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, the Syrian Regime, Fatah/the PLO, and their ilk as the purveyors of the most inhumane forms of evil perpetrated in the world today against non-Muslims and Muslims alike.
Someone pointed out to me this week that in chassidus, we always learn that there is a spark of holiness in everything in the world, from the most benign to the most evil. He asked whether we should seek out the good in evil ideologies, regimes, and organizations in the world today. Does the Gemara not say (Gitin 57b), “the great-grandchildren of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Brak!” I explained to him that while this is true, how Hashem ultimately redeems the good in the evil things of this world today is none of our concern. He will extract sparks of goodness according to His plan. But as long as something reveals itself as pure evil in this world, we must relate to it as such.
It is true that the Arizal teaches that the pasuk, “And regarding Yishmael, I have heard you [Avraham]” (Bereishis 17:20), refers to how G-d took note of the spark of holiness within Yishmael. In addition, Reb Shimon Ostropoler, zy’a, teaches that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, Reish Lakish, was a reincarnation of Yishmael. He further explains that because the word for “And He heard, וישמע” is related to the name Shimon (שמעון), the pasuk (ibid. 21:17) “And G-d heard the voice of the boy [Yishmael]… where he was” hints at the fact that the soul of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish was already deep within Yishmael. Notwithstanding all of that, the fact that good or bad would come from Yishmael or his descendants in the distant future was not part of the calculation at the time. Yishmael was only saved because he was deserving at the time. We must relate to evil exclusively according to its manifestation as evil as long as its spark of goodness remains hidden. As-yet-unredeemed holiness is none of our concern.
Our President, who refuses to identify or confront evil in our time, demonstrated his deep fear of Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking before a joint session of Congress and meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators by attempting to humiliate and embarrass him in order to discredit his message about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. President Obama is terrified because he knows that Netanyahu will do what he always does; identify the evil, terror-supporting Islamic Iranian regime as an existential danger to Israel and the free world. He knows Netanyahu will “be perfectly clear” and “make no mistake” when he answers the question “Who is this and where is he?”
Obama knows that the Prime Minister will shatter his whitewashed image of terrorism as a few random extremists radicalized by poverty and lack of opportunity with no connection to the worldwide Iran-funded systematic recruitment to radical Islam happening all over the Middle East and Europe. He knows Netanyahu will point out the evil nation that sits on the same point on the map as ancient Persia; the nation that attempted to annihilate our people just as the Ayatollahs seek to do today.
It is no coincidence that amidst the mitzvos of Purim related to love and friendship is the mitzvah to remember the evil of the nation of Amalek. One is the natural result of the other. “Those who love Hashem hate evil.” While the primary mitzvah to destroy Amalek today can only be fulfilled by destroying our own inner Amalek-like qualities, coldness and detachment toward an enthusiastic, wholehearted service of G-d, we must also fulfill the mitzvah by recognizing and calling out the evil and evildoers of the day. May Hashem bless us by giving us and our leaders the clarity and courage to unequivocally identify and destroy the evil ideologies, organizations, and regimes prevalent the world.
 The good hidden inside a Jewish soul of a wicked person’s body is different because that good is revealed on some level even here in this world.
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