Friday, March 22, 2013

Chometz, Matza, and the Chareidi Draft

Although the notion that 100% of our children should learn only Torah full-time, indefinitely, into adulthood is outside of our mesorah, the current compromise in E"Y regarding the Chareidi Draft has been called a decree of "shmad," forced conversions. In such a situation, even actions which would be permitted according to halacha become forbidden if those requiring it are attempting to take us away from the Torah. Generally speaking, this compromise provides that approximately 75% of our sons should go on to army service/national service (which will enable them to work legally) after age 21.
 
Because this agreement comes shortly before Pesach, some have hyperbolically applied the line from the Hagada, "ולבן ביקש לעקור את הכל," "And Lavan tried to uproot everything" to the actions of Livni, Bennet, and Netanyahu. Indeed, the initial letters of the last names of these three individuals spell "Lavan." But is it true that our children will leave the path of Torah and yiras Shamayim if they do not stay forever in the four walls of the Beis Medrash? Is it the ratzon Hashem, the will of Hashem, that 100% of our children remain forever in yeshiva and never bring their Torah into the world?
 
I would like to quote a section from the Zohar (183b - Don't worry, it's not too kabbalistic) which also relates to Pesach and is very enlightening with regard to the current situation.

The Zohar asks a question. Chometz is so horrible that one must seek it out and destroy it, one may not own even a single crumb of chometz, and if chometz gets into a pot on Pesach, it is not nullified no matter how great the proportion of non-chomitzdik food is to the chometz. Why are we so strict? We know the seforim teach that chometz is a literal manifestation of the yetzer hara, the "other side," i.e., everything that we hold abhorrent and all aspects of this physical world which bring us away from Torah, emunah, and yiras Shamayim. So if chometz is so horrible, why is permitted the rest of the year?! The Zohar answers with an parable and then it spells out the lesson as follows: 
למלכא דהוה ליה בר יחידאי וחלש, יומא חד הוה תאיב למיכל, אמרו ייכול בריה דמלכא (ס"א מיכלא דאסוותא) אסוותא דא ועד דייכול ליה לא ישתכח מיכלא ומזונא אחרא בביתא, עבדו הכי, כיון דאכל ההוא אסוותא אמר מכאן ולהלאה ייכול כל מה דאיהו תאיב ולא יכיל לנזקא ליה, כך כד נפקו ישראל ממצרים לא הוי ידעי עקרא ורזא דמהימנותא אמר קודשא בריך הוא יטעמון ישראל אסוותא ועד דייכלון אסוותא דא לא אתחזי להון מיכלא אחרא, כיון דאכלו מצה דאיהי אסוותא למיעל ולמנדע ברזא דמהימנותא, אמר קודשא בריך הוא מכאן ולהלאה אתחזי לון חמץ וייכלון ליה דהא לא יכיל לנזקא לון

[There is a parable of] a king who had an only son who became sick. One day, the son wanted to eat. [The doctors] said, let the king's son eat [a certain] healing food. Until he completes his regimen of eating this food, do not let any other kind of food even remain in the house. They did this. Once the son had eaten this healing food, [the doctor] said, "From now on, let him eat whatever he desires. Now, it cannot harm him." Similarly, when the Jewish people left Egypt, they did not yet know the foundation and the secret of emunah. The Holy One, Blessed be He, therefore said, "Let the Jewish people taste of [the bread of] healing, [Matza,] and while they are eating this medicine, let them not even see any other kind of food. But once they have eaten the Matza, which is the medicine which causes a person to ascend and to know the secret of emunah," Hashem says, "From now on, they may see chometz and eat it because it can no longer harm them."
Based on the Zohar, we are not forbidden to have anything to do with the physical world of eating, drinking, and working, just like we are not forbidden from eating kosher chometz during the year. When the Jewish people were young, their faith was weak so they would not have been able to maintain a connection with Hashem if they had contact with the physical world. That, however, was a state of sickness, when we had weak faith. Once we strengthened our emunah by eating Matza, the "bread of emunah" in the right way,  we could begin relating to the physical world and elevate it, rather than have it bring us down.

On an individual level, when our children are young, we have to have pure Torah with a clean environment with no contact with outside, worldly influences wherever possible. However, for reasons only He truly understands, Hashem's ratzon is not that we remain that way forever. For the majority of people, their tafkid is to eventually go out into the world and attempt to elevate the world (and not the other way around). We have to consume only the bread of faith for a while when we are young to build up our emunah. That is while we are weak and vulnerable. But once we have emunah, the outside world should not frighten us. It should be "frightened" of us because we will elevate it and we will not be brought down by it. In the words of the Zohar, when Jews have emunah, the chometz of the world "can no longer harm them." Hashem's plan is that the time of non-exposure to this world is temporary, while we are young and weak. But that non-exposure should not exist indefinitely.

May we be zoche to raise our children right for the first 21 years of their lives so that  when they go out into the world, as indeed it is the will of Hashem that the majority of them do at some point, we do not need to be afraid that they will all leave the path of Torah. We have surely failed in our role as parents and rebbeim if that is a realistic fear. Rather, they will go out filled with emunah so that they can fulfill Hashem's desire "להיות לו דירה בתחתונים," "to have a dwelling place in the lower world."
-Dixie Yid

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