Reckoning Before Rosh Hashanah, With Harav Elya Brudny shlita

Based on a conversation with Harav Elya Brudny, shlita,
Rosh Yeshivah in Mirrer Yeshiva and Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah

Klal Yisrael is undergoing a very serious situation which threatens our ability to be mechanech our children al taharas hakodesh the way that we have been doing for the last hundred years. We must keep in mind that this is just a stopover because we remain in galus, and daven that we shall see the arrival of Moshiach bimheirah b’yameinu. Yet at the same time America has been a medinah shel chessed and has allowed us to thrive and peacefully build our communities.

When faced with such a perilous gezeirah which threatens the chinuch of our future generations, the first order of business is for us to make a cheshbon hanefesh, a reckoning of where we are falling short and what the Ribbono shel Olam is signaling us to improve.

When making such a cheshbon hanefesh, we are told to look for middah k’neged middah, as Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends us a message to mend our ways in the same area where we are confronted by the gezeirah. Let us examine the situation and understand what it entails. The authorities have decided to mingle and meddle in our educational system and infuse our children with foreign influences, and that should direct us to examine how we fall short in our own safeguarding from outside influences.
The United States is generally a tolerant nation and has been hospitable to us. It allows people of different races and backgrounds the freedom to maintain their own culture, and encourages everyone to be open-minded and accepting of others. Yet in this case, the government is taking the opposite stance versus chareidi chinuch, and is attempting to steer us away from what we would like to be. While our community has provided robust education and raised fine, upstanding and responsible citizens for over one hundred years, and both in the quality and what we produce it is superior to the public school system, we are under attack for that very schooling and output.

Why are we being singled out? If the authorities are trying to bombard us with outside influences, then it points us in the direction to examine how much we allow those influences to pervade our sphere, and we are falling short in the way we are supposed to insulate ourselves from them. We are meant to be different: we do not dress or speak like the masses, we do not behave like them, and we lead our lives differently. It behooves us to think into this and conclude that somehow this barrier between the chareidi community has been breached, and as a result Hashem is sending us a message that we must fortify the partition.

Vayisarvu vagoyim vayilmedu ma’aseihem — And you mingled with the nations and learned their deeds (Tehillim, 106:35). Unfortunately, we have mingled and learned from the vices of the nations. Instead of remaining a nation who dwells separately, we are adapting their way of life. We are attracted to styles, entertainment, and luxuries that are not in line with our values. This fissure has allowed the gentile mentality to invade the very chinuch of our children that we are now trying to protect.
Another point to ponder. We are supposed to inculcate our children with the notion of Atah vechartanu mikal ha’amim — You have chosen us from all the nations. We are an am hanivchar, a chosen nation who are supposed to lead Torah lives. The reason the nations envy us is because of the importance of our Torah. If the authorities are trying to undermine the way we teach Torah to our children, we must contemplate if we are failing to convey the importance of Torah to our offspring.

The Ponovezh Yeshivah in Bnei Brak, Aug 20 2012. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Any scrutiny of our deeds must include an examination of bitul Torah. The Gemara in Brachos (5a) tells us, “If one examines his deeds and does not find (the reason for his misfortune), he should presume it is due to bitul Torah. Certainly, if the adversity we are facing is in the transmission of Torah and to make it less central in the lives of our children, we need to examine if our own Torah learning is in order.

Of course, it is commendable that people are kovei’a ittim l’Torah, they devote part of their daily routine to learning. However, we must make a cheshbon hanefesh if we lead our own lives with the credo of asei Torascha keva umelachtecha arai — make your Torah primary and your work transitory (Avos, 1:15). Is limud haTorah the focal point of our lives? It is true that our generation has made great strides, and virtually everyone has his shiurim and time set aside for learning; but does it have the centrality it deserves in our lives and in the lives of our families?

What does our Shabbos look like in terms of our limud haTorah? How do we spend our weekends? Our days off? All this should be included in the cheshbon hanefesh that we should be making. If we want the authorities to allow us to educate our children with the notion that Torah is to be central in their lives, we must inspect our own lives and determine if we are holding by that.

As we approach the Yamim Nora’im, we must be aware that one of our principal pleas to Hashem in these days is galei kvod malchuscha — reveal the glory of Your dominion. We beseech Hashem, uvechein tein pachdecha, uvechein tein kavod, vesimloch atah Hashem levadecha; we beg for Hashem to show to all humanity His awe and honor, and that all should recognize the kingdom of Hashem. The emphasis on this concept is also the main focus of the piyutim we recite throughout these days. Considering that in the present decree, the instigators for the intervention are people who were part of our circle and left the fold, do we have, together with the feelings of anger directed to them, a comparable feeling of the agony and pain the Shechinah is experiencing at their betrayal?

We must feel the pain of the galus haShechinah, where Jewish children are causing such humiliation for kavod Shamayim. It should hurt us that members of the Jewish nation acted this way and caused so much anguish for Klal Yisrael and the Ribbono shel Olam. When we daven for this in the coming days, when we say uvechein tein kavod le’amecha, we must realize that when Yidden act this way, it is the polar opposite of what we are asking for.

Finally, we know that from the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, “ein l’Hakadosh Baruch Hu ela daled amos shel halachah — Hakadosh Baruch Hu has but the four cubits of halachah (Brachos, 8a). Thus, any degradation of the four cubits of Torah is in effect a ‘yad shenishtalcha bemikdashecha — a hand which is intruding in Your Mikdash.’

In our tefillos on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we should all be cognizant of this. We should daven that outsiders should not have influence on us, that Torah should be central to our lives, and for the glory of the Shechinah to shine through with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, bimheirah b’yameinu. n

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