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Tel Aviv or Bnei Brak

From recorded lecture by Rav Moshe Mordechai Shulzinger.

Many years ago, a certain talmid chachom, now a venerable grandfather, used to live in Tel Aviv. Understandably, he found proper child-rearing extremely difficult there. The Tel Aviv of the beginning of the State of Israel was the model of a secular city. Tel Aviv - the first Hebrew city, where every day thousands of Jewish children were ripped away from their Jewish heritage and educated to heresy.

So this fellow found his children's education very problematic. He lived in a house surrounded by a high wall. The gate to the yard was kept closed with lock and chain. He escorted them back and forth to school to protect them from hearing or seeing something improper. Finally he began contemplating moving to Bnei Brak. There he would be free from all these problems. He would live a good life in a city with a pious atmosphere, surrounded by holiness and purity.

His neighbors and friends, members of the small religious community in Tel Aviv, soon found out about his plans. They were aghast. They came running to him to try and convince him out of it. They argued that he was a very respected and prominent member of the small religious community. He was a talmid chachom and educator of note. If he leaves, what will happen to Tel Aviv? Every member of the community is crucial. The loss of even one member of the community would be a tragic loss for the little Yiddishkeit that then existed in Tel Aviv. Every member of the community counted.

He listened to them intently. "True. Everything you're saying is correct. But what about the chinuch of my children? The hope of every Jewish father and mother is the proper chinuch of his children. How can I continue to educate my children in such a secular and treif atmosphere." Both sides argued their case and came to the understanding that it was a "shver sha'alah," a very difficult problem. Both sides had valid points that had to be addressed. They couldn't come to the proper conclusion.

Our friend, the talmid chachom, said to them. "This problem is specifically addressed in a possuk in the Torah. "If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment… matters of controversy inside your gates; then shall you arise, and go to the place which the Lord your G-d shall choose; And you shall come to… the judge who shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall declare to you the sentence of judgment; And you shall do according to the sentence… of the Torah which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do…." (Devorim 17:8-11) The Torah tells us that when you have a disagreement between two parties that cannot be resolved, you get up and go to Yerushalayim to the Halachic authority of those days. Let's go to Yerushalayim to ask the Brisker Rav our sha'ala. His neighbors agreed.

So this fellow left Tel Aviv and traveled the (then) long journey to Yerushalayim and procured an audience with the Brisker Rav. He explained that he lived in Tel Aviv with 8 children in a private house with a private yard and a locked gate. And that he accompanied his children wherever they went. Finally, he related, he and his wife had come to the conclusion this is not the way to raise children. Living in Tel Aviv is detrimental to the chinuch of his children. Therefore he had decided to move to Bnei Brak. However, his neighbors countered that he cannot leave them; he will be weakening the fabric of the small religious community in Tel Aviv and dishearten those remaining behind.

It is very hard to anticipate what the gedolim are going to answer. We weigh issues and come to our own conclusions that seem so correct and straightforward. But when we approach the gedolim, we are taken aback by their totally unexpected answers. Upon contemplation, however, their answers are so simple and right, it is mind-boggling how we didn't think of it ourselves. (We are not relating this for anyone to take as a psak halacha. Whoever has his personal sha'ala must go to the contemporary poskim.)

Let's capsulize what the shaala was: chinuch of his children. And the chinuch of his children could not continue in the secular capital of Israel, Tel Aviv.

This was the Brisker Rav's teshuva: "People babble on thinking that they have to leave Tel Aviv because of their children's chinuch. They have to leave Tel Aviv for their own sakes."

This means: people are under the impression that they are OK. They don't have to worry about themselves. They can survive and grow even in Tel Aviv. Their ruchnius is not an issue. The whole problem focuses on the education of their children. The Brisker Rav told us that this is a grave mistake. Tel Aviv is dangerous for us!

The Brisker Rav explained that this is explicit in the Chumash (Devorim 29:9-28):

You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God… all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and your stranger who is in your camp… That you should enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into his oath, which the Lord your God makes with you this day; That he may establish you today for a people to himself… And not with you alone will I make this covenant and this oath; But with him who stands here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him who is not here with us this day; For you know how we have lived in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which you passed by; And you have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them; Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations…

Whom are we talking about? Moshe Rabbeinu was addressing the generation that had left Mitzrayim. They had suffered under the Egyptian persecution. They had seen the miracles of the 10 Plagues and the splitting of the sea. They had stood at Har Sinai personally experiencing G-d's giving of the 10 Commandments. They had eaten the miracle bread mann for 40 years and drank water from the miraculous well of Miriam. They had witnessed all the miracles of the desert, the earth swallowing up Korach and his colleagues, the battles with the giants Og and Sichon. For 40 years they lived surrounded by the Clouds of Glory. Daily miracles for 40 years. They had a tangible sense of the Divine Presence. There has never been a time in which an entire generation was on such a high spiritual level.

What was Moshe worried about with such people? They had been surrounded with open miracles for 24 hours a day. The talmidim asked of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai why Hakadosh Baruch Hu had to give them the mann everyday. Wouldn't it have been enough once a year, or once a month to go pick up the groceries? Rebbe Shimon answered them with a moshol. There was a person with several sons. He used to give them their allowance once a year. He noticed that the rest of the year they ignored him and never came for a visit. Out of the blue, on payday they would show up. So the father changed the deal. Allowance would be distributed every day. Suddenly the children started coming every day to visit their father. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted Klal Yisroel to have the closest possible awareness of the Divine Presence. He wanted them to ask Him every day to send them the mann. Therefore He showered it down daily and not monthly or yearly. They ate today's portion and nothing was left over for tomorrow. Tomorrow they needed a new chesed from the Creator for their rations. That way Klal Yisroel felt tangibly the reality that everything is a miracle and that they were totally dependent upon the Borei Olam. This went on for 40 years. Klal Yisroel in the wilderness were at the zenith of spiritual awareness.

And here is Moshe Rabbeinu warning them, you are about to enter Eretz Yisrael. You are going to see all the idolatry of the inhabitants. Be careful!

They, Klal Yisrael, the holy nation, had to be careful? They saw Hakadosh Baruch Hu every day. They were seemingly impervious to the decrepit influence of the goyim.

The Brisker Rav explained that, true, the idolatry of the goyim in Eretz Yisrael was an abomination. It was disgusting and repulsive. But once you saw it, you saw it. Its effect is there. "…lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood." The Creator of the world understands the makeup of Man. Upon seeing even the most disgusting thing, the "rotten root" within finds some attraction to it; it's not so bad. Even the holy person at the apex of holiness, who daily gazes at the Divine light, even he can be affected and be led to practice idol worship. This is frightening.

This was what the Brisker Rav told that person. Viewing the filth of Tel Aviv is not only bad for the children. It's bad for you. Maybe there's some "rotten root" within you which will become attracted to it and you won't be able to shake it. You'll be drawn to them and become like them!

No one of us has a guarantee. This is a world of tests, of nisyonos. Each one of us can in one minute be lifted up to the zenith of kedusha and have the beauty of the Heavens open up before him. And the next minute, chas v'shalom, he can slip into the lowest moral turpitude. There is no middle ground. He doesn't slip a few feet. He falls down into the pits. We all know this from our own experience. What's the cause? He saw the evil. He thinks he's immune. The possuk warns us, "And it should come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace." It won't affect me. Hakadosh Baruch Hu warns us, everything has an effect, everyone is vulnerable.

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).

Rabbi Parkoff is in the final stages of publishing "CHIZUK," a sequel to Trust Me. If you would like to help in sponsoring this upcoming book, or would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him: or 732-325-1257

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