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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Re'ah

The Evil Within

In Parshas Re’eh, the Torah teaches the law of the Ir HaNidachas, the city that goes astray to serve other gods. The Gemara brings a dispute whether this scenario as detailed by the Torah can actually ever take place, and one opinion there is that this entire passage was written only for us to learn and receive reward. Now, the Torah is wide as the ocean, brimming with lessons and morals for us to learn. So, wherever the Torah conjures up an imaginary scenario for us to expound, it means that there is something integral here; a vital lesson that we need for our life’s journey. And so, let us explore these pesukim carefully. It is interesting to note that when detailing the individuals who begin the process of leading the city astray, the Torah states, Lawless men have emerged from your midst. Why does the Torah speak specifically of wicked men among us, pointing out that they lead to the Ir HaNidachas? Therein lies a powerful lesson for us all. Doing the right thing and living a life of Torah is not enough. We must ensure that the vocal minorities of immorality and assimilation are quieted. Part of our job is to not remain a silent majority and allow these movements to grow around us, for the consequences can be devastating. In the context of Ir HaNidachas, this vocal minority suddenly gained traction and people from your midst staged a full-fledged rebellion against Hashem and His Torah! We must learn and teach the Torah in a way that these minorities cannot thrive; when they crop up, they should be immediately quieted! This leads to a second lesson we can glean from this passage. We are familiar with the concept of arvus, where each Jew is responsible for the growth and pitfalls of all of his brethren. And many people think that although this does bring our nation together, it is unfortunate that one be held accountable for the sins of others. Why would the Torah want that one can be extremely righteous, but suffer because of the deeds of his neighbors? The answer is as we see here; that the Torah made this shared responsibility in order to protect us. If we had no connection or accountability for the deeds of others, groups and movements against the Torah would largely go unchecked. These movements would then slowly grow, and drag down good people. The story of the Ir HaNidachas shows us that the Torah created arvus to protect us, not to harm us. We are instructed to always keep a watchful eye on the doings of other Jews, and to make sure not to chas veshalom become swallowed up in somebody’s rebellion. So, our lesson is thus twofold. There are many ideas and hashkafos prevalent beneath the surface of society in our times, dangers so subtle that it can be hard to notice them. Things like people who live without a Rebbe, using their own whims to guide their lives and their learning. There are unfortunately those who allow the influence of the world around them to touch their lives in ways that are inappropriate. These concepts are the movements growing among us that we must speak up against and work to eliminate. First of all, because their traction grows steadily if they are not challenged. And second, we must remember that arvus was given to us to protect us. We have a responsibility to help others improve, and to steer clear of the mistakes being made around us. A Gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

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