The Torah places great importance on human life, more so than other religions.
Life comes before mitzvos, with the exception of the "cardinal
transgressions": Murder, Incest and Adultery, Idolatry. At a time of forced
conversion, a Jew may have to give his life in order to preserve Judaism.
This was the story of Chanukah, where the Kohanim revolted against the
Greek-Syrian oppression because of religious persecution. Against the vast
resources of the most powerful army of that time, the untrained Kohanim
apparently didn't stand a chance, but were willing to die for their religious
freedom, if need be. Many of them did die; but the miracle of the Chanukah
story is the story of the survival of Judaism against the greatest odds.
The point of our discussions regarding Mesiras Nefesh and Kiddush Hashem
is a positive one. Nothing could be further from Judaism than the terrorist
acts of extremists, which entail murder, suicide, and Chilul Hashem (profaning
Hashem's name). But the Mitzvos of Mesiras Nefesh and Kiddush Hashem teach
self-dedication, consistency, and the importance of the preservation of Jewish
As Arachim has so poignantly demonstrated, during the same time that the
Chinese have grown to a populace of over a billion, the Jews have barely
increased in population. Everyone knows why this is so. By honoring those
who have died for living as Jews, we give glory to those who live, meaning
and vitality to our ongoing Jewish practices.
Remember our quote from the Shlah, that a Jew should flee rather than
face the necessity to give his life? (Outline Vol. 2 #2) Such is the view
of the Shevus Yaakov. Herein lies the difference between the faithful Jew
and the terrorist. The Jew is ready, if and when the time comes. He has
constantly recited "You shall love Hashem with all your heart, soul and
might..." However, if he could have avoided confrontation, he would have.
"Cast your burden to Hashem; He will sustain you." (T'hillim [Psalms 55:23].)
The Shlah says that this is the mitzvah of davening, prayer. Throw your concerns
to Hashem, for He alone is in charge.
Why is prayer "service?" What does it "serve?" To whom are we
"serving?" Prayer is a statement: He alone is in charge. From here, we can
understand the crime of idolatry: To imagine that anything else has any say,
has any independent power, is tantamount to denying the basic principle:
He alone is in charge. "Cast your burden to Hashem," based on the realization
that "He will sustain you..." is serving the Creator!
When the Patriarch Yitzchak felt Yaakov's hands, he said, "The voice is
the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are Eisuv's." The holy perception of Yitzchak
is disturbing. The voice sounds like Yaakov, but the domain of power belongs
to Eisuv... which will have ascendancy?
Rebbenu Bechaye quotes a Medrash:
Yaakov only rules with the voice, Eisuv rules with his hands. "The voice
is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are Eisuv's." So it states: (T'hillim
[Psalms 20:8].) "They trust in their chariots and horses; but we will mention
Hashem's name!" When Moshe told the King of Edom, "We cried unto Hashem and
He heard our voice," the nations went before their philosophers for advice.
The philosophers said: "If you find the voices of the children calling out,
you have no chance against them. So their father assured them: `The voice
is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are Eisuv's.' When Yaakov is found
in the Batei Knesios (synagogues) and Batei Medrashos (Yeshivos -- houses
of study), the hands are not those of Eisuv."
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Kollel of Kiryas Radin 11 Kiryas
Radin Spring Valley, NY 10977 Phone: (914) 362-5156 E-mail: