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January 16, 2017 / 18 Tevet, 5777
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Cleverer than God

Rabbi Kahane's article about American Jewry in the Jewish Press.

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This Shabbat marks the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his murder. To honor his memory, our next two blogs will feature essays he wrote for The Jewish Press, which appear in the incomparably thought-provoking collection of his articles, “Beyond Words.” May his memory be for a blessing.


Cleverer Than God

By Rabbi Meir Kahane

December 1, 1978

It has been three weeks now since I left Israel to speak to the Jews of the American Galut. My most profound impression has clearly been the attempt of American Jews — especially the practitioners of ritual — to be clever; to be cleverer, cleverer than our Maker. The words of the prophet Isaiah (45:9) ring out across the ages, saying: “Woe to him who argues with his Maker! . . . Shall the clay say to Him who forms it: ‘What are you doing?’”

In every generation this would appear to have been so. The created striving to be cleverer than the Creator. And in every generation, forgetting the words of that Creator: “I made the earth, and created mankind upon it . . . !” (Isaiah, 45:12).

A mere cursory look at the Torah reveals an unmistakable fact: Amidst any and all of the punishments and warnings issued by the Creator, one continually stands out as the ultimate national one: Galut, exile. Whatever else it may be considered: sin, impurity, akin to idol worship — the Galut is, first and foremost, primarily a curse and a punishment. Here are just a few examples:

“And you will perish quickly from off the good Land that the Lord gives you” (Deuteronomy 11:17).

“I call heaven and earth this day to bear witness against you, that you will soon be utterly removed from off the Land, into which you are crossing theJordanto inherit.” (ibid., 4:26)

“That the Land not vomit you out, when you defile it.” (Leviticus 18:28).

And, of course, the two classical Tochachot, admonitions, the first in Leviticus and the other in Deuteronomy. In both, a long series of punishments, and tribulations. In both, curses taking the place of blessings. In both, an escalating warning: “And if you continue to refuse to listen to me . . . ” followed by yet another punishment, worse than those that preceded it.

And in both, the final, ultimate, most dreaded of all punishments: “And the Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other . . . ” (Deuteronomy 28:64).

Galut. Exile. The worst of the punishments, the most dreaded of the curses. To be driven out of our Land. Thus did the Almighty decide to show His wrath and teach the Jew the magnitude and enormity of his sins.

I have seen the Jew of America. Non-observant and observer, both. And they are clever. Cleverer by far than their Maker. For the Almighty planned to “scatter the Jew among all the nations,” and the Jew of Los Angeles and Chicago and Monsey and Boro Park and Monroe and a hundred other fleshpots, winks and sighs: “Very well, then, I suppose I will have to suffer in Los Angeles, Chicago, Monsey, Boro Park and Monroe . . . ”

Really, dear Jew, give the Almighty a little credit for cleverness. Do, indeed, consider that He conceived of your “cleverness” and prepared for it. Are we really so contemptuous of the Creator that we believe that He drives us out of our Land so that we can enjoy a better material life in that Exile that he conceived of as a punishment? Are we, indeed, so irreverent that we truly think that the words of the Torah become a game and a plaything to be outwitted so easily? Ah, what a difficult time we will have in the Galut of Great Neck . . .

No, dear Jew, the G-d of Israel is not as simple and foolish as we think. He did not conceive of the ultimate punishment of a Jewish people driven from their Land, merely to have them enjoy a fabulously better material life in the Exile. For that very same chapter that booms forth: “And the Lord will scatter you among all the nations” continues and decrees: “And among those nations you will find no tranquility, neither will the sole of your foot have rest . . . ”

I watch as the comfortable American Orthodoxy unfolds in Flatbush and Flattest bush. We buy our houses and discuss the inflated price. We furnish them with delectable possessions, above our heads the sheitel, and above that the chandelier. We plan our vacations. We buy our women their expensive garments (lest they be shamed by those that have them). We build a comfortable and relaxed Judaism that mockingly proclaims our clever victory over the plans of our Maker. There is not the slightest serious thought to life inIsrael. There is not the slightest qualm of conscience as we luxuriate in the fleshpots of idol worship. The clay figure basks in the American sun, turns to its Maker and sighs: “And because of our sins we were exiled from our Land.” And having paid the obligatory obeisance, the clay then turns on its color television set to watch the football game, or goes off to purchase a sheitel that will clearly make every male’s eye turn.

Ribono shel Olam, Sovereign of the Universe, what a bitter exile . . .

I offer an urgent suggestion. Let us understand that we are not as clever as we think. Let us understand that the Almighty is a bit wiser than we give Him credit for. If the Galut was conceived by the God of Israel as a curse, then there is nothing that can turn it into a blessing. If it was designed to be a punishment, it can never become a reward. Rationalize away, dear Jew, in the 150 ways that you think you are able to purify the impurity. It is to no avail. Your political science (“But America is different! It is a democracy!”) will not help you. Your religiosity (“But we must stay here to build Yiddishkeit!”) will avail you naught. Be not cleverer than your Creator. “Be not overly wise — why should you destroy yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

That which is crooked cannot be made straight and that which is impure cannot be made holy, and that which was designed as a curse, punishment and tribulation cannot ever, ever be turned into enjoyment, pleasure and permanent safety. For a while, the Almighty may allow us to delude ourselves, hoping we will regain our sanity. He gives us time to do the right thing.

Invariably, we mistake His kindness for our cleverness, but the day of reckoning must come, and does. The lights of the chandeliers dim and then are extinguished. The sheitel withers away, and the impure crawling insect that we “purified” proves to be impure indeed. That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is Exile can never be anything but tragedy. Jew, stop listening to those who cannot see. Do not repeat the tragedy of 40 and 50 years ago. Clay, know your place. The Maker is cleverer by far. Go home before it is too late.

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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  1. Liad Bar-el says:

    Just heard on the American news that the "clays", after Sandy, are going to rebuild their sand idols bigger and stronger than before.

  2. Dina Moskowitz says:

    What a marvelous piece the Rabbi wrote! Nobody can top this!

  3. Meir Kahane is a great and clever writer. There is no doubt he loved Israel greatly with all his heart. But he was also a zealot with great excess and should not be followed no matter how intelligent or truthful some his argument is.

    I met him twice. Once on Shabatt in Jerusalem he almost ran me over as he was running at his top speed.

    Another time in America, in one of his speeches, he included my Congregation among the traitors against Israel.

    When I asked him about how he had concluded such a thing when in fact the Congregation had only supported Israel he apologized to me.

    His most infamous follower Dr. Baruch Goldtein murdered a large group of Muslims.
    while they were praying in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

    This act is one of the greatest examples of Hilul Hashem in all of Jewish History.

    It is one of the reasons Kahane's political party was banned in Israel.

    Unfortunately there are still many followers of Meir Kahane celebrating at Baruch Goldstein's grave. Other zealots are doing price tag revenge.

    The dangers and challenges of gentiles in the Land of Israel that want to destroy us is very real. The Romans were able to almost completely destroy Judaism from the land.

    But the Talmud says it was the zealots who were the biggest problem.

  4. Tzvi Fishman says:

    The greatest zealots are the Diaspora zealots who cling on to the exile with all their might and condemn anyone who reminds them that they have chosen to remain in a gentile land rather than living in Israel. They are the ones who are holding up the Redemption. While Rabbi Kahane and Dr. Baruch Goldstein are ensconced in the Hall of Fame in Heaven, the Jews of the Diaspora who could have come to Israel in their lifetime but didn't will have a lot of explaining to do when they reach the guard at the Heavenly Gates, as he shakes his said in sorrow, saying, "Sorry, fellows. You've already used up your coupons and bonus points in Boro Park, the Five Towns, and Boca. Too bad you didn't listen to Rabbi Kahane."

  5. Ben II says:

    Kahane was the best, he knew exactly what the Islamic terrorists were all about. The Israeli left is as ignorant and foolish as ever, they believe terrorists are their friends.

  6. Liad Bar-el says:

    Yes, living a Torah life in Israel is your ticket to heaven. As the Chinese use to say, “No ticket, no laundry.”

  7. Liad Bar-el says:

    Looks like the "clays" are still wanting to rebuild their sand castles and stay in exile regardless of Sandy and Sandy II. Even their Rabbi is teaching them to hold a protest againt G-d with their fists raised against Him for what He has done so far. it seems that Korach and his family are alive and well.
    Publish more blogs, Tzvi, for the time is getting very short. Our brothers/sisters in exile are suffering greatly.

  8. Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks stated, about the action of Dr. Baruch Goldstein that you believe puts him in the Hall of Fame in Heaven that

    "Such an act is an obscenity and a travesty of Jewish values. That it should have been perpetrated against worshippers in a house of prayer at a holy time makes it a blasphemy as well… Violence is evil. Violence committed in the name of God is doubly evil. Violence against those engaged in worshipping God is unspeakably evil."

    97% of Israelis agree with Rabbi Sacks, 3% with you.

    In my post above, I mentioned that in the two times that I met Meir Kahane he was desecrating Shabatt and slandering Jews.

    I commend you in your helping other Jews to make aliyah and also helping them to overcome pornography.

    But murder, desecration of Shabatt, and slander, even when motivated by love , are not leadership actions.

    Leading the masses of people to sin is a very grave sin.

    I hope some day you will repent from your wicked admiration of

    these horrible evil doers.

  9. Chava Nikki Bachle-Docks says:

    Our people better WAKE UP!

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