[New York]

The Torah obliges us to respect a community’s charity wardens, especially those who support Torah scholars, because “It is a mitzvah to publicize those who do charitable deeds.”1

There are two statements — that it is a mitzvah to publicize those who do a mitzvah,2 and its converse, that it is a mitzvah to publicize those who transgress — with a significant logical connotation that extends beyond their literal meaning.

As to the former, it is a mitzvah to publicize those who take care to fulfill the practical mitzvos — such as putting on tefillin; praying three times a day; eating only food that is truly kosher (i.e., not merely avoiding reliance on the treifah kosher-certificates dispensed by treifah rabbis, but selecting food products that are scrupulously kosher); observing the laws of family purity which include immersion in a kosher mikveh; and giving children a fine and devout upbringing through upright teachers and proper Talmud Torah schools and yeshivos.

People who do the above pray in kosher synagogues which are set out according to the laws of the Torah: the ladies’ section is separate from the men’s, and in the men’s section the bimah from which the Torah is read is placed in the middle. The rabbi is personally observant and his sermons are Torah teachings: he explains a verse of Chumash according to the interpretations of the Sages, and he arouses his congregation to full observance, to the dissemination of Torah and to acts of charity. The chazzan who leads the prayers is pious and the shammes is a self-respecting Jew. A shul like this is attended by men and women whose praiseworthy conduct it is a mitzvah to publicize.

Conversely, it is a mitzvah to publicize those who transgress — by desecrating the practical mitzvos, such as tefillin and the prayers; by irresponsibly spurning the restrictions of the kosher dietary laws and the family purity laws; by giving their children an irreligious education in treifah Talmud Torah schools whose men and women teachers are godless, and in yeshivos that match; and by attending temples with their faithless rabbis and their unprincipled chazzanim. This manner of conduct, too, it is a mitzvah to publicize.

It would be a crime to interpret the obligation to publicize those who do a mitzvah as a desire to honor them; likewise, it would be a crime to interpret the obligation to publicize those who transgress as a desire to abuse them. G‑d forbid! To ascribe such motives in either case would be false and foolish.

Through the Divine inspiration of Shlomo HaMelech, the Giver of the Torah has described the Torah by two boundless epithets, “pleasantness” and “peace”: דְּרָכֶי-הָ דַרְכֵי נֹעַם, וְכָל נְתִיבוֹתֶי-הָ שָׁלוֹם — “Its ways are pleasant ways,3 and all its paths are peace.”

The Torah comprises broad, solid, asphalted roads, as well as narrow side paths that meander through overgrown fields and thickly-branched forests. The Torah’s roads and even its paths are different from all the other roads and paths in the world. No matter how good they may be, roads leave a traveler weary, and even paths that wind through fields and forests can make a lone walker fearful. Not so the Torah’s roads, which are sweet and pleasant; even its paths are peaceful. A Torah which is therefore called Torah or (“a Torah of light”),4 Toras chayim (“a Torah of life”)5 and Toras chessed (“a Torah of lovingkindness”),6 — such a luminous, life-loving, G‑d-given Torah cannot oblige one to publicize the meritorious merely for the sake of honor or the sinful merely for the sake of abuse.

A Torah in which G‑d respects humanity in general and “my firstborn son Israel7 in particular, so that even the administration of corporal and capital punishment takes into account the respect due to the sinner, — one cannot and may not understand the words of such a Torah superficially, without probing its spirit and soul. To do otherwise is not only sinful, but a gross desecration of this luminous and life- loving gift with which G‑d has honored us.

Every law of the Torah houses a slice of life. Toras chayim (“a Torah of life”) means that the laws of the Torah create a life. All man-made laws derive from life and are observed or varied according to the circumstances; the Torah’s laws create a man’s life, and do not change under any circumstances.

Every word of the Torah is filled with G‑dly light. From every phrase of Torah or (“the Torah of light”) one can endlessly learn how to refine the attributes of one’s character. Thus it is indeed Toras chessed (“a Torah of lovingkindness”).

Every expression in the Torah clearly indicates the most sublime concepts to which a man should strive; it applies to all of the physical and spiritual faculties through which he can attain the goal for which the Chosen People, the eternal people, was created and for which it exists.

The two above expressions — that it is a mitzvah to publicize those who do a mitzvah, and that it is a mitzvah to publicize those who transgress — must be understood as signposts to a means of rescue in Jewish public life.

The moral and religious thoughts, opinions and conduct of every man, woman and family echo the atmosphere of their environment. Accordingly, the obligation to publicize those who do a mitzvah is a signpost directing every Jewish man, woman and family towards the kind of environment and atmosphere in which they should live. Freely translated, this obligation means, טוֹב לַצַּדִּיק וְטוֹב לִשְׁכֵנוֹ — “Good for the righteous,8 good for his neighbor.” Conversely, the obligation to publicize those who transgress is a signpost warning every Jewish man, woman and family what kind of environment and atmosphere to keep their distance from. Freely translated, this latter obligation means, אוֹי לָרָשָׁע וְאוֹי לִשְׁכֵנוֹ — “Woe to the sinner,9 woe to his neighbor.”

Everyday experience demonstrates how domestic conduct is influenced not only by the broader environment, by acquaintances and social contacts, by one’s synagogue and its spiritual leader, but also by one’s immediate neighborhood. This is highlighted in the sharp communal demarcation of metropolitan communities: one Jewish neighborhood is warmed by the presence of a kosher yeshivah; in another, loose-living Jewish neighborhood, a treifah yeshivah leaves its imprint — and not only on children. All Jews — especially those who want their children to remain Jews, and this means all Jews — would do well to keep this in mind when choosing a place to live.

When G‑d grants prosperity, there are people who react by relocating to a richer and freer part of town. They leave behind them a shul whose rav wore a beard and peyos and who taught a word of Torah from time to time, a shul which had a bimah in the middle and which had separate seating. This they exchange for a modern edifice in which the bimah is placed near the Aron Kodesh and the seating is mixed. And from the lips of the cleanshaven rabbi, far from hearing a word of Torah, one hears a medley of witticisms.

When they become really wealthy, such people find even this mixed congregation with its rabbinic jester too pious. It is now time to transfer to a Reform Temple, whose spiritual mentor is a one-hundred percent disbeliever who desecrates Shabbos and eats treifah in public.

Not only are such people reacting to their blessings of prosperity with ingratitude, a hangover from the generation of the Deluge and of the Tower of Babel,10 but they have the gall to rebel against their Benefactor by increasingly freeing themselves of their obligations to Him.

Alas! How bitter and dark is the retribution for their irreligiousness: with a new Christian son-in-law or daughter-in-law their home collapses.

American Jews in general, and newly-arrived immigrants in particular, should take the above to heart and think hard.

* * *

I would like to share with you part of a letter written by my revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], of blessed memory, to a certain Jewish magnate who was forced to emigrate during the First World War from a solidly Jewish town in White Russia and who settled in a big city in Central Russia. These are my father’s words:

“Since G‑d implanted in man a social nature, his opinions and conduct are influenced by those of his environment. By nature, a man can be influenced, and for the same reason he can influence his environment. And the question of whether he is influenced or exerts influence depends on his lineage, his material and spiritual situation, what he has made of his own life,11 his talents, and especially his upright conduct.

“When any man, whoever he may be, is in his own town and in the circle of his family, acquaintances and friends, he has a certain standing as regards what is appropriate conduct for him and what is not. This varies according to the standing of his family and friends and according to his own worth. When a man wanders from his hometown, however, he loses something of his family prestige and even of his standing in his own eyes. Together with this, his standards of worthiness and unworthiness are lowered, as well as his moral standards and those of his family. This is even more apparent when a person changes his hometown under bitter duress. In such a case, the resultant demoralization does not allow him to orient himself vis-à-vis his new environment. Such situations have already cost many lives.

“You should keep in mind that despite your financial situation which is (thank G‑d) strong because G‑d enabled you to salvage your funds and property, you are, after all, a refugee. Hence, in the change of spiritual climate from [your hometown] to [your new city], even a mild wind can cause your new environment to adversely affect your spiritual situation, in Torah and the mitzvos, as well as the spiritual situation of your family (may they be well).

“[The Torah commands, זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק... לֹא תִּשְׁכָּח — ‘Remember what Amalek did to you...; do not forget.’]12 Paraphrasing these phrases, our Sages had in mind cases such as yours when they taught, ‘Recall verbally and do not forget in your heart.’13 I.e., recall and do not forget that רֵאשִׁית גוֹיִּם עֲמָלֵק — ‘the first of the nations is Amalek’:14 the first stage in a man’s spiritual decline, in the course of which he begins to be כְּכָל הַגּוֹיִּם — ‘like all the nations,’15 is an Amalek-like frigidity in his observance of the Torah and the commandments. For in the phrase concerning Amalek, אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ — ‘who encountered you on the way,’16 the verb קָרְךָ can also mean ‘who cooled you down.’17 (See the maamar that begins, ‘To understand the difference between the kelippah of Amalek and the Seven [Canaanite] Nations.’)

“In this world, as we know, the lowly are above and the lofty are below; sad as it is, this is an upside-down world.18 In earlier generations, the lofty were above: communal leadership was mainly entrusted to the G‑d-fearing rav and the local Torah teachers; the lowly were below: householders knew that it was proper to heed the words of the rav and the teachers of Torah. Today, however, the leaders are the lowly, including lightminded ignoramuses who without realizing it are drawn after disbelievers and atheists; their superiors, the G‑d-fearing rabbis and Torah teachers, are below.

“Though wealth is a blessing from G‑d, it can desensitize a man’s heart and sometimes also his brain: his heart becomes bloated and self-satisfied with his material wealth, and his brain ceases to perceive that ‘it is G‑d’s blessing that makes a man rich.’19 Indeed, there even exists (G‑d forbid) ‘wealth kept for its owner20 to his hurt’ and to the hurt of his family.

“Remember and remind your family that you are refugees. Choose your new acquaintances meticulously in order to avert (G‑d forbid!) any damage to your accustomed sensitivities in the observance of mitzvos with loving precision,21 or to the fulfillment of the customs of your forebears which are rooted in your heart and in the heart of your family.22

“May G‑d help and prosper your way so that you will become a well-established townsman, leading a fine and righteous life in the spirit of our Patriarch Yaakov,23 following the life-paths of your chassidic fathers whose souls repose in Eden.”

* * *

The contents of this letter are explicit and clear for all to see. It is so unmistakable that all explanation is superfluous; every phrase is confirmed by every man’s nature and life-experience.

There are many hundreds of immigrants who in the Old Country were the finest, most solid and most pious householders — those who in shul were honored with a place at the eastern wall; those who attentively occupied the front seats at the long tables around which the synagogue’s group study sessions were conducted; those who were always first to step forward to support Torah institutions and communal welfare enterprises. Each of them was traditionally addressed by his Jewish first name, prefaced by Moreinu.24 Each of them recognized his due place in the communal scheme and undertook a certain burden of spiritual responsibility, including defined financial obligations to the congregation. And, with the pride of the nation of whom it is said, אַתָּה בְחַרְתָּנוּ — “You have chosen us,”25 their wives and families shared the burden of these communal responsibilities.

When Russia’s, Poland’s or Galicia’s Reb Avraham, Reb Yaakov, Reb Binyamin or Reb Mordechai migrates to America, the first thing he does is to Americanize his face. He tosses away his beard and peyos and becomes an Abraham, a Jack, a Bernard or a Max. He fastidiously erases from himself and from his family every telltale sign of a European Jew or of European Jewry. And in this way he and his family slide downhill until his example damages his local-born fellow Jews.

This, then, is the real meaning of the two above statements regarding the obligation to make known those who observe mitzvos and those who transgress. The above observations should be deeply thought over by every American man and woman, and even more so, by every newly-migrated man and woman.

* * *

Charity wardens, the mitzvah-observers par excellence whose activities one is obliged to publicize, are of two kinds, divided according to human needs in general and Jewish needs in particular. These two broad categories of needs require two distinct modes of support: (a) financial support for bodily requirements and (b) financial support for spiritual requirements. For us Jews, the latter subdivides further into (i) worldly spiritual support (which partly overlaps with financial support for bodily requirements) and (ii) financial support for the Torah’s spiritual requirements.

Charity wardens are likewise divided along the lines of these two broad modes of support: some are occupied solely with bodily financial aid; a smaller number are sensitive to Torah needs as well and devote themselves with heart and soul to filling those needs.

These two areas of Jewish need may be labeled by the borrowed terms, צָרְכֵי עַמְּךָ — “the needs of Your people,” and צָרְכֵי דַּעְתָּם — “the needs of their spiritual understanding.” Hospitals, orphanages and other regular charitable and welfare institutions come under the heading of “the needs of Your people.” The community’s spiritual needs — a cheder, a Talmud Torah school, a yeshivah, a shul, a mikveh, a matzah provident fund26 and so on — come under the heading of “the needs of their spiritual understanding.”

The relation between the respective degrees of attention commonly addressed to these two kinds of needs may be expressed, in lighter vein, by borrowing a weighty and widely-known phrase:27 מְרוּבִּים צָרְכֵי עַמְּךָ, וְדַעְתָּם קְצָרָה — “The needs of Your people are numerous but their understanding is limited.” Both kinds of needs demand to be addressed by fitting and well-known office-bearers who will be able to ensure, with G‑d’s help, that the present undertaking will result in certain success.

In practice, unfortunately, only in the case of “the needs of Your people” — responsibility for a hospital, an orphanage, an old age home, a vocational school, a yeshivah college, a treifah Talmud Torah school or an “enlightened” cheder28 — is there a lengthy list of people who are eager to work for them and fill their office-bearers’ chairs respectfully and immediately. When it comes to “the needs of their spiritual understanding” — a mikveh, a kosher cheder, a kosher yeshivah, and the like — the officers’ list is limited. It becomes quite difficult to fill the key executive posts, and the more religious the institution, the more difficult does it become to muster people of repute to dedicate themselves to this holy task.

“The needs of Your people are numerous”: For “the [material] needs of Your people” there are numerous men and women who volunteer to work. By contrast, “their understanding is limited”: When it comes to “the needs of their spiritual understanding,” the list of workers and volunteers is limited indeed.

As to yourselves, however, worthy Mr. Chairman and deputies and other coworkers on behalf of the Central Tomchei Temimim Yeshivos: concerning every one of you, thank G‑d, I can openly state, with all the “pride of Yaakov,”29 that you have both of these noble attributes. On the one hand you are at the forefront of endeavor for the sake of the more worthwhile projects among “the [material] needs of Your people,” and at the same time you have the discernment and interest to work for “the needs of their spiritual understanding.” Let me assure you that your efforts are upholding the yeshivah with the most genuine combination of Torah and the awe of heaven in all of America and Canada.

In the support given to a Torah institution, as in the support given to any other institution, quality is even more vital than quantity. The sheer joy with which contributions are being made must invigorate the administrators of the Yeshivah, reassuring them of the backing of American and Canadian Jewry, and encouraging them to do everything possible to expand the Tomchei Temimim network by opening further branches for mature students and chadarim for children.

In the name of the Torah, in the name of my holy forebears who sacrificed themselves for the Torah and for the good of our people, in the name of the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivos together with their mentors, and in my own name, too, I give my blessings to the Chairman, together with his deputies and committee members and their families, as well as all the men and women volunteers — blessings for children, life, and ample sustenance.

* * *

Fellow Jews!

At every gathering I must fulfill my duty and tell you: Men and women! Save yourselves from the faithless rabbis. Don’t allow yourselves to be misled by false and irreligious leaders. Fathers and mothers! Save your sons and daughters from the treifah Talmud Torah schools, from the houses of apostasy headed by irreligious principals and blasphemous men and women teachers who desecrate Shabbos and eat treifah food.

Spiritual destruction is raging in the Jewish street and in Jewish homes.

On Shabbos one shudders at the sight of Jewish grandmothers carrying handbags loaded with food packages, and Jewish grandfathers wandering about with the Shabbos issue of their Yiddish-language newspapers — not to speak of the middle-aged and the young — trampling on the sanctity of the holy day and desecrating it irresponsibly.

The same treatment is dealt to kashrus, to tefillin, the daily prayers, the laws of family purity. Poisoned weaponry — the repudiation of G‑d and His commandments — is bombarding the Jewish street and wrecking Jewish homes. Children of all ages are becoming alienated from their Judaism. Some of them do not know the difference between kosher and treifah; they eat chametz on Pesach; they eat food which is treifah and neveilah; and ultimately marry Christian partners without anyone’s even asking, Why? How many children apostatize without even knowing the enormity of their decision!

* * *

Who is to blame for the spiritual destruction of the Jewish street and Jewish homes?

The fault lies with the perfidious rabbis; with the atheistic principals of the treifah Talmud Torah schools with their irreligious men and women teachers; and above all, with the misguided leadership offered by the false words of a certain segment of the Yiddish press.

Unscrupulous rabbis have transformed G‑d’s House, the community’s House of Prayer, into a clubroom, a dance hall, a swimming pool, a circus whose officiating comedian entertains his congregation with profane jests that cool off any possible ardor for the Torah and its commandments. The mitzvos thus become alien in the eyes of fathers and mothers, who lose interest in their own children’s upbringing. And then comes the epidemic — the apostasy of these children. But why should their parents be surprised by their apostasy and intermarriage, when they themselves entrusted their upbringing to the hands of the supposedly enlightened educators described above, who uproot every vestige of belief in G‑d and the Torah?

At the time of the Destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the prophet lamented: עֲבָדִים מָשְׁלוּ בָנוּ, פֹרֵק אֵין מִיָּדָם — “Slaves ruled over us;30 there is no one to save us from their hand.” To our bitter misfortune, this outcry is as true today as it was then: behold the pogrom which our godless Hamans have let loose against Yiddishkeit in this country, the revolt against G‑d’s Torah which they have incited in Jewish minds.

Many Jewish workers here are the grandchildren of Europe’s honest Jewish toilers whose hard-earned pennies built the local synagogues of their craftsmen’s guilds: an Honest Workers’ Synagogue;31 a Kosher Butchers’ Synagogue;32 a Chevra Kaddisha Synagogue;33 and so on. Each of these little synagogues maintained a rabbi whose task was to teach Tehillim, Chayei Adam, Mishnayos, and the like. Yet in this country the grandchildren of those precious Jews — workers, mostly worthy Jews from birth with honest souls, each of them a man of faith — profane Shabbos and Yom-Tov, eat non-kosher food, and educate their children to godlessness and apostasy. And to blame for all this are the leaders/misleaders who are doing their best to uproot the Torah’s obligations.

These leaders brazenly defy G‑d and scoff at Him. Even their mournful demonstrations — which the godless leaders of certain Jewish parties believe are going to save Jews in peril,34 and for which they have the cooperation of unprincipled rabbis — are called for Friday evening. This planned desecration of Shabbos is a rebellious response to the commandment from the G‑d of our fathers to keep this day holy, and a senseless and shameful affront to their fellow Jews.

This they do while our brothers and sisters are being slaughtered, murdered, buried alive, with a cruelty that the world has never witnessed; while the blood of Jewish old and young, fathers, mothers and tiny toddlers, is flowing in rivers throughout all the occupied countries!

This they do while hundreds of thousands of Jewish young men are doing battle on land, sea and air; while their lives and the lives of all American citizens are hanging by a hair; while everyone needs the mercies of heaven; while in every Jewish family parents, sisters, brothers, wives and children are raising their eyes to heaven and whispering a prayer that the Creator be merciful and bring their soldier home to them alive.

This they do while the men and women of all other nations are assembling in their houses of worship and begging that heaven remove the bitter death that reigns in the world; while governments are proclaiming days of prayer for ultimate victory.

This they do while morbid clouds of anti-Semitism are edging their way into local skies, too; when anti-Semites are sharpening their knives for attack. (“May their sword35 enter their own heart,” and may they fall36 into the pit which they dug for us.)

This they do while a million copies of false accusations are being circulated with scurrilous attacks against local Jewry, in order to make us hated by the American public.

Instead of assembling in the synagogues to seek mercy for the House of Israel, for our own lives, for the victory of our children on the battlefields, our evildoers have the gall to make Jews sin rebelliously!

These false prophets and iniquitous rabbis have brought our people to the ludicrous state in which rabbis have themselves photographed with clergymen; rabbis are invited to officiate at a Seder in a church and Christian clergymen are invited to synagogues to listen to the Sounding of the Shofar and to zemiros, to Kol Nidrei and U’Nesaneh Tokef. Genuine rabbis, Torah scholars, stand abashed. They cannot lift their eyes out of shame — for the Destruction that is being brought upon the Jewish street.

Just as in the generation of the Tower of Babel, these false prophets and iniquitous rabbis flatter every idol and kiss every cross. They are prepared to do anything in the world — so long as it will prevent Jews from returning to the way of G‑d. But “He Who dwells in heaven laughs”37 at them. In a short while all Jews will recognize the truth — that all the suffering which is now being visited upon us constitutes the birthpangs of Mashiach. The only thing to do is teshuvah — repentance, by virtue of which G‑d will undo our suffering and bring us the Redemption through the righteous Mashiach.

Fellow Jews! Save yourselves from those rabbis and save your children from those schools. Attend the genuinely devout synagogues which are conducted by pious rabbis and send your children to kosher Talmud Torah schools. And then you yourselves, together with your wives and children, will be blessed with every manner of good things, and we will be found worthy of greeting our righteous Mashiach in the very near future.