Distorting Judaism
By Rabbi Meir Kahane
The Jewish Idea

The cornerstone of the Torah edifice upon which all the mitzvot stand, and without which they would all collapse, is the yoke of Heaven and absolute devotion to G-d and His commands. With this the world has a reason to exist. Without it, Hashem rises up in His role of E-l Shadd-ai, "Almighty G-d," and threatens to destroy it (Shabbat 88a): "G-d set a proviso before the universe: 'If Israel accepts the Torah, you will survive. Otherwise, I shall reinstate chaos.'"

It also says,
"The world endures only for the sake of the Torah given to Israel" (Esther Rabbati 7:13); and "Just as it is impossible for the world to be without winds, so is it impossible for the world to be without the Jewish People" (Ta'anit 3b).

Furthermore R. Shimon ben Lakish said (Tanchuma, Bereshit, 1):

"Why in the story of Creation does it say, 'yom echad... yom chamishi etc.', that is, 'one day, a fifth day,' but yom ha-shishi, 'the sixth day'? Why is the definite pronoun hei
[with a numerical value of five] needed there and nowhere else? It teaches that G-d set a proviso before the universe: 'If Israel accepts the Torah with its five books, well and good. Otherwise, I shall reinstate chaos.'"

What emerges is that the world was created only so that man would fulfill the
Torah, accepting the yoke of Heaven in total submission and complete devotion and vanquishing his ego, devoid of alien intent. Indeed, the epitome of evil in our day, the idol in the sanctuary, the greatest, most awesome danger there can be, is the threat against the authenticity of the Torah and its commandments, concepts, ideas and attributes. This threat is posed by those who brazenly, inadvertently or unwillingly "confuse G-d's attributes," to quote Avi Ezri. Some take hold of one attribute or another in the wrong time and place, others falsify or distort Divine concepts, perverting the mitzvot, and still others do all this proclaiming that their actions constitute the authentic Torah.

For this plague, this brazen, malicious falsification, the Torah dons sackcloth and ashes. One who openly and blasphemously denies G-d's existence or the Torah's heavenly origin is not like one who tries to falsify the Torah and thereby destroy it from within. The former stands outside the camp, and the gap between him and the Torah is clear. The falsifier, however, is within our midst, claiming full spiritual legitimacy.

The heretic has no pretenses about saying what the Torah thinks (quite the contrary, he loathes the Torah). The falsifier, by contrast, wraps himself in a Talit that is all distortion and falsifies Divine concepts and attributes with worthless deceit, calling the result "G-d's Torah." Casting off one's Heavenly yoke leads one to falsify the holy, which in turn threatens the Torah's authenticity.

There is no greater threat than that which blurs the line between truth and falsehood. Indeed, in G-d's command to kill the false prophet it says,
"That prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken perversion against the L-rd your G-d" (Deut. 13:6). Or HaChaim comments, "Sifri states that 'speaking perversion' refers to falsifying G-d's words, AND FOR HIS FALSIFICATION HE DIES."

For his falsification he dies! For falsification, alone, the false prophet is killed. The person who falsifies the Torah is many times as dangerous as the heretic, as stated above. "Truth" is the Torah's foundation.

Not in vain did our sages say (Shabbat 55a),
"G-d's stamp is truth." Of all G-d's traits, justice, kindness, mercy, etc., G-d found it appropriate to affix His stamp precisely to truth, and the reason is simple: If truth is not the basis for all other traits, they will be false as well. Every one will seek to reinterpret G-d's attributes in a distorted manner. Then, neither justice, kindness nor mercy will be real. G-d therefore affixed His stamp specifically to truth, so as to sound the alarm and remind us that all attributes must follow the path of truth and not provide mere entertainment for the falsifiers and distorters.

One must be aware that a person may have many motives for brazenly distorting Judaism. All are linked to his refusal to nullify his own will before G-d's and his unwillingness to accept G-d's yoke in complete, unconditional submission. Such refusal, in turn, may be due to fear:

"A slave of King Yannai committed murder.
[Yannai was a wicked Sadducee. By Jewish law, since a non-Jewish slave is only his master's property, the master must go on trial.] Shimon ben Shetach [president of the Sanhedrin] addressed the sages: 'Set your eyes on him and we will judge him...' Yannai came forth and sat [those on trial are required to stand]. Shimon ben Shetach said to him, 'King Yannai, rise and testimony will begin. You are not standing before us but before Him Whose word created the universe'... Yannai replied, 'I will not do as you say but as your colleagues say' [i.e., if the rest of the Sanhedrin tell me to rise, I will]. Yannai turned to his right and to his left, and those on each side hid their faces [in fear]. Shimon ben Shetach said to them, 'Do you harbor thoughts [of saving yourselves by hiding your heads and thereby not having to order him to rise]? The Master of Thought will come and punish you!'" (Sanhedrin 19a-b)

If the great cedars of the
Sanhedrin were smitten by their fear of a mortal king, what hope do the simple people have of avoiding it? All the same, this distorting of G-d's command is a terrible sin, and the sages paid the price:

"Immediately Gavriel came and beat them to the ground and they died."

This was just punishment. They - out of fear - lowered their visage to the earth and were punished by being beaten to that same earth by G-d, Whom they did not fear.

Distortion of Halachah can stem from the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, as well, namely, excessive love. Thus, King Aggrippas was a good king, beloved by Israel; yet he was a descendant of Herod, and only his mother was Jewish. One year, this good king, who walked in G-d's ways and was benevolent to Israel, fulfilled the
mitzvah of Hakhel [assembling the people once in seven years on Succot. See Deut. 31:10-12], even going beyond the letter of the law by reading the required Torah section standing:

"King Aggrippas stood and received the Torah scroll and read it standing, and the sages praised him. When he came to the words, 'You may not put a non-Jew over you'
(Deut. 17:15), his tears flowed [he knew he was unfit. Unlike other positions of authority, a king must have both a Jewish mother and father - see Tosafot, Sotah 41b]. The people said to him, 'Fear not, Aggrippas. You are our brother!'" (Mishnah, Sotah 41a)

For this loving, fraternal response by a nation incapable of disqualifying a fine, upstanding Jew just because of a Divine decree, it was learned that
"at that moment, the Jews incurred destruction for flattering Aggrippas" (Sotah 41b, quoting R. Natan). The Jerusalem Talmud, as well, says (Sotah 7:7), "Many died that day for having flattered him." Even when such distortion of Halachah stems from profound love and an inability to accept a law that seems harsh and cruel, it is still a heinous sin, stemming from refusal to accept the yoke of Heaven.

Distorting Judaism can also begin with general refusal to rebuke Israel for their sins. Even great leaders of Israel have been guilty of this, as bemoaned by Jeremiah (Lamentations 1:6):
"Her princes have become like harts." Our sages comment (Echah Rabbati 1:33):

[Why are Israel compared to harts?] R. Shimon said... 'Just as harts hide their heads one under the other during a heat wave, so did Israel's great men see vice and avert their gaze. G-d said to them: 'The time will come when I shall treat you the same.'"

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