Swords of Iron | On Hashem's Hashgacha in this World
We were pleased to host today in the beit midrash the Rosh Yeshiva Penei Menachem (Gur), Rabbi Shaul Alter Shlit"a.
Rabbi Alter gave a short talk to the students of the yeshiva, with words of encouragement in matters of hashgacha, and added words of eulogy for Eitan Rosenzweig HY"d, of Alon Shvut, who was killed in battle last week.
Rav Ezra Bick introduced Rabbi Alter, saying that there is great importance for unity and dialogue in the Torah world. Rosh HaYeshiva, Harav Ya'akov Medan, concluded with words of praise, explaining that Rabbi Alter continues the tradition of Gur Hasidism for generations, which founded the spiritual world on the basis of scholarship and innovations in Shas.
We are delighted
And also very honored
To greet and host in our yeshiva today
Rabbi Shaul Alter
Rosh Yeshiva of Pnei Menachem,
The Pnei Menachem Institutions
The Sfat Emet
I will only relay briefly, I don’t want to take up your time,
The time is his,
I just want to relay briefly my own emotional connection.
I only met R. Shaul two minutes ago.
But a year ago I heard R. Shaul say, on a recording,
I won’t repeat the entire vort, the whole Gemara,
Only the bottom line,
Which was what drew me in, since then,
You said: When there is divisiveness within the Torah world
This is the equivalent of tearing a Sefer Torah.
Since that time I have been chasing him,
To do something which I know is close to his heart,
To carry out the action,
And today’s event should be viewed as a small step – which is also very great
In the correction of one of the most painful problems in our world today
Which is the divisiveness of the Torah world.
R. Shaul is an unusually brave man when it comes to this message,
In making peace and correcting one’s attributes,
This is what I see in the public sphere, I am not on the inside,
But he nearly always sacrifices for this message
Which is critically important in general,
And of course, in these times,
Unity, acceptance, and coming together in Torah and Avodah – Avodat Hashem
We all understand today, better than we did in the past
How important and essential this is,
And how this might be our greatest contribution
To ensure that Hakadosh Barukh Hu should show compassion towards us
And save us.
[Rav Shaul Alter]
With the permission of the Roshei Yeshiva,
Rabbis, and all the talmidim,
First I need to disagree – I have been paid many compliments,
He said that up until two minutes ago he didn’t even know me,
R. Bick said,
And he complimented me –
Allow me to disagree with his introduction.
I don’t know how much truth there is to it –
Please accept me the way I am.
I was told that this is lunchtime,
So it’s more dangerous to speak about food.
But allow me to open with this:
Last Shabbat we read in the Torah:
Yaakov wanted … he embarked on a journey,
A dangerous journey,
He was chased by a cruel enemy, Esav,
He had no idea where he would end up.
We read it in the Torah
once we already know that everything worked out
but a person embarks on a journey
so he asked Hashem to protect him, he asked,
that Hashem should provide him with food to eat and clothes to wear
There is a Maharsha in Taanit 9 that says,
This is a lesson for the ages.
Yisrael Sabba teaches his descendants.
People had big eyes, they want more and more and more,
But he had humble, minimal requests,
What he needs in order to survive,
He emphasizes that this is a lesson for posterity.
Food to eat and clothes to wear.
Everyone asks: what do you do with food? You eat.
What do you do with clothing? You wear them.
These are redundant words.
“He should provide me with food and clothes”
Why “He should provide me with food to eat and clothes to wear”?
My grandfather, the Sfat Emet,
He said: it’s the other way around,
He did not ask for food to eat.
The Gemara in Sota 48 says,
One who has bread in his basket, has food for the day.
But is worried: what about tomorrow?
Today I have. But tomorrow is another day.
What will I eat tomorrow?
This is considered a low level of belief.
He believes! He makes a berakha before eating, after eating,
He prays – he believes!
But his belief is small.
There are levels of believers. He is a low-level believer.
Ribbono shel Olam’s size in his mind is sufficient for what he has now –
For now he has a solution.
What happens tomorrow? Who knows?
Who knows if Hashem will be able to provide him with food?
This is a low-level believer.
Yaakov Avinu asked of Hashem:
Give me food for eating – only for today
Don’t give me more – because this will minimize my Emunah.
Give me food – to eat.
I need to eat today’s meal.
Not even the whole day – a meal for now.
I need clothes to wear –
Don’t give me the abundance that will spoil me.
That will harm my Emunah.
So says the Sfat Emet.
His words were difficult for me.
We heard the parasha last week,
He goes to Lavan, he accumulates wealth,
Cattle, sheep, but in Torah language – ‘ashtarot’
Chazal say – because they make their owner wealthy.
Growing cattle was relatively easy,
And the yield – in milk, and wool – was very rich.
These were the assets – cattle, as the Torah often tells us.
Yaakov Avinu became rich!
He had plenty of cattle – he was blessed.
Even the deceitful Lavan, who kept trying to break the contract,
To fight against him –
Even Lavan admitted he was greatly blessed.
So where is the fulfillment of His promise?
When he began his journey he asked Hashem not to give him abundance,
According to the Sfat Emet,
Give me what I need to eat, no more.
But he had more and plenty more.
The answer is, it is possible to be wealthy – and a great believer.
One who knows that his food is not his own.
The fact that you have possessions
does not mean that you will have them tomorrow.
And the reverse – a poor man who received what he needs,
But has no belief.
In other words, it is not propriety that determines one’s Emunah –
Emunah stems from the heart.
He asked for food to eat,
He asked for the sense of food to eat,
The sense that he has what he needs, for now,
What will happen tonight? I do not know.
What if I have a million in the bank?
I cannot know. Maybe it will all be stolen.
There are famous stories – there were rich people who bragged
That Hashem has no way of taking their money.
They were shown in various ways that everything you own is not really yours.
In other words, this is more of the sense of knowing,
That even what I have, what I possess –
I still need the Ribbono shel Olam.
We should mention a vort which was said at Belz,
The dynasty of Admorim of Belz,
One who has bread in his basket,
Going back to the Gemara –
And says: what will I eat tomorrow? He is a low-level believer.
Why is he a low-level believer?
Are you sure about today?
He has a bag, in the morning he bought a pretzel or something,
It’s there, his lunch or breakfast, it’s ready.
He’s worried about tomorrow –
Are you sure about today?
Are you sure?
Who says you will live? Who says you will have the strength to eat?
Who says someone won’t come and take it from you?
This is a low-level of Emunah.
I need to know that food is for eating.
To know who makes it so I exist.
I opened with the food for eating because it’s lunchtime.
But I wanted to ask another question –
What is the thing we most need today?
In our situation, we all know the situation.
The complex situation of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.
What is the thing we need most?
The Rav mentioned unity, others will say something else.
I believe the thing we most need is Emunah! Emunah! Emunah!
When people ask what needs to be corrected,
In my heart I feel that the great shortcoming was
That we did not sufficiently trust in Hashem.
We said: Barukh Hashem, and we spoke about Emunah, and we philosophized,
I’m speaking about basic Emunah.
You are young, you may not remember,
But some may remember,
50 years ago, people had a sense of belief – they didn’t know much,
They were not very learned,
But they had a basic belief in Hashem,
They would say about everything –
the way we write at the head of the page, Barukh Hashem
or Besiata Dishmaya
it’s automatic – on the right you write:
Barukh Hashem, Beezrat Hashem, Besiata Dishmaya
On the left you write the date.
One person asks another – how are you? Barukh Hashem.
It’s parallel to the American OK.
We don’t have a moment of thought
Let’s try to understand – Barukh Hashem
We woke up in the morning, we were gifted with life,
We were successful,
Emunah is a basic, comprehensive, belief.
So I say, ‘a horse is ready for times of war’
But it is Hashem who delivers – the horse is a means
Of course Hashem communicates through means –
He sends us a livelihood, he sends the nation protection,
Of course there are means – sometimes through a miracle,
The stories throughout the generations, in Tanakh, are filled
With both miracles and natural victories.
Chanukah is coming soon.
The difference is known: On Purim the miracle was natural:
There was a queen and she spoke and the Megilla describes a natural victory.
On Chanukah the miracle was the flask of oil.
It was supernatural. It’s all from Ribbono shel Olam.
He has different methods of leading.
But it doesn’t matter how it is given to us,
But who it is that provides,
We need to know how to live
With the sense that Ribbono shel Olam exists, and provides each individual with life
And returns our soul to us each morning – it’s not just a poetic phrase:
You returned my soul to me,
“Modeh Ani that You returned my neshama to me”
It’s not just an expression: your soul was returned to you.
It could have been, chas veshalom, kept above,
but it was returned, every morning your neshama was returned.
This creates a commitment.
This connects me with Hashem.
I remember – that I exist, that I am.
A foundational, strong Emunah, which is felt in every single thing.
Then, even if there’s a problem, a disturbance,
We need to know – there is someone managing the world,
He is the protector of Israel, He cares for us,
He has proven to this day that He protected Israel,
Even if there are things we do not understand.
I don’t understand the Holocaust,
I do not know why they were destroyed,
But I am certain that it was for good.
I don’t know, I do not know how to explain it,
Just like I do not know how to explain quantum physics.
I don’t know how to explain – and that’s a pale comparison.
But I believe, completely, that He leads me,
Even when walking in the valley of death, I am not afraid, because You are with me.
The valley of death. I am not afraid.
We need to instill – this is what we were most lacking –
We have an army, we have soldiers, we have weapons, we have tactics,
It’s all true.
There is someone directing all of this.
I believe the slap, the blow, that Am Yisrael received – was mainly based on this.
You believe in your own strength? This has to receive a blow.
The question is not how – we need to start investigating,
This one forgot, this one didn’t notice, this one ignored,
They were all wrong, and they were all blinded,
They all didn’t notice, and were complacent, perhaps except a few
This is what Hashem wanted.
Hashem made it so.
Look at the blow itself, at what Hashem did to us.
And then we trust in Hashem because we know
He is vengeful over the Goyim
He is vengeful toward them
Toward us – He is merciful and benevolent.
Certainly – if we live, and to live with Emunah is a constant battle,
We say אין צור כא-להינו
We say this each day in davening
Chazal say: read not צור (rock) but צייר (artist)
An artist? Is Hashem an artist?
Yes! This entire world is one big bluff.
One big bluff.
I don’t know if you’ve studied physics or not,
Anything that holds together the table or the iron door of the Aron Kodesh
Whatever it is,
It’s the power of atoms, if someone came and destroyed the power
It would dissipate, and would become nothing.
Our very existence, everything we see, everything that happens here –
It’s all Hashem’s strength. There is nothing else.
This is the only thing that exists.
The more we instill this, know it, remember it,
That we are in His hands, that He is the source of power,
Everything we see before our eyes is a painting, imaginary,
It’s not real.
We play the game because we were brought into the game.
But really there is a divine power that creates and enlivens
We believe in this and trust in it
This should provide us with a different feeling.
It will give us a different feeling.
I came here to comfort the Rosenzweig family
For the death of their son Hakadosh Eitan Dov
The last time I spoke with him – not recently,
A while ago when he came to me – a few months ago
The last thing I told him was I love you
There is something to final words.
I really did love him, he was special.
He exists, he is here: “You are sons to Hashem E-lokeikhem”
The Ramban says he went to a different place
Certainly it is painful and we wish it wasn’t so,
But we know that being here is temporary
It is partial
We are part of something much bigger.
This is something we have to work on.
This is a true Jewish sentiment.
This is the truth, not the false painting which is called this world.
Everyone can be busy with their own occupation
Study, do business, do other things,
Research, but one should always have the feeling that this is a game.
That’s what Emunah is. Knowing there is someone steering, managing,
Someone gives us life, and there is another world,
We are not there, but we need to sense it, in our consciousness,
This is the thing, Emunah,
To instill more Emunah and more Emunah, in oneself, to remember,
when you make a berakha – bless Hashem, when you give thanks – be thankful,
live uplifted off the ground.
Hashem should help us really believe, as it says, Hashem saved them and then:
“They believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant”
Let us see the redemption, and believe, when we see with our own eyes, Hashem’s deliverance.
We are open to it, we believe that we will see great miracles and redemption,
And receive only good tidings.
In our Yeshiva
There are two books
Which have always been here
Chidushei Harim and the Sfat Emet
When I had the zchut of teaching Sfat Emet here in the Yeshiva,
According to Parashat Shavua, I said,
I feel a special connection to the Sfat Emet because he wrote chidushim on Shas.
Someone who wrote chidushim on that level on Shas
I can also read his Hassidism
And know that they stem from a truthful source
This is certainly true about his grandfather, author of Chidushei Harim
Moreinu Harav Shaul Alter who is here with us,
The Gerrer Hasidim are hundreds of thousands, may they multiply
He is no less than the floodlight that leads these Hassidim in the path of learning.
He learned in Yeshivat Slabodka, he has a good relationship
with Rosh Yeshiva of Hebron,
he is the light that leads this enormous Hassidic sect in learning,
in Gemara, and knowing this is where things are at – this is everything.
Everyone knows I grapple with Tanakh and parasha,
And I wanted to delve deeper into this,
And I sought the advice of Rav Amital z”l
Who said the following:
Without lamdanus in Gemara, these things have no sustainability.
I give lots of classes but everyone knows,
My neshama is in the shiur yesterday about דליל
Hassidut has the problem of sustainability,
And Moreinu Rabbi Shaul Alter, I am so happy we got to know him,
He is the light that leads this Hassidism in the path of lamdanus
Hashem should give him long life and strength.