Friday, August 6, 2010

Rav Moshe Sternbuch: Forgetting Hashem

The following was written by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis based on a drasha given by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rosh Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis of Yerushalayim.
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Guard yourself lest you forget the Almighty… (Devorim 8:11).
            The entire world trembles as every passing day brings Iran closer to nuclear capability. However, Torah-true Jews do not have the slightest fears regarding Iran. We know that without Hashem’s consent, they cannot lift a finger against us.
            What are we worried about? The posuk warns us that what we must fear the most is the possibility that we may forget the Almighty. If this happens, then we really have something to fear.
            The Smag writes that forgetting Hashem is a Torah prohibition. How do we make sure we avoid this transgression? If Divine honor is being trampled on, we must take action to protect it. Otherwise, we have forgotten the Almighty.
            The posuk in Parshas Ha'azinu writes that to’eivos, abominations, yach’isuhu, arouse the anger of the Almighty. Rashi explains that this refers to the abominations of same-gender marriages. There is no other transgression that Hashem considers as much of an affront to His honor, and it therefore elicits such a harsh Divine response.
            On the 18th of Av, in the holy city of Yerushalayim, there was a parade of those who are guilty of this very abominable act. We can only imagine the level of Divine anger that was stirred up by this event. What can Jews in Israel and around the world do to counter the spiritual damage that took place and to save our entire nation from the great catastrophe that this could cause?
            There are pesukim in Yechezkel that warn of the great retribution that will come about if there are such abominations in Yerushalayim: the entire population would be killed. At the time of these warnings, the Jewish people did not listen, and eventually Divine patience ran out and a decree was handed down for all of the transgressors to be killed.
            The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos (55a) states that this instance was the only time in the history of Klal Yisroel that Hashem rescinded a positive decree. These abominations that took place during the times of Yechezkel were similar to the acts of those who marched in Yerushalayim on the 18th of Av.
            At that time, Hashem made a gezeirah to destroy all of the resha’im, but to put a tuf on the heads of the tzaddikim. The Soton went to Hashem and pointed out that the tzaddikim didn’t protest all of these abominations. Hashem replied that even if they had said something, it would not have helped. The Soton continued his accusation and said that although this may be true, the tzaddikim did not know that, so they should have taken action.
            Hashem did not argue with this claim of the Soton, and responded by rescinding His decree to protect the tzaddikim from being killed along with the resha’im in this gezeirah of destruction. In no other case in history did Hashem rescind a positive decree. History tends to repeat itself, and if we keep quiet, we may find ourselves in a similar situation.
            At Har Sinai, the malachim told Hashem not to give us the Torah, for we were destined to violate it. While their prediction was accurate, Klal Yisroel replied to the malachim that they accepted arvus, i.e., responsibility for the sins of all future Jews, and it was under these conditions that Hashem agreed to give us the Torah. Since we have accepted responsibility, even though we are not actively marching in this parade, we are responsible for the actions of those who are.
            Tosafos in Maseches Shavous writes that if a talmid chochom is quiet and does not give evidence that he knows, it is as if he did the act himself. So, too, if we sit by quietly while an abomination happens, we will be held accountable for it as if we had done it ourselves. We must do what we can to stop future events.
            Other Torah luminaries agreed with the importance of protesting this abominable display. When Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked whether Jews should attend the protest, he replied, "The Torah says that when abominations take place, one must make a protest. What can I add to the words of the Torah?”
            The war against Amaleik continues in every generation. Amaleik completely denied the existence of Hashem and laughed at Him. They took the milah of Jews and threw them to the Heavens, implying that that is where this mitzvah belongs.
            Rav Chaim Brisker said that the Rambam writes that the mitzvah of destroying Amaleik is to destroy the zeicher of Amaleik, not just the seed of Amaleik. Anything that has to do with Amaleik is included in this prohibition. The animals who are parading today are not only zeicher Almaleik. They are Amaleik.
            Chazal tell us that Amaleik comes when Klal Yisroel is weak in Torah learning. Targum Yonason says that this is what Eisav had in mind when he said that he would kill Yaakov when Yitzchok died. It was because Yaakov would not be learning Torah then. Even if Yaakov would be learning, he could not be learning b’iyun. Under such circumstances, he was vulnerable.
            The Torah states that if we allow abominations, the Shechinah will leave us. Women also have to strengthen themselves to prevent the strengthening of Amaleik. Inappropriate clothing fuels the power of Amaleik. Every Jew has to look into his or her own life and try to eliminate what they are doing that might have had a part in bringing this abominable parade to Yerushalayim.
            During the time of the Vilna Gaon, there lived a famous righteous convert whose name was Avrohom ben Avrohom. He was from a distinguished family of religious non-Jews, and they were appalled by his decision to convert to Judaism. For his betrayal to the faith, he was sentenced to be burned alive.
            Right before the ger tzedek was about to be killed, the goyim said that if he would make the smallest sign of agreement with the religion of the notzrim, they would release him. The ger tzedek replied that he was not willing to engage in even the smallest act of agreement, and Avrohom ben Avrohom died a death of complete kiddush Hashem. The Vilna Gaon commented that, at that moment, the power of the Soton was weakened.
            On the other hand, when great chillul Hashem takes place, the power of the Soton is strengthened. This is what happened on the 18th of Av when this abominable parade took place in the holy city. The Yerushalayim of 4 p.m. on the 18th of Av was not the same Yerushalayim as that of 8 p.m., after it was profaned by the parade.
            In our days, we are suffering through a bitter golus, and the pain of the Shechinah is great. Some rabbonim said that we should not protest the parade because it will cause people to speak about things that are an abomination. While this sounds logical, remaining silent actually makes these issues even worse.
            From the story of the ger tzedek, we see that the mere presence of these people here in the holy city strengthens the forces of impurity in Yerushalayim. The entire city is threatened by this. If we sit back silently, these forces will quietly grow stronger and stronger.
            Rav Yochanan, who experienced the death of ten of his children, said he could not withstand the pain of chevlei Moshiach. These words are extremely difficult to understand. What could be worse than having ten children die?
            Rav Elya Lopian, in the name of Rav Simcha Zissel, explains that Rav Yochanan was afraid that he would not be able to stand the nisyonos of the End of Days.
            Having such an abominable parade marching through the streets of Yerushalayim is surely included in the events that Rav Yochanan feared.
            On the 18th of Av, the Creator of the Universe was disgraced in His holy palace. By protesting, we show that we also share in His pain. Whatever we can do, we are responsible to do.
            One tumah brings another tumah. If we sit by silently and let this happen, then it will get worse and worse. We must do what we can to stop these types of events.
            This year's parade was much larger than last year's parade. Next year, they are planning an even bigger parade. They want to bring people from all over the world to flaunt their abominations.
            The Torah warns us about forgetting Hashem, and, as mentioned above, one of the greatest expressions of ignoring Hashem is standing by quietly while Divine honor is trampled upon. Every Jew, both inside and outside of Israel, should try and feel the great pain that the Shechinah suffered from this abomination that took place in Yerushlayim, and try and do teshuvah for the transgression that may have helped bring it about. In this way, we will merit to see the great revelation of Divine honor soon.
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Rabbi Travis is a rosh kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim in Yerushalayim, and is the author of Shaylos U'Teshuvos Toras Chaim and "Praying With Joy - A Daily Tefilla Companion," a practical daily guide to improving one's prayers, available from Feldheim Publishers. Rav Shternbuch’s weekly shiurim on the parsha, compiled and edited by Rabbi Travis, are now available as a sefer titled “A Voice in the Darkness.” For more information about his work, contact


If we sit back silently, these forces will quietly grow stronger and stronger.


  1. @Mr. Eidensohn
    Is there not a tension between your profession as a psychologist and your religion conviction that homosexuality is an abomination?

  2. Pedophilia follows on the heels of homosexuality. NAMBLA is a frequent participant in gay rights activities. One deviancy leads to another. The gays claim there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, but I don't believe it.

    Powerful essay.


    Please join us to discuss how we can convince the Agudath Israel of America to bring The Jewish Observer back into print. Even if you don't have any ideas to share, your joining the group is tantamount to signing a petition to see the JO brought back to life!

  4. Yes, we know a toevah parade in Yerushalayim is bad. But what is he suggesting that we do now that it's over? And how does one protest this if it happens again?

  5. Recipients and PublicityAugust 6, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    This format and layout is the best it's ever been for this important devar Torah. It's very clear to read. Well spaced and has the online reader in mind. Thank you.

    This makes reading the content easy, and the content this week is quite quite frightening.

  6. question said...

    @Mr. Eidensohn
    Is there not a tension between your profession as a psychologist and your religion conviction that homosexuality is an abomination?

    no. the views of psychology in this issue fluctuate depending on political correctness. Even if it could clearly demonstrated that homosexuals are born that way - the Torah still says it is an abomination.

    So while you are correct that the secular view and a religious understanding are at the present in conflict - so what?
    As a religious psychologist I see no conflict.

  7. Elliot Pasik said...
    One deviancy leads to another...
    It is disturbing to read that a self-proclaimed child abused victims advocate fails to understand child abuse is criminal activity not sewxual activity.

    Just to give the "advocate" an example he can understand, rape is a sexual crime not a sexual activity, the force is the problem not the act itself.

  8. Well: if a religious-orthodox young man come to see you, and tells you he is attracted to men and not to women.

    Do you send him to a psychologist with less religious restrictions?

    Or do you tell this young man to lead an abstinent life?

    Because if the latter is the case, you might lead him into strong conflicts, instead of helping him out of conflicts.

    So in the end, you might harm him instead of helping him.

    I suppose this would be against your ethics as a psychologist.

    That's why I feel there is a tension.

  9. With all due respect to Mr. Pasik, who has done some excellent work in the fight against child sexual abuse, there is no research to support his frankly bigoted contention that "pedophilia follows on the heels of homsexuality." Indeed, it is not just, or primarily, "the gays" (whatever that means) who claim there is no link, but researchers of, I presume, varying sexual orientation, whose research supports this position. The link below provides useful information and a literature review for those of you who are interested in actual facts.

  10. Everything in the Torah must be followed. It is easy (and correct) to strongly criticise the Toevah, which is harshly condemned in the Torah. However, I notice an absence of such harsh criticism when such Toevah was carried out in a Haredi mikve in Geula, whcih brings in a lot of money for the Edah coffers.
    Furhtermore, one righteous rabbi who did expose this stain and toevah, was hounded down by haredim worldwide, and attempts were made on his life.
    So this simply shows the corrupt and hypocritcal stance of the Haredi protestors.

  11. Rabbi E,

    That was an interesting question, and I'm intrigued by your answer. Could you please elaborate a little on what you mean by "As a religious psychologist I see no conflict" ? Are you saying that you are free to have your own view even if it contradicts the consensus in your field? Or you're saying something else? This is a very interesting subject.

  12. What's the point of bringing back the Pravda-style Jewish Observer?

    All they do is echo the official Agudah cover up stance on child abuse and everything else.

  13. Dear R' Eidensohn (DT),

    I understand you're quite busy, but I was also hoping you'd elaborate on your answer. q's followup seems a qasha worth addressing.

  14. Why is the observation of HaRav Sternbuch at the demonstration about the 300,000 russian goyim who might be given fake conversions in medinas yisroel omitted in this written piece?

  15. Why is the observation of HaRav Sternbuch at the demonstration about the 300,000 russian goyim who might be given fake conversions in medinas yisroel omitted in this written piece?


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