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לימוד תורה

Eternal truth versus short-term hollow campaign

Parsha and its implementation - Parshat Tetzave - and the war of the 'Iron Swords' 5784

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Dedicated to the memory of my dear Mother Nechama Bat Rav Meir Halevi Z'L on her seventh Yahrzeit this week.

In a democratic society, the public arena is the place where public debate takes place. Public issues at hand are discussed. This is the place where opinions are expressed, and debates take place between those with different opinions. In a democratic society every opinion should be given an equal opportunity to express itself and influence public opinion. The different opinions are then reflected by the elected representatives of the public - in the laws established in the legislature and in the decisions made by the government.

In the distant past, the discourse took place face to face, and on notice boards (billboards). Since the development of the press and the means of communication, the discussion has moved to the pages of the newspaper and to public broadcasting, and in recent years a significant part of it has moved to social networks.

Each side in the public debate seeks to tip the scales in their opinion. The proper way to do this is to convince the public why he is right. Sometimes he runs a strenuous campaign for this purpose. One of the ways to tip the scales and influence public opinion is to show that most of the public is inclined to his opinion.

However, there are situations in which one of the parties wants to tip the balance to his opinion even when most of the public does not agree. Sometimes for this purpose he works in sophisticated ways and runs an advertising campaign to create a false representation that this is the opinion of the majority. The campaign uses massive outdoor signage on giant signs everywhere, and extensive advertising in the media and social networks. Experience shows that such campaigns succeed in influencing public opinion, even if sometimes only in a limited way (because there are many who know how to recognize that it is artificial).

This type of campaign is very expensive. This means that those who can raise resources to lead a campaign may have a considerable advantage in influencing public opinion. This is a weak point because it means wealthy people have an advantage in controlling public opinion.

The desire to influence, dictate and control often leads to a hollow campaign, and the use of false information aimed at influencing public opinion. Sometimes, for this purpose, information is published under a name that does not exist or using non appropriate means, or by mocking the opposing opinion, delegitimizing, scorning or even creating hatred. The past shows that all these can have a short-term effect, even if far-reaching.

The Torah teaches thatאֱ֭מֶת תִּכּ֣וֹן לָעַ֑ד  "Truthful speech abides forever" (Proverbs 12:19) while  ְשֶׁקֶר אֵין לוֹ רַגְלַיִם 'falsehood has 'no feet' and the end of a lie is exile: קוּשְׁטָא קָאֵי, שִׁיקְרָא לָא קָאֵי

"Truth stands eternal and falsehood does not stand eternal" (Shabbat 104a). He who lies will be caught in his disgrace, and if he also caused harm to the people of Israel, he will be remembered in dreadful disgrace.

The nation of Israel has been fostering public historical memory for many generations. Remembering the founding events like the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah, the establishment of the Tabernacle, and more. To cherish and remember the figures who acted and influenced for good even after thousands of years. Even if we are talking about events that only affected one moment and even more so if they influenced the future. Judaism educates man to act in the world out of an historical consciousness. Not to look only at the effect that every action has on the 'now' and the moment, but to examine it also with a future view. Because יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת "There is one who acquires his share in the World-to-Come in one moment", (Avodah Zarah 17a) and there are those who lose it forever in one moment.

In our Parsha we read about seven days of the installation when Moshe was setting up the Tabernacle. Although the Torah is concise in its words, and focuses mainly on things that are necessary for the future, in our Parsha it expands and details the commandment on the special sacrifices of these days (as well as in Parashat Tzav), even though these are one-time sacrifices, for an hour and not for generations וְאַל יוֹכִיחוּ מִלּוּאִים שֶׁאֵין נוֹהֲגִין לְדוֹרוֹת

"Do not let the inauguration that is not in practice throughout the generations, as it was in effect only at the establishment of the Tabernacle, prove otherwise". (Sukkah 43a)

ויכולנו לומר שהכוונה במאמרים הללו שאין פרטי פרשת המילואים צריכים לנו, שאינם עתידין לחזור על השיעור ההוא והסדר ההוא. והיה די מכל הפרשה בכתוב (תצוה כח): "ומשחת אותם ומלאת את ידם וקדשת אותם וכהנו לי

"And we could say that the meaning of these articles is that we don't need the details of the installation of the Tabernacle, since we are not going to repeat them. And it would have been enough if the whole Parasha was only (Tetzave- Shmot 28):

וּמָשַׁחְתָּ֨ אֹתָ֜ם וּמִלֵּאתָ֧ אֶת יָדָ֛ם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ֥ אֹתָ֖ם וְכִהֲנ֥וּ לִֽי

"…anoint them and ordain them (and fill their hands) and consecrate them to serve Me as Priests" . (Shmot 28:41) (Hasagot HaRamban on Sefer HaMitzvot Shorashim 3)

The same question is brought up in the Gemara:

הֲרֵי פָּֽרְשַׁת מִילּוּאִין הֲרֵי פָּֽרְשַׁת דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל הֲרֵי אֵינָן עֲתִידִין לַחֲזוֹר מֵעַתָּה יַעַקְרוּ אוֹתָן מִן הַמִּשְׁנָה. אֶלָּא כְדֵי לְהוֹדִיעָךְ.

"There is the chapter on the induction and the chapter on the generation of the deluge which will have no future use. Should they have been eliminated from what is studied? They are there to inform you". (Jerusalem Talmud Sheviit 1:1)

אֶלָּא כְדֵי לְהוֹדִיעָךְ - מה שהיה בימים הראשונים. ואע"פ שאין עתידין לחזור ואין בהן צורך לדורות האחרונים

"But to inform you – What it was like in the early days. Even though they are not destined to return, and they are not needed for the coming generations". (Penei Moshe ibid)

It is important to mention them even if they are not relevant for future generations, to instill historical memory and consciousness of founding events. And:

כי העבר הוא מורה המובהק של ההוה והעתיד ובכוחו לפתור בעיות מסובכות וקשיים מרובים להאיר לך הדרך אשר בה תלך ותשכיל

"Because the past is the definitive teacher of the present and the future and with its power to solve complicated problems and multiple difficulties to illuminate for you the path where to go and succeed" (Alei Tamar ibid).

The main message of studying the past and commemorating it in Judaism is that it is wrong to prefer a hollow achievement in the present at the expense of what will be remembered of it for generations to come.

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