Belief in the One Omnipotent G-d is of the most basic tenets of Jewish
thought. As such, the Torah mandates severe retribution for those who would
cause the Children of Israel to sin with idol worship. "If, in one of your
cities...you hear, saying, 'Lawless men...have caused the dwellers of their
city to go astray saying, "Let us go and worship the god of others, that
you have not known,"' you shall seek out and investigate and inquire well
and, behold...the abomination was committed in your midst. You shall smite
the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword; lay it waste and
everything that is in it...No part of the banned property may adhere to
your hand, so that G-d will turn back from His burning wrath; He will give
you mercy and be merciful to you." (Devarim/Deuteronomy 13:13-18)
The Chofetz Chaim (1) notes the obvious truth that habit, over time,
becomes ingrained as second nature, whether the routine is positive or
negative in character. The unfortunate reality is that one who fights for
the glory of G-d's name in this Wayward City, annihilating those who
brought disgrace to His holy name and fulfilling one of the greatest
mitzvos (Divine commandments), exposes himself to great spiritual risk.
The nobility and importance of the cause notwithstanding, he is in great
jeopardy of changing his prior nature to that of a cruel individual,
lacking value for his fellow Jew. Thus, G-d promises this warrior that he
will merit a Divine gift: to whatever degree his sensitivities were
diminished by his participation in this war G-d will restore him to his
original spiritual state.
No less corrosive is the affect of our progressive society on our
traditional values. Day after day, our eyes and ears are filled with the
sights and sounds of hedonistic pursuits, wanton violence and revisions of
morality. No matter how we try to insulate our senses from the onslaught,
it still penetrates. And worse. How much of these caustic influences are
part and parcel of the media we voluntarily bring into our homes?
For the risk taken while actively fighting for G-d we are promised Divine
restoration. But we bear responsibility for - and must contend with the
very real effects of - the deterioration of our moral compass from
prolonged exposure to society's acerbic elements. When the malady is
physical, the conceptual path to good health is simple: utilize the
appropriate medical remedy while removing the diseased party from contact
with the attacking pathogen. Spiritual illness follows the same basic
formula: exposure to the only remedy, Torah knowledge and scholarship,
and, equally important, proactive cessation of the unhealthful exposure.
But like every regimen to good health, it only works if we use it.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan of Radin; 1838-1933; author of basic
works in Jewish law, philosophy and ethics and renowned for his saintly