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Parashat Nasso - Naked Betrayal – Rabbi Meir Kahane

Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Any man whose wife shall go astray and commit treachery against him [“u-ma'alah bo ma'al”], and a man could have lain with her carnally, but it was hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she became secluded and could have been defiled ...The man shall bring his wife to the Kohen and he shall bring her offering for her... (Num. 5: 11-13,15)

In Me'ilah 18a we find: "Ma'al" can only mean “change” [i.e., acting differently from what G-d commanded us to do]. Thus it says, “If a woman deviates and commits a “ma'al” against her husband” (Num. 5:12) [i.e., switching mates for a strange man]. It also says (I Chron. 5:25), “They committed a “ma'al” against the G-d of their ancestors and strayed after the gods of the nations of the land” [i.e., they they switched from worshiping G-d to worshiping idols.] A woman who profanes her holiness by turning to harlotry is called a “zonah”, and a married woman who commits adultery is called a “sotah”. Both words convey deviation, altering the role one was commanded to follow (see Torat Kohanim, Vayikra, Parsheta 11).

In actual fact, change and deceit are one. Whoever veers from his role is untrue to it. Change, deceit and “me'ilah” are all one, as well, because “me'ilah” means casting off one's yoke, which is what one does when he wishes to alter his role and lie about his mission in the world. “Me'ilah” means betraying [begidah] one's duty, and “me'ilah” [deceit] and “begidah” [treason] resemble “me'il” and “beged”, two words for clothing. Our clothing symbolizes the Divine yoke and holiness G-d placed on Adam, naked of mitzvot and holiness, as a covering. “Me'ilah” and “Begidah” indicate the removal of this spiritual garb. As Ibn Ezra (Lev. 5:15) writes, “If anyone commit a trespass [“ma'al”]: I.e., he removes his “ma'al”, his covering, from the same root as “me'il”, cloak.” If someone casts off G-d's yoke, he is a “ben beliya'al”, a person without a yoke [“beli ol”]. This expression connotes and evildoer, as we find regarding the apostate city: “Base people [bnei beliya'al] are gone out from the midst of you” (Deut. 13:14). Sifri comments (Re'eh 93), “Persons who broke off G-d's yoke.” Similarly, Sanhedrin 111b teaches, “Bnei beliya'al”: Persons who broke off the yoke of Heaven from their necks.” Yet they are not just “beli ol”, without a yoke, but “beli ya'al”, the serve no benefit [“to'elet] to anyone. Man was created only to accept the yoke of G-d's kingdom, and if he shirks this, then he serves no purpose and is better off dead.

The sin of such a person is “me'ilah”, which connotes “change”. As our sages said (Me'ilah 18a): If anyone commits a trespass [“ma'al”] (Lev. 5 :15): “Ma'al” always refers to some change, as in, If any man's wife go astray and act unfaithfully [“ma'al”] against him” (Num. 5:12), or “They broke faith with the G-d of their fathers and went astray after the gods of the peoples of the land” (I Chronicles 5:25). “Me'ilah" refers to change involving straying from the path, changing one's role, pursuing something foreign. The “mo'el” betrays his duty, the command given him. It is as though the “mo'el” has removed the cloak [“me'il”] that covers him, like the adulterer [“boged”] removing his clothing [“beged”]. Both are naked because they cast off their “me'il”, their “beged” and their “ol”[yoke]. In the Temple, the Torah established a “me'ilah” offering to atone for the person who betrayed the holy objects of G-d, deriving benefit from them as if they were non-holy, and transferring the holy to a non-holy domain. When G-d created the world, He defined and separated His beings and gave them borders and places of their own, domains to which they belong. The word domain [“reshut”] also means “place”, and can also connote a license to be somewhere or do something. A woman is set aside specifically for her husband. When she fornicates, she betrays him and her own domain, because her domain was sanctified and set apart. She received permission to be in her husband's place, and he becomes her domain. She has no license to be with another man who is not her domain. Similarly, the Jewish People were set apart fro G-d. He is their portion and inheritance. When they substitute idolatry or a foreign culture in His place, this constitutes change, straying, betrayal. The general rule is this: man was created to accept unto himself the yoke of Heaven and thereby to transcend his own egotism and fulfill his purpose in the world and the purpose of the world itself. Whoever breaks off his yoke betrays his task and forfeits his domain on this earth, because his presence here, in fact, his very creation, is no longer of benefit. How few, indeed, are the elite! Even so, we were commanded to study and to teach, to preserve and to practice G-d's idea of Jewishness as it was given to us, as we were truly and straightforwardly commanded. We must reject every trace of foreign culture, of falsification and distortion, and accept the yoke of Heaven.

Woman is the symbol of man's love and desire, for there is no love in man's nature greater than his love for woman. Precisely for this reason G-d created man and woman, so they would be bound together with fierce love and desire, ready to sacrifice for each other and to give of themselves to an extent unheard of in any other relationship. They would be willing even to sacrifice their lives for each other, so strong is that love. Being so fiercely bound to another human being is the apex of man's breaking down his selfishness, arrogance and evil impulse. G-d created this bond so that man would understand from it – at least in part – how powerful must be his love for G-d. Thus, if a husband is ever unfaithful to his wife, it constitutes betrayal of the true concept of love and a dreadful lie looming over the marital relationship. G-d decreed that this must be an exclusive relationship founded on mutual trust, a symbol of the prohibition against the dreadful sin of polytheism, worshiping idols as well as G-d (Ex.20:3). At the same time, an evil woman is a symbol of the opposite – idolatry. Whoever falls deeply in love with a woman who incites him to sin, even to heresy and idolatry, brings death unto himself. In his fierce love, he will be ready to do all she asks, even commit terrible sins. Thus, a woman can either symbolize love of G-d, or, Heaven forbid, love of heresy. After all, even heresy involves emotional attraction. As Berachot 12 b teaches: Why was the third paragraph of the Shema (Num. 15:37-41) established to be recited daily? R. Yehuda bar Chaviva said, “Because it contains six elements: 1) the mitzvah of Tzitzit; 2) the Exodus from Egypt; 3) the yoke of mitzvot; and admonitions against 4) heretical belief; 5) immoral sexual thought; and 6) idolatrous thoughts...” Indeed it was learned: “After your heart” (Num 15:39) refers to heresy, and it says (Ps. 14:1), “The fool says in his heart:'There is no G-d'”. Here we have proof that heresy depends on the heart and involves desire and attraction. Hence the woman, symbol of male desire, can either symbolize devotion to G-d or pursuit of heresy. Rashi interprets the verse, “I find more bitter than death the woman” (Eccles. 7:26): “Death is the harshest of ten harsh things created (Bava Batra 10a), and I find 'woman' – i.e. heresy – harsher still.”

Listen then to the truth. Let us savor the bitter fruits of our love affair with the world of gentilized civilization. It is a war for the hearts and souls and minds of the Jews. It is a war between those who wish to be amongst and like the nations, the gentiles, to embrace their culture and ideas and values and abominations; and between those who recognize their uniqueness and chosenness and who embrace the holiness of a separate, distinct, isolated, different people, living apart from all the others, unsullied by the abominations of cultures conceived in impurity and born in profane vanity. The values of Judaism are, in so many areas, and so overwhelmingly, different from those of western-gentilized Hellenism. What is ethical and what is moral and what is merciful and what is just? The answers of Judaism and of Hellenism are far apart. Political equality? Democracy? Tolerance of abomination? Freedom in social, personal affairs? The role of authority? Poles apart are the views of the Jews and the Hebrew-speaking gentiles. Sinai is cast away for Times Square and the purity of the Chosen people is exchanged for the material vomit of Los Angeles. The modesty of holiness is contemptuously abandoned and the nation wallows in the nakedness of gentile culture. “Thou hast built thy lofty place at every head of the way and hast made thy beauty an abomination and hast opened thy feet to everyone that passed by and multiplied thy harlotries.” (Ezekiel 16:24-25) Let us rise and garb ourselves with the cloak of sanctity; wrap ourselves in the regal robes of holiness. Every Jew a sacred child of G-d, the State of Israel the hallowed palace of the King of Kings. Let the Sabbath sing forth in joy from every home and the food that enters the mouth be as pure as the words that leave it. Let values be clean as the fresh mountain air of Zion and let degeneracy and vanity vanish as the morning mist before the warm sun of Jerusalem. Let hatred and violence and evil against brothers be buried beneath the centuries-old memories of common suffering. “I will betroth you unto Me via faith, and you shall know the L-rd” (Hosea 2:22). The “faith” referred to is the knowledge that there truly exists a Creator of the world, and that He is L-rd of hosts, the G-d of history and of truth. Such knowledge, and man's submission to G-d's ways and commandments, is man's purpose, and “this is the doctrine Moses placed before the People of Israel” (Deut. 4:44).

Compiled from “The Jewish Idea" and from "Forty Years" of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D

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