Jan 16, 2009
Blessing Against Heretics
This is the blessing of the Slanderers or the Heretics.
This begins with a Vuv and the Vuv represents a connection to something else. This blessing is closely connected to the one before. The previous blessing ended with “The King who loves kindness and justice”. But to the slanderers [this blessing] do not judge them favorably.
Who are we asking G-d to punish harshly?
This blessing was not one of the original 18. It was added later on. The Gemarah in Brachos tells us that this blessing about the heretics was instituted in Yavneh, around time of the destruction of the Second Temple.
Tzidukim=Minim=people of various offshoots of Judaism that don’t accept the basic idea that the entire Torah was given to us from G-d. They amend and change the Torah.
Tzidukim are people who believed in Jesus, Judeo Christians. They considered him to be the messiah and used the Tanach to further their beliefs. They didn’t believe in the Oral Law. This was a form of reform Judaism whose main ideas were love and kindness. As long as you were a good person the laws were unimportant.
Eventually these Tzedukim represented a real danger to the Jewish people at large. Rabbi Gamliel instituted this special blessing for the destruction of the people.
The name of Shmoneh Esrei [meaning 18] was left as 18 because they wanted to not have to say this blessing after a while even though we say 19.
The author of this blessing was Shmuel Hakatan, Samuel the Small. Rabbi Gamliel said to all of the wise men “Is there no person around that can compose a blessing about these heretics??” Shmuel Hakatan got up and composed this.
Its an interesting way to ask this question. The answer is that in order to compose a blessing about destroying other people, the composer needs to be really humble without any anger, etc. Otherwise it would be tainted with arrogance and hatred. Samuel the Small was called that because he was extremely humble.
Samuel the Small wrote something in Pirkei Avos that is indicative of how modest he was. People composed whatever they felt was close to their hearts and they wanted to impart to the Jewish People. Samuel the Small was so humble that he didn’t even compose his own words. He quoted from somewhere else. He said [Proverbs] “When you’re enemies fall, do not be glad and when he stumbles, let your heart not rejoice”. This is Samuel the Small’s reaction to his own prayer.
What happened to the Tzedukim? Judeo-Christianity turned into Christianity! The heads of Judeo Christianity went to Paul, and Paul promoted this new religion among the Gentiles, and they accepted it. Why did the gentiles grab onto this new religion? Because the intelligent people in Rome were throwing away their beliefs in their g-d and were looking for something new. They replaced their form of old idol worship with a new idol worship called the trinity.
Now they were not [seemingly] a threat to Judaism. Christian leaders teach to hate the Jews though which is the cause of untold Jewish suffering. The downfall of the Tzedukim was a great accomplishment though to see how prayer from the heart really works.
Prayer from the heart really works wonders!
The threat of Judeo Christians is gone. The gentiles threat to wipe us out physically but the Judeo Christians tried to do it spiritually.
“For the slanderers, let there be no hope”.
The text of this blessing is completely different from the original text composed by Samuel the Small. It was changed out of fear of the Christians. This is a watered down version.
Now we say “the slanderers” but the original text read “The heretics”. These people would go to the Roman authorities and slander the Jews. They would report the Jews as anti-Christian with false information. The church would confiscate and burn hand written gemarahs. The church was so scared and there was so much slanderous information that they received from these Judeo-Christians that they would burn their texts.
“All the heretics should perish in an instant”
The Ashkenaz version is all the “evil” should perish in an instant. The Vilna Gaon says this means that its an attack on evil and not the people who perpetrate that evil. But one must know that there is a halacha in the shulchan aruch [Yoreh deah 158:2] A heritic who denies the validity of Torah, transgresses Torah mitzvos out of disregard of torah authority, it’s a mitzvah to kill him or indirectly cause his death. This is not an operable today but it was a halacha in the past.
This seems a bit extreme! They’re not necessarily harming anybody. Except, Rabbi Leff says, imagine a sniper standing on top of a roof killing everybody… a SWAT team member is called in to kill this man. He is considered a hero!
“One who causes someone to sin is worse than someone who murders him physically. Spiritual murder is for eternity.”
This law doesn’t apply today for a number of reasons: before one will be able to kill this heretic, he needs to be rebuked in the proper way. But there is nobody today who can properly rebuke another person. Rebuke must come from 100% pure motive, for the sake of Heaven.
The Chofetz Chaim was someone who was able to rebuke someone well. There was someone who was violating the Shabbos in the neighborhood. The people convinced him to speak to the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim took his hands and looked him straight in the eye and said “Shabbos! Shabbos!” The tears started rolling down his eyes and said “Shabbos! Shabbos!” This man was so moved by this rebuke that clearly pained the Chofetz Chaim that he became shomer Shabbos.
If a person feels cared for then they will be able to hear the rebuke.
Nowadays killing a heretic would never bring about a love of Heaven. Any heretic nowadays we try to reach out to them with love and care.
“May all your enemies be swiftly cut down”
This refers to the non-Jewish enemies. This is different from the next phrase which refers to the Jewish enemies including self hating Jews and Jews for Jesus.
“May they certainly be uprooted, broken, cut into small pieces, humble them, quickly in our time”
Why is the wording for the Jewish enemies so much longer than the regular enemies?
These heretics, quickly they should be uprooted to prevent any future growth. No group or organization should grow any further. Then we say that they should be broken. They shouldn’t be effective. They should lose their power as a group and become individuals. And humble them to have the ability to repent.
We end this blessing with
“Blessed are you G-d who breaks the enemies and humbles the evildoers”
We ask that the non-Jewish enemies be scattered and the Jewish evildoers be subdued. Our non-Jewish enemies like Hitler, the Nazis, the Arabs etc. We pray that they should be broken and destroyed. And then we say but for the Jewish evildoers? We just ask that they be humbled. They should be subdued and come back to G-d. All we really want is that our brothers should come home.
We know that a person sins when they are too arrogant.
This blessing has 28 words which has the numerical value of strength. This signifies that our strength against our enemies lies in our power of prayer. Today more than ever we are fighting the last exile. We are in the final days.
The Arabs have a tremendous power which they are using against us which is the same power that we have. That is prayer. Yishmael got his name from the power of prayer. His name means “G-d will hear”.
If we don’t grab into this power of prayer, G-d forbid the Arabs will have the upper hand! The whole war is a war of prayer. There is no logical solution to this problem here. Nobody can sit down to come to any sort of rational solution and the only thing that we can do now is pray. We have to overtake their power. Learning about prayer at this time is so important and beautiful for the redemption which will hopefully come very soon in the merit of our prayer.
You’ve got questions? She’s got answers.
Q: You always hear the Christians say that the Jews had too many laws, and that they have it better because they have the Grace of G-d and now they don’t have to follow the laws. How do you respond to this?
A: What they mean is probably the Love of G-d. Their philosophy is that G-d loves those who love each other and that is enough. G-d will be happy with you and you don’t need to keep any laws. Just being a good person is not enough. Based on what are you a good person? Nazis also thought they were good people because they were getting rid of all the “garbage”. They were going to purify the world and doing a great service to humanity by ridding the world of the Jews! According to humanity they were doing a good thing. That’s the problem of having peace, love and brotherhood without any sort of medium. We have a Torah of truth and kindness. We cant judge based on our own decisions what is right and wrong. Christianities morals are based on peace brotherhood and love. We believe in that but it has to be based on a certain law system and not “Whatever I feel is right.”
Q: I really appreciate your words about rebuking. Is there any more reading on the fine art of rebuking?
A: We learn the laws of rebuke from Moses. Deuteronomy is called a review of the Torah. On the last day of Moses’s life he is rebuking them. The first words are “These are the words that Moses spoke to the Jewish people”. Every word in that first verse in Deuteronomy teaches us how to give rebuke. He said each sin in one word. He hinted to all of the sins. Don’t sock a rebuke to someone. Preserve their dignity. Never take away a person’s dignity. The rebuke came after the war. Give a person rebuke when they are not in a bad mood. A person needs enough self-esteem to be able to listen to the rebuke. It was on the day of his death when everyone really wanted to hear what he had to say. But in order to really fulfill every prerequisite for rebuke is almost impossible.
Q: I’m uncomfortable with supporting killing people. They seem like people who haven’t even done any physical harm, they were a threat but they no longer exist. I am struggling with this blessing that says its ok to kill people.
A: I understand you because I felt the same way. The real essence of this blessing is to do away with evil and not evil doers. But at the same time there are enemies of the Jewish people that we do want to destroy because their whole purpose is to kill us. There is a halacha that if someone gets up to kill you, you have to kill them first!
Q: With rebuking, the timing is so important.
A: Its true, you have to know the right time to rebuke. If you wait to long, they might not know what you’re talking about. But if you do it too quickly they wont be able to even hear what you’re saying. You’re right 100% you make a very good point.