How can it be, that a person can be so very learned in Torah and still be a force for ‘evil’ in the world?
Rebbe Nachman tackles this question in Likutey Moharan 1:12:
(Hebrew source from Sefaria.org)
מַה שֶּׁאָנוּ רוֹאִים, שֶׁעַל־פִּי הָרֹב הַלּוֹמְדִים חוֹלְקִים עַל הַצַּדִּיקִים, וְדוֹבְרִים עַל הַצַּדִּיק עָתָק בְּגַאֲוָה וָבוּז, זֶהוּ מְכֻוָּן גָּדוֹל מֵאֵת הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ. כִּי יֵשׁ בְּחִינַת יַעֲקֹב וְלָבָן; יַעֲקֹב הוּא הַצַּדִּיק, הַמְחַדֵּשׁ חִדּוּשִׁין דְּאוֹרַיְתָא וְלוֹמֵד תּוֹרָתוֹ לִשְׁמָהּ, וְטוּבוֹ גָּנוּז וְשָׁמוּר וְצָפוּן לֶעָתִיד, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה: לְמָחָר לְקַבֵּל שְׂכָרָם (עירובין כב.); וְעַל שֵׁם שֶׁשְּׂכָרוֹ לְבַסּוֹף, עַל שֵׁם זֶה נִקְרָא יַעֲקֹב, לְשׁוֹן עָקֵב וָסוֹף, שְׂכָרוֹ לְבַסּוֹף. וְלָבָן הוּא תַּלְמִיד־חָכָם שֵׁד יְהוּדִי, שֶׁתּוֹרָתוֹ לְהִתְיַהֵר וּלְקַנְטֵר, וְתַלְמִיד־חָכָם כָּזֶה נְבֵלָה טוֹבָה הֵימֶנּוּ (מ”ר ויקרא א, עיין מתנות כהונה):
“That which we see among most of the learned who go against the Tzaddikim and speak about the Tzaddik wantonly with arrogance and scorn, is specifically planned from G-d.
For there is the relation of Yaakov and Lavan; Yaakov is a Tzaddik who creates original (Torah) ideas and studies the Torah for its own sake and his reward is stored, guarded and kept for the future, as our sages of blessed memory state: “The next day they will claim their reward” 2 (Eiruvin 22).
Because his reward is in the end he is thus called “Yaakov”, a language of delay and end, his reward is for the end.
As for Lavan, he is a Talmud Chacham Sheid (lit: demonic Talmid Chacham), whose Torah (study) is done to glorify himself and to provoke, and a dead animal is better than a demonic Talmid Chacham like this.”
When you’re a rabbi, a Torah scholar, you automatically earn respect and honor from those around you, especially the poor pious Jews who look up to you as a fountain of knowledge, wisdom and piety.
In the Middle Ages, there was an added benefit to being the Rabbi of a community, which boiled down to being given choice jobs as ‘tax farmers’ over the community (Jewish and otherwise), for the ruling non-Jewish nobles.
Jews were literate. Jews were clever. Jews were good with figures, good at business, had international connections with other Jews all over the world that gave them significant advantages in the world of trade and finance.
The only non-Jews who could really compete with the Jewish trading networks were the Templars, and the Catholic Church. More on that another time.
In the meantime, as well as garnering you respect (and a free pass from too much personal scrutiny) within the Jewish community, being a ‘rabbi’ also meant that you could access to nobles and bishops who were interested in questions of religion, and also wanted to have a few ‘court Jews’ around that they could use for a bunch of different purposes.
Like for example:
- Being the ‘go-between’ with the wider Jewish communities
- Acting as advisors on financial affairs and trade
- Debating philosophical questions of faith with
- Picking their brains for any ‘black magic kabbalah’ that could help these royals and bishops in their quest to change base metal into gold (aka ‘alchemy’).
The more openly ‘mystical’ you were, the more of a reputation you had for knowing deep secrets, the more likely you were to move up the chain, and to become a famous rav with a lot of money and connections.
That is, if you were what Rebbe Nachman describes as a ‘Jewish Sheid‘, a Jewish demon scholar.
You know why I love Breslov so much?
Because Breslov, for the most part, is so trodden down into the ground.
Where other communities have ‘organisation’, and ‘connections’, and fabulous money, and super-successful go-getting followers and chassidim, Breslov has practically none of those things.
Especially the ‘Shuvu Banim’ branch of Breslov.
The last few years, I’ve been so upset to see truly uplifting Torah geniuses like Rav Ofer Erez – to just name one example – lack the money to translate his books into English. Or get ‘banned’ from regular speaking engagements because of his public support of the Rav, Rabbi Berland.
Or having to shut down their website because they ran out of the relatively small amount of money required to keep it operating.
God, it seems so unfair…. Why are all these tremendous rabbis and holy individuals – suffering so much?!
And of course, top of the list of holy rabbis who are suffering so much is Rabbi Eliezer Berland.
Now, things are starting to get a whole bunch clearer.
Rabbenu, as always, is telling us what’s going on.
Those ‘real’ rabbis, who are learning their Torah lishma, just to make God happy, build the world and teach and uplift other Jews for no other gain or ego boost, their reward is at the end.
At the end of this painful birur process that is leading to the final redemption, and when we will see how the people ‘on the bottom’ really were on the top, after all.
And of course, vice-versa.
All those ‘Jewish demon scholars’, who were only learning Torah because:
- It gave them a ‘free pass’ to say and do what they want without public scrutiny; or
- It gave them massive followings and tremendous power to control other people; or
- They could cash in on all the ‘connections’ and ‘business opportunities’ being a ‘big rabbi’ afforded them; or
- They wanted the ego boost of being a ‘famous holy person’ who could write lots of books and get their own TV shows; or
- They were trying to learn the deepest secrets of the Torah to manipulate reality for their own ends…
All those people are about to be ‘unmasked’.
And I don’t envy them at all.
“As for Lavan, he is a demonic Talmid Chacham, whose Torah (study) is done to glorify himself and to provoke, and a dead animal is better than a demonic Talmid Chacham like this.”
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