Thursday, September 8, 2022



Mikhail Gorbachev has many zchusim but there is one more which can be added to the list. If not for my desire to write chesped for him my above essays would still sit in the folder of my computer.

Last time, I think, I wrote chespaidim on political figures, for Vaclav Havel and Kim Ir Sen who departed on the same week.

I have no illusions; I don’t think there is anybody these days waiting for my essays or being curious what Matys Weiser thinks about events. It was maybe the case 10 or so years ago when I was really active, and not only on this blog. Today I still write occasionally but many times it ages unread in the folders of my computer for months or years.

So now I have this strong impulse to deal with a significant period of my life due to the passing of the ex-leader of the Soviet Union, once I opened my blog, there are some more material to be published. And I think those essays are much more important than one which I’m going to share now. Enjoy.

I grew up in communist Poland in 70’s and 80’s.

The world at first was pretty stagnant around me for the first 10 years of my life. Or rather at the age of 4, I was not aware of political events taking place in the Polish dockyards. 41 people were killed, over 1,000 injured in strikes against the government. The Polish government of Party Leader Gomulka collapsed as the result of riots and strikes. 10 years under the First Secretary of Polish United Labor Party (Communists) Edward Gierek began.

I have said many times in my writings that my political awareness awaked in 1976, when I was 10 years old. Another wave of social unrest took place in Poland. I was old enough to understand that the ruling party may be united but not to the benefit of the exploited working class. Just the opposite: Communist elites installed themselves as the owners of means of production, running basically what Prof. Noam Chomsky calls “State Capitalism”.

Then in 1980 Gierek’s government was changed in an unprecedented wave of strikes and as a result of the formation of an independent workers union “Solidarnosc” or Solidarity.

18 months later the Polish army was deployed on Polish streets. A State of War was declared by Communists in Poland against its own population. A year and half, when for the first time in generations people could breathe freedom, was ending with the tanks on the streets of the cities and forcibly entering factories on strike.

The Solidarity opposition was arrested, or a few managed to go to hiding, some of them for years.

I was 15 then but had my share in participating and even organizing some small-scale protests.

Then my spiritual evolution began and few years later my participation in politics ended and interest in it dwindled.

One thing was constant during all those years of my growth – Leonid Brezhnev in the Kremlin.

It is impossible for someone growing up in that part of Europe under Soviet influence not to remember his bushy eyebrows, slower and slower speeches and multiple microphones which we firmly believed were serving him with oxygen as he barely stood at the podium towards his older years. Of course, his age and deteriorating health were topic of an endless number of jokes, as humor is the strongest defensive weapon for a conquered or controlled population.

He passed away or was murdered at the order of the head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, who replaced him as the head of the country. It didn’t change much for the rest of inhabitants of 12 time zones from Vladivostok to the Laba River. Andropov was old himself and by taking the position of the leader of the Communist party he preserved the system for another few years between himself and the Stalinist Konstantin Chernenko.

When Chernenko passed away in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was chosen as the head of the Communist party in the Soviet Union and as such the de facto head of the country.

He was considered to be a reformist within the Soviet Communist party, but at the time, no one, not even Gorbachev himself, dreamed that reforms would permanently end the Soviet system in just few years.

Because this is what happened just a little bit over a year after beginning of Gorbachev’s tenure:

At 21:02 the evening of 28 April, a 20-second announcement was read in the TV news program Vremya: "There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.”

At the time, I was serving a 2-year term as a janitor in the military hospital due to the my refusal to be drafted into the army. Working in the pediatric clinic I was preparing a mixture of berry juice and iodine to prevent the possible development of cancer as our territory was also affected by the nuclear cloud.

I don’t know what Tversky’s did here or in heaven if anything, but cracks had opened in one of the most restrictive empires in the history of the mankind, cracks which began to crumble in Polish stockyard but were patched by brute force in 1981 and 82 with the tanks on the streets., Those patches could not survive the nuclear explosion in the town of Chernobyl.

Communists were still trying to hide the real size of the catastrophe but soon the era of Glasnost, openness, began as the reformist Gorbachev understood that not this and not anything after the Chernobyl fallout could be hidden anymore.

Perestroika, reconstruction, was another Russian word heard in the background of the events of Chernobyl.

What supposed to be little more than cosmetic changes in the Soviet system, because of Chernobyl, Glasnost, and another wave of strikes in Poland, Gorbachev initiated what ended in total collapse of the Soviet Union and Soviet system.

In spring of 1988 workers in Poland strike again. They issued their usual call for social democratic changes with an additional demand to release the opposition members from jail.

In early summer, Polish Communists reached out to some opposition leaders in the country through the mediation of the Catholic Church,

In the fall of the same year, the Round Table was convened and negotiations ended in early spring of the following year with a partial return to Democracy and a free market economy.

This time neither the Polish Opposition nor the Polish Communists were afraid of “brotherly” intervention from “beloved” nation in the East.

On 4th of June 1989 the first partially free election took place in the Communist block with the result of filling all allowed spots in Polish parliament by the members of Solidarity movement.

Communists understood that they had no legitimacy representing the population not only of Poland but of other countries of the Soviet bloc, including the Soviet Union itself.

Gorbachev, who from reforms turned to supervisor of the dismantling an empire guilty of the taking of tens of millions of human lives.

The day of the Polish election was also the day when the Communist party of China decided to smash protesters in Tiananmen square, many of them burned alive with flame throwers.

Would Gorbachev choose the Chinese path of defending the system?

In the past Communist regimes didn’t hesitate to invade countries or even carpet bomb their own villages for refusing to give up their land to the Communists. The starvation of millions of Ukrainians was within the pattern of their understanding of the Marxist “dictature of the Proletariat”.

But he didn’t.

He managed to release country by country and republic by republic to take their own path for the future.

And it wasn’t only because of the weakness of the crumbling economy. Empires in such situations are worse, more dangerous for their populations than those disassembling in a peaceful manner. In fact, I can’t really recall any instance of an Empire being dismantled without the cost of significant loss of population in civil wars, independence wars or the collapse of the administration.

Living as young man under the Communist system, as all citizens of my country, we didn’t expect the system to end in our lifetime, much less almost without the spill of human blood in “Communist proportions”.

But it ended.

Mikhail Gorbachev is hated by many Russians. We are witnessing an attempt to restore at least partially the Russian empire. But for all the nations previously conquered and controlled by the Tzar or the First Secretary of the Party, Gorbachev will remain a hero.

Hashem should bring more rulers as him in the path to complete Geula leading to the days of Mashiych Tzidkayni.

Do not kill.


Do not kill.

וְאַ֨ךְ אֶת־דִּמְכֶ֤ם לְנַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶם֙ אֶדְרֹ֔שׁ מִיַּ֥ד כָּל־חַיָּ֖ה אֶדְרְשֶׁ֑נּוּ וּמִיַּ֣ד הָֽאָדָ֗ם מִיַּד֙ אִ֣ישׁ אָחִ֔יו אֶדְרֹ֖שׁ אֶת־נֶ֥פֶשׁ הָֽאָדָֽם׃

But for your own life-blood I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of man, too, will I require a reckoning for human life, of every man for that of his fellow man!

שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמ֣וֹ יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃

Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did God make man.

וְאַתֶּ֖ם פְּר֣וּ וּרְב֑וּ שִׁרְצ֥וּ בָאָ֖רֶץ וּרְבוּ־בָֽהּ׃ (ס)

Be fertile, then, and increase; abound on the earth and increase on it.”

Both Onkelos and Rashi explain these verses as a statement from Hashem that He will impose justice on a person who killed another person in a situation where a Bays Din is unable (due to insufficient witnesses or other halachic restrictions) to sentence the killer to death. In the second verse there is a commandment to bring the killer to justice and sentence him to death. Only a Bais Din, a Chalachic court with an unbroken chain of Smicha – can sentence a person or persons to death. This is the interpretation of Onkelos and Rashi.

Rabeinu Bahya writes: “The Torah continues ומיד האדם, “and from the human being, etc.” This refers to instances where there are witnesses to the murder. In other words: man must judge murder when there are witnesses, whereas G-d will judge the murderer when there is no evidence which is admissible in a human tribunal.” “שופך דם האדם באדם דמו ישפך” when someone spills the blood of a human being his own blood is to be spilled by a human being.” The word באדם, means: “before a human tribunal.” There have to be witnesses who can testify. If so, the guilty person is subject to execution. This is also the thrust of the Targum’s translation: דישוד דמא דאינשא בסהדין על מימר דיינא דמיה יתשד, Onkelos clearly translates the word באדם as “in the presence of witnesses.”

Radak: “ ומיד האדם, if man kills man, G’d reserves the right to exact retribution from him either in this life or in the hereafter.”

Chizkiuni explains why the punishment for killing a person should be done by the court: “ עשה את האדם, He appointed man on earth to be judge so that fellow man would be deterred from committing sins and crimes.”

Rav Miller also points to the necessity of action from the human court “because failure to react to a sin causes one to became apathetic to sin.”

Even a human corpse has an aspect of Divine image but only a living person is close to G-d in his/her potential. When this potential is made impossible by the action of another man, that man also loses completely his Tzeilem Elokim – resemblance to G-d. See Sfrono: “It is this “divine attribute” of man that makes him sufficiently important for his Creator to demand an accounting from those who destroy that divine image by killing a human being.”

Ramban quotes the Sages from Buve Kamma 91b that a person who commits suicide is also accountable for murder as he ends that potential given to him/her. See also Bechor Shor.

The consequence of this act is obviously not physical death. Chizkiuni on this topic: “The passage is intended as an answer to people who deny that G-d operates vis a vis man through a system of reward and punishment, i.e. reward after the body has died and punishment after the body has died, and who therefore see in suicide a way of avoiding being held responsible for their actions on earth. Clearly a system of reward and punishment, unless it included posthumous reward and punishment, would be meaningless, and would not act as deterrent not to sin.”

Further, Ramban writes that the consequence for killing applies to Noachides and Jews in the same way “In court or by the Hand of Heaven”.

In a fascinating commentary on this pusik, Baal Haturim derives the meaning of the verse from the word וְאַ֨ךְ – “However, any form of self-harming is prohibited in this statement, including harmful speech!”

If this is a case in regard to person himself, obviously any form of violence, physical or even verbal toward other person is prohibited.

Alshich, who lived not long after Baal Haturim, comments on this pusik: “The person who embarrasses his fellow man to the extent that he blanches, causes the Tzelem Elokim (Divine Image) to be impaired, and is therefore himself guilty of death, though he has not actually killed anyone at all.”

And a final comment on the pusik שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם comes from Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch:

“The whole value of our being human rests on our associating, not bodies with bodies, but spirits with kindred spirits and recognizing such spirit in every human being. The life, the Nefesh of every human being is entrusted to the care of every other human being. And if, through the guilt of a human being, a human soul departs from this world earlier than God, who had placed it here, had willed it, then God misses it here and is Doresh Midoi  – (Exact in measure). Every tiny minute of the earthly existence of even the most miserable human being is sacred to God, and whosoever shortens his own or anybody else's life by one second is responsible to God.”

For the last of the three psukim quoted at the beginning of this essay we will share only one comment in continuation of the spirit of the above quotations from the commentaries of the Sages. Also from Rav Hirsch:

“Inasmuch as here the procreation and propagation of the human race have this designation added, the term would represent a swarm of the most manifold different kinds of men. It would accordingly be a description of a diversity and infinite variety of human races, and moreover בָאָ֖רֶץ on the earth, and by the earth, under the influences of the differences of the various lands. And not only שִׁרְצ֥וּ בָאָ֖רֶץ but also רְבוּ - the whole physical, moral and intellectual education equally בָֽהּ under the same influences. (…)Noachian mankind is given the mission to spread over the whole world, and under the most diverse conditions and influences of climate and physical nature of the countries, to become Men and develop the one common real character of Man; a diversity and a multiplicity which appeared to us in the above connection as God's new plan for the education of mankind, to avoid the necessity for any fresh total catastrophe. The diversity is to balance the deficiency and so pave the way to progress to the goal. Hence say our sages on this sentence "God has provided the most differing zones and climates with a special dispensation", (or perhaps more literally : The general covenant of God with mankind is spread over the most diverse districts) — -Blessed be God, Who has given every country an attraction to its inhabitants", and they point out how every race feels at ease in its homeland even under the most inhospitable circumstances, and the most unfriendly districts affect their sons with home-sickness when they are away from them, and in strange lands disturbs their spiritual development. Man, who thinks he is master of the land is, in many ways, in his innermost self, in his mind, feelings, understanding and speech, mastered by his native land, and this variety of countries has a purpose. Everywhere a man can conduct himself as a human being, everywhere be happy, everywhere pure human qualities can be developed in people. Only no man may judge others by his own standards. That is why, at the end of this new conditioning of the world and mankind it says: "diversify your-selves on the earth and multiply yourselves on it, by it, in it, with it etc.”

Martin Buber in his essays, “I and Thou” but especially “The face of the other,” points out that the greatest challenge for a human being is to recognize another human as such. The more different the “other” is, the more difficult it is for us to recognize Godliness in that person. Diversity among people creates a natural obstacle in making connection, and if turned to the “Other Side” it may cause animosity leading in extreme cases to murder.

It is precisely that natural factor which national leaders can exploit to cause a group of young people from one nation to kill people from different nation, religion, or so-called race. In Rav Hirsch’s words, diversity was instituted for precisely the opposite reason. Variety within the human race, in his words, is the vehicle for moral and spiritual growth. More so, it is actually the prime vehicle to connect to Hashem by recognizing the “other” as reflection (Tzeilem Elokim) of the ultimate “Other”.

Even fact that humanity was created in two forms has precisely the same reason. By recognizing the Divine in our spouse, we are ready perform the ultimate service of Hashem (“Garden of Peace” – Rav Shalom Arush).

We can clearly see that Buberian philosophy was not developed in vacuum, as a German philosopher and Biblical Scholar he was familiar with writings of Rav Hirsch.

It is not only Rav Hirsch who describes the goal of humanity, the essence of struggle through the history in those terms. In further essays B-H we will look in the writings of the Nuvim (Prophets) and even to some of our daily prayers. But already at this moment we have an obvious question: how in this context can we understand, not the existence of violence, which comes from corrupted Gevura/Din, as it was explained in the previous essay, but how it is sanctioned by the governments, historic Jewish governments in the Holy Land and even by Toira itself. We will not talk about why violence exists, but rather how it can be used in progress toward a united humanity under the spiritual guidance of the Jewish people in recognition of The Creator.

Corruption of Chesed and Din


All of the Creation on all of its levels, this in three-dimensional reality, this in the area of intellect and spirituality, and those levels which are above our grasp are channeled to us through different channels or Emanations – Sefirois or Midois, which were revealed to Moishe, the Prophets and the Sages of blessed memory.

Those Emanations of Divine energies are generally presented to us in the form of two columns, of which on one side there is Chesed – Lovingkindness, and the other column is called Gevura (Strength) or Din (Judgment/Justice).

There are other Divine energies within this framework, each of which can coexist within other energies in some amount. For example, there may be some amount of Hoid – Glory, or Netzach  – Eternity, Perseverance in Chesed or Gevura.

Everything we experience in our existence is made up of a combination of these energies or Emanations.

There is no other source of existence or other channels causing reality than those Emanating from The Source.

If so, how evil is possible?

We will not enter the discussion about the originality of Evil as it is a difficult and broad topic and if someone is interested, I suggest going straight to the writings and shiurim of Rabbi Akiva Tatz.

Without deeper explanation we will say that source of the evil is man himself.

It is a man in whose power is to use and develop those energies in accordance with the will of the One who provides us with those tools, but it is also a man who by corrupting the powers provided to him through the channels of Chesed and Din, restricts the flow of Divine energies, causing evil to appear.

The history of mankind begins with the description of the act of Creation, followed by certain rules for the created in two forms of man. Creation is quickly followed by the rebellion of man.

Libraries of books were written on this topic, as it is the most potent one and every touch of the quill on the scroll of Toira often contains coded meanings understood by Carriers of the Toira Shbealpe – the oral tradition.

Since most of those teachings are in the area of Kabalistic tradition, I have no expertise in the character of the first sin beyond the general idea that it was sin within the area of promiscuity.

Michtav mi Eliachu explains topic of promiscuity in his comment on parsha Lech Lechu. Rav Dessler based this idea on Seifer Baal Shem Toiv and the verse from the Chumash itself (Vaikru 20:17).

“A person whose main quality is Chesed is in danger that, he may spend more money than he can afford. Then, he will borrow from others and spend it in turn. Eventually it will be found that his excessive desire to do Chesed was counterproductive, for it led him to cause others loss because he could not repay his debts. There is also the possibility that he will eventually "be merciful to the cruel," leading to "cruelty to the merciful," as we find in the example of Shaul Ha-melech. There is also another more insidious danger that, by becoming accustomed to acceding to everyone's requests, he may then come to accede to the demands of the yetzer hara. This is why certain forbidden marriages are referred to as Chesed (The whole institution of marriage is, of course, a great Chesed. Through it, people bestow a great bounty on mankind by allowing a new generation to emerge. But when this deviates from the bounds set down by Creator, by a person acting simply to gratify his desires or by way of sin, God forbid, then it is called "the Chesed of defilement.") Such is the lot of Chesed, which is not limited by the quality of Gevura.” (Strive for Truth)

The aveira – sin in the pusik, one of many aveiros in category of Giluy Arayos, as well as other possible aveiros of which Rav Dessler provides examples, are defiled or corrupted forms of Middas Chesed.

The very second aveira in the history of man, is act of violence resulting in death of Hevel, one of the first two sons.

Vilna Gaon in his Saifer(…) says that even anger is a corrupted form of Din. It is needless to say that violence is nothing, but anger brought to its extreme level.

Violence on individual level is expressed as anger, stealing, harm, jealousy, physical and verbal abuse and many many other forms.

Then there is social violence, in which personal anger coming from the overgrown egos of political maniacs throws groups or entire nations into violence. “Hunters of tongue,” as Nimrod and Eisav are described, can manipulate societies to conquer, to suppress, to humiliate, to control by force, surveillance, or social engineering; to kill and to be killed.

Violence is corrupted form of Gevura/Din, and that action of violence is always presented by them as Din - justice. There is action and presentation which perhaps could be considered corruption of Truth – (Emes/Tiferes/Rachamim).

It is true that Justice itself may sometimes appear as an act of violence…sometimes. But even the greatest acts of violence committed by the man in his history are always presented as an act of Justice.

B-H, this corrupted form of Din was, and I-H will be a topic of many of my essays.