Re’eh – Rosh Chodesh (Elul) Wake Up Call

This Shabbos and Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Elul, on which we read the Haftorah from the last perek of Yeshayahu. Towards the beginning of the Haftorah it states: “Listen to the word of the Hashem, O Charedim, ‘Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out, said, ‘For the sake of my name, Hashem shall be glorified,’ but we will see your joy, and they shall be ashamed.’ There is a sound of stirring from the city, a sound from the Temple, the voice of Hashem, recompensing His enemies” (Yeshayahu 66:5, 6).
Who are Charedim? Rashi says Charedim are “the righteous who hasten through trembling to draw near to His word." “Your brethren” that Hashem warns the Charedim about, Rashi says are the ‘transgressors of Israel’ mentioned above, who said “Turn away, unclean one” (Eicha 4:15). Who also told them: “Keep to yourself, do not come near me” (Yeshaya 65:5). These transgressors of Israel, Rashi says, tells the Charedim: “For the sake of my name, Hashem shall be glorified;” meaning, “With our greatness, the Holy one Blessed be He, is glorified, for we are closer to Him than you are.” Rashi concludes his explanation of the pasuk by saying: “The prophet says, ‘What they are saying is not true, for “we will see your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” Why? For sound of their stirring has come before the Holy One Blessed be He, from what they did in His city, and a sound emanates from His Temple and accuses those who destroyed it, and then the voice of Hashem, punishes His enemy.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
At this time of history, Yeshayahu recounts two groups of Jews during the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash: the Charedim, those who zealously and fervently kept Hashem’s Torah with a deep sense of Yiras Shamayim [fear of Hashem], and another group, who thought they were close to Hashem, and even seemed to be the upstanding citizens of the time, the higher class. But, in Hashem’s eyes, they were transgressors of Israel, who will be paid retribution for their misdeeds. This “higher class,” in their haughtiness, claimed that the Charedim were extremists, unclean people who should keep to themselves and stay away from everyone else, and that, to the contrary, they are closer to Hashem than the Charedim.

Hashem, who can look into the depths of the heart of man, is clearly able to differentiate between good and evil. But how can a person, searching for the truth, in order to do what is right, with only the naked eye, be able to see through the façade of the upper echelon of society who claim to be close to Hashem, while absolutely denigrating  the real righteous people?

The sign to perceive who is right from who is wrong, and to know who to emulate, is within Rashi’s definition of what Charedim are: “the righteous who hasten through trembling to draw near to His word." Rashi does not say the Charedim draw close to Hashem; that is what the sinners of Israel claim they are doing, but in their own way. Rather, they “draw near to His word;” the Charedim scrupulously follow the word of the Torah, Hashem’s blueprints of creation and handbook for mankind. They do it with precision and deep heartfelt fear of Hashem. Not for their honor but for Hashem’s honor. A righteous person truly close to the King would surely run to meticulously follow the King’s rules and laws, especially if he knows it is in his best interest to follow them as well.

The acuity and passion coupled with trembling in awe to observe Hashem’s Torah, to walk in His ways and do His will is the sign of a true Charedi.