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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

It's not about his books

Bo 

Recently, there was a major campaign to rid our homes of books by a certain author. “His lessons are good,” one parent told me, “but I can’t stand having his name in my house.” Another parent reasoned that when his kids grow up and hear about the things this author did, “they’ll ask me how I ever allowed them to read his books.” Perhaps this is an eis ratzon to clean house altogether and take stock of who we let in. In this week’s parsha Hashem tells the Yidden, "Draw forth or buy for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Passover sacrifice.” Why must they first “draw forth”? Chazal explain that the Yidden had to first draw themselves away from the avodah zarah of Mitzrayim, and only then could they bring the korban Pesach. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh writes something powerful[1]. The Yidden didn’t have actual avodah zarah in their possession. Rather, over time, just from living in Egyptian culture, they picked up the goyishe practices and habits. Some seemed as harmless as the type of food they ate and clothing they wore which, unbeknownst to them, were inspired by avodah zarah. It was these nuanced influences that Hashem wanted them to get rid of. The next step in elevating themselves was to slaughter sheep, the actual avodah zarah of Mitzrayim. By using it for something holy, they’d shake off any influence it may have still had on them. Aside from the books mentioned above, can we think of other reading materials that have good information yet are authored by people we wouldn’t otherwise invite into our home? Dr. Seuss was unfaithful to his ailing wife. She killed herself when she found out, and he went on to marry the mistress.

Would you invite such an individual to read your child a bedtime story? Similarly, what will we answer our children when they ask us, “You raised us based on so-and-so’s advice?” Not all secular books need to be trashed and not all Jewish authors should be accepted. The point is this, if we feel contempt for an author who’s morally despicable, shouldn’t we at least have similar apprehension for authors who aren’t spiritually up to par? Moreover, if we were fooled by someone who gave the impression of being a yurei Shomayim, shouldn’t an author who clearly acts the opposite way raise our antennae? Shouldn’t an author’s blatant lack of middos or yiras Shomayim trigger our sensitivities and scrutiny? Let’s build on this experience and start asking ourselves: Am I bringing more than just a book into my home? By this book sitting on my shelf, am I venerating someone undeserving? And, is it possible that, like in Mitzrayim, there are subliminal messages we’re internalizing through these materials? Messages that may feel pareve yet have an undesirable hold on us? Another step we can take is to bring the world’s avodah zarah as a korban to Hashem. By filtering our internet, our kindles, music and podcasts, we disarm their hold on us. We can then go on to use these “sheep” for good and even holy purposes. Just as when the Yidden drew themselves away from foreign influences and brought the sheep as a korban, they were protected from the death that befell the Mitzriim; Keeping our homes clean will, with Hashem’s help, keep us safe from dangers that surround us. What better way to prepare for the ultimate exodus from galus, may it be now. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

[1] 12:6 The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

The Moshe Group Moshe and Rivky Majeski