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Issue 9 | Parshat Devarim | Religious Hypocrisy

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“Your Hands Are Full of Blood:” The Destructive Effects of Duplicity 

The Temple was destroyed close to 2000 year ago. Why are will still grieving? The answer lays in this week’s Haftorah, bemoaning religious hypocrisy. 

How would you define describe a Torah scholar and pious individual who is not sensitive to others? 

The Baal Shem Tov, someone not prone to disparaging any person, describes this individual as someone whose “hands are full of blood”! 

These brutal words come from this week’s Haftorah, read on the Shabbos preceding the saddest day in the Hebrew calendar (Tisha B’Av). In one of the harshest condemnations of religious duplicity you will ever find, G-d castigates the Jewish people for their empty ritual devoid of human empathy. 

Why do we read these distressing words today? 

One of the greatest challenges of our times is religious hypocrisy – the tragic dichotomy between religious piety and plain decency. With all our thriving yeshivos and religious communities, we are suffering from a dreadful lack of empathy and love for each other. 

The Baal Shem Tov, teaches us the devastating effects of religious dissonance and empty ritual. When observance can comfortably coexist with glaring inadequacies, and people mindlessly perform rituals while hurting others around them, the rituals can become agents of destruction. 

The Baal Shem Tov also teaches us the solution to this dissonance – which is also the secret to a happy life – as beautifully demonstrated by the moving story, in which the Baal Shem Tov had his students close their eyes and place their hands on the shoulders of the people sitting on either side of them. The Baal Shem Tov joined them, began to sing a melody and then showed his students the way to find love and joy: How one refined man was destitute but happy, while a scholar without remarkable empathy was prosperous but miserable. 

Who is religious? Discover the fascinating answer given by the Frierdiker Rebbe to philanthropist Mrs. Denberg.

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