I saw in the sefer "Mitorahsa Shel Rabeinu- Satmar" (sv. קול יעקב וידי עשו, p. 99) that:

When the voice of Yaakov is heard in the synagogues, Israel's strength lies in their prayers and study of Torah, and the hands of Esav do not prevail against them. However, this is conditional on the voice being genuinely that of Yaakov . If, Heaven forbid, there are corrupt thoughts and ideas within, it can lead to destruction and ruin, G-d forbid, giving strength to the hands of Esav .

This is like when erroneous and heretical ideas are mixed into the Torah, distorting its true meaning. Our sages have said that the hands of Esau only prevail when Israel's voice is compromised. In the context of idol worship, they said that the markets of Jerusalem were destroyed three years before the city itself because the people justified their evil actions with Torah law. This caused the hands of Esav to prevail, leading to destruction. (emphasis mine)

The Satmar Rav says that the markets of Jerusalem were destroyed three years prior to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the rest of the city itself. Why? Because (some) the people justified their evil actions with Torah Law.

This seems problematic, since there is a clear Gemara in Bava Metzia (30b), that says that Jerusalem was destroyed because:

they established their rulings on the basis of Torah law and did not go beyond the letter of the law

Do our sages really tell us that the markets were destroyed three years prior, due to the justification of evil deeds with Torah Law? If so, how does that fit in with what the Gemara tells us?

Side note, the Rebbe quotes from "שפי' בנוע"מ [פ' מטות]", does anyone know what and where this is?

שפי' בנוע"מ [פ' מטות] אמרם ז"ל מפני מה חרבו חניות של ב"ה ג' שנים קודם ירושלים, מפני שהעמידו דבריהם על דין תורה, ופירש הוא ז"ל שכל מעשיהם הרעים שעשו העמידו אותם על דין תורה

Edit edit: this idea is also brought down by the Satmar Rav in Divrei Yoel, Parshas Shemos, p. 16 (second right paragraph):

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2 Answers 2


The relevant piece of Talmud is from Bava Metzia 88a:

מִפְּנֵי מָה חָרְבוּ חֲנוּיוֹת שֶׁל בֵּית הִינוֹ שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים קוֹדֶם יְרוּשָׁלַיִם – מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֶעֱמִידוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם עַל דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה.

For what reason were the shops of Beit Hino, a town near Jerusalem, destroyed three years before the destruction of Jerusalem itself? It was because they based their practices strictly on matters of Torah.

The interpretation of this piece of Talmud that the Satmar Rav is referring to comes from Sefer Noam Megadim by R. Eliezer Horowitz of Tarnogrod, in one his pieces for Parashat Matot:

וביאור הדבר נראה כי לכל חטא אשר יחטא האדם ואשם תגדל אשמתו יותר ויותר אם אינו מכיר ומודה על כל פנים שחטא רק אומר שכך נאה ויפה לו ושורת הדין הוא כך ומראה פני היתר לעצמו ... לא כן המלך שאול שאמר לשמואל הנביא הקימותי את דבר ה' כו' לזבוח כו' ... וזהו ארז"ל שעהמידו דבריהן על ד"ת כל דברים שעשו אמרו שזהו דת ודין תורה

The explanation of the matter [of Bava Metzia 88a] is as follows: For any sin that a person commits, his guilt is greatly increased if he does not admit that at the very least he has sinned. Instead, he says that this is correct and appropriate behavior, and that the letter of the law is as he has acted, and he decides that he was permitted to act leniently...

[For example,] King Saul did not act in this way [and admit to his guilt. Rather, after disobeying the command to destroy all the animals of Amalek,] he said to Samuel the Prophet, "I have fulfilled the word of G-d" etc. (Samuel I:15:13) "In order to offer sacrifices" etc. (Samuel I:15:21)...

This is what our rabbis of blessed memory meant when they said that "they based their practices on the law". Whatever they did, they said that it accorded with the custom and law of the Torah.

  • Shkoyach Joel. That Gemara is highly related with the explanation of Rabbi Kaii. Could you maybe provide the Hebrew-English translation of the relevant text of the Noam Negadim?
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 20 at 12:42
  • @Shmuel Sure. Done. I actually think the point that the Noam Megadim is making is slightly different to Rabbi Kaii's point. It's not so much about following the letter of the law and still being a bad person. It's more about actually breaking the law, while still maintaining that one's actions are wholly legitimate.
    – Joel K
    Commented May 20 at 12:52
  • Thanks, this is really interesting. But how could one (these people the Noam Megadim talks about) think that when doing something bad is still according to halacha? A person knows that halacha forbids a, so by doing a, they automatically should know that they are doing something wrong?
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 20 at 16:30
  • @Shmuel People are pretty good at self-deception sometimes. See the story of Shaul and Shmuel that the Noam Megadim quotes. Shaul ignored a direct instruction from the prophet Shmuel, but was convinced that he had done the right thing.
    – Joel K
    Commented May 20 at 19:42
  • 1
    @Shmuel I’ll bli neder add it in later. But in the meantime you can check out the story in Shmuel I chapter 15
    – Joel K
    Commented May 20 at 20:14

I haven't learned your sources inside, but from the eloquent way you've explained the question, I can take an educated guess at what the Rebbe means, if I may:

Ramban brings a concept called נבל ברשות התורה, literally "a scoundrel under the permission of the Torah". He explains that if people refuse to go beyond the letter of the law, and in their hearts they are intent on doing evil, they can accomplish a lot of evil simply by sticking to the rigid letter of the law.

Modern day protests can be considered a good analogy. They want to cause as much chaos as possible, without breaking any laws, and as we've seen, they can certainly do a lot in this regard.

This is the same with the Torah. The laws of the Torah are aimed at human beings, who are fallible. A person has a right to sue in Beit Din for an insult to his honour (See Bava Kama 8:1, boshesh; Bava Metzia 4:10, ona'at devarim, etc.). We all know that being obsessed with one's honour is sinful, however, the Torah makes room in its laws for our flaws like this, in the obligations it sets on us, effectively saying

"don't expect everyone to be a mentsch in the way you treat them, you are legally bound to treat them as a human".

So, therefore a ba'al ga'ava could certainly use the Torah's obligations on others to prop up his own haughiness, and sue everyone who assaults his honour, without going outside the letter of the law. Yet, he doesn't fool anyone, he is still immersed in sin, and a sinful life.

To be a true mentsch, we all need to go beyond the letter of the law. Ok, someone shamed us, but we don't have to sue them. As the Ramban says, the Torah will only make you a good person if you want it to.

  • 1
    Thanks Rebb Kaii. That is a wonderful Chiddush, especially from that famous Ramban. I came across a few nice words that stress the message: "עין טובה וותרנות זו מידה הכי נאה לאדם", see here.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 20 at 12:11
  • But.... :) I am still wondering where this original chazal comes from. I edited a few lines into my question, where the Rebbe cites from a sefer that brings this idea, but unfortunately, I have no clue where he referst to.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 20 at 12:20
  • 1
    Thanks Rebb Kaii, again. It is a shame that I cannot award half the points to your answer :(, because it really helped me. Hatzlacha and Beracha!
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 20 at 20:30
  • 1
    @Shmuel don't worry it's the fact that it helped you that provides me with all the "points" I need. Thanks for the great question, as always
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 20 at 20:39

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