The laws of ‘issur v’heter’ teach us that even things that are inherently good, may be forbidden if they are mixed * Mixing considerations of disproportionate magnitudes is harmful; for example, when a mother spends too much energy on the clothes she will wear to her daughter’s wedding, at the expense of her main responsibility – helping her daughter, the bride * Mixing various fundamentals of ’emuna’ is harmful, such as evading responsibility and guilt in the name of the belief that everything is controlled by God *As separate ideas, belief in providence does not detract from belief in free will and responsibility for one’s actions * The new leadership in Britain deserves to be praised for its support of Jews and Israel
We find in the Torah that there are species which, by themselves, are kosher, but when mixed together, are forbidden. Such is the case with meat and milk – each of them separately are permitted, but it is forbidden to cook and eat them together. This is also true in regards to kilayim (a hybrid) of wool and linen, or vines with grain or vegetables, grafting of trees, and plowing an ox with a donkey. An important basis arises from these commandments – that occasionally there are good ideas and values that when mixed together, can cause great damage.
Types of Mixtures
Occasionally, it involves a mixture of two ideas of disproportionate magnitudes, and as a result, placing the less significant matter on equal terms with the greater consideration, disrupts everything. Other times, it involves two corresponding ideas that when mixed together, distorts a person’s rational thought.
For example, it is becoming of a person to eat foods he finds tasty; but if one is deathly ill and certain foods may endanger his life, but nevertheless, he continues eating them, then he commits the crime of mixing up considerations of two disproportionate magnitudes, and risks his life. All the more so, if one avoids taking life-saving medication because of its bitter taste. An example of mixing of two parallel ideas is, for example, mixing the concepts of Divine Providence and freedom of choice. I will discuss the two types of mixtures below.
An Analogy from Wedding Preparations
Everyone agrees that it’s appropriate for a woman meriting to marry off her daughter, to honor the event, and go out of her way to buy a nice dress for the wedding, and matching shoes. But compared to the very participation in her daughter’s wedding, the dress and shoes of the mother, are not important. Therefore, the mother’s main effort should be directed at assisting the bride to prepare for the wedding, finding nice clothes for her and all the accompanying details, while her own preparations, with all its importance, should be secondary.
If, due to the fact that the mother cannot not find matching shoes she decides not to attend her daughter’s wedding, she is of unsound mind, mixing together considerations of totally different magnitudes. Such a mixture is analogous to cooking meat with milk: the dress and shoes are in the sense of milk, and the very participation in the wedding, is in the sense of meat.
Even if the mother is able to invest as much time and energy in her daughter’s preparations for the wedding as herself, still, just by the very act of equating two considerations of disproportionate magnitudes and merits, she betrays her responsibility and from then on, all the preparations she makes for the wedding will become a stumbling block. Instead of her daughter the bride taking enjoyment in her mother’s beautiful clothes it will arouse jealousy and frustration, because they will reflect her mother’s selfish character – that even in before her daughter’s wedding, she thinks mainly about herself, attempting to grab center stage. As a result, even when she makes an effort to help her daughter find a nice dress for the wedding, her actions will be tainted with egoism, and it will be impossible escaping the thought that it isn’t her daughter she cares about, but rather, her main goal is boasting about her daughter in front of everyone.
The Story of a Reckless and Murderous Driver
A certain person was used to driving his jeep recklessly. His friends warned him about the potential danger, but he enjoyed driving fast and ignored their words. One day, he carelessly crossed into an oncoming lane, collided with a family car, and killed all the occupants – the parents and two children. When he realized the consequences of the accident, he was in shock, horror, and sorrow; despair filled his heart. The police acted towards him harshly, but he understood them – after all, four dead…. At night, he had trouble falling asleep, remembering his friend’s warnings advising him to drive carefully, and grave feelings of remorse and grief terrified his sleep. How could he continue living? Even his wife was unable to console him.
And it came to pass that in the morning his soul was stirred, and he suddenly had an insight. After all, he thought to himself, the Sages had said: “No man bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him in heaven.” Consequently, he wasn’t the one who killed those people – God Himself condemned them to die, and he was only the poor guy chosen carry out the decree. In truth, he was not at fault, and his friends who had warned him to drive carefully had treated him erroneously, because in essence, their warnings hinted at a certain contempt for God, as if to say it’s not God who runs the world. The policemen who reprimanded him also acted improperly, because, after all, there was no connection between his driving and what happened. Everything comes from God, King of the World, who decreed that this family should die, and most probably they had sinned gravely, and deserved to die. In any case, even if they weren’t completely wicked, no matter what, it was a decree from Heaven that all of them be killed, and it has nothing to do with him. God’s calculations are beyond his reach; all he must do now, is to strengthen himself with all his might, in faith in God, to remember, and know that everything is Divine providence from God, and there is no connection whatsoever between his reckless driving and the deaths of these four people. Against all of his detractors, he must fight for his innocence and prove in court that it was the father of the family who veered out of lane. And even though in truth, he was the one who veered out of lane, since God directs everything, therefore, despite his having swerved he is innocent, because even his swerving out of lane was directed by God, in order to carry out the verdict of the family. True, he still has to contend with his conscience gnawing at his heart; consequently, to overcome his “weakness of faith”, he will go to receive a blessing from the “tzadikim“. They, upon seeing the purity of his heart (for indeed, he will give a nice contribution to the ‘kollel‘ under their patronage), will bless him that he should be acquitted. He will even ask from the “tzadikim” to curse the representatives of deceased family and the evil lawyers who level harsh words against him.
Mixing Free Will and Divine Providence
The sin of this man is that he mixed two different ideas – free will, and Divine Providence. When a person is careful to separate these two ideas, he understands that faith in Divine Providence in no way diminishes man’s responsibility for his actions. These are two systems that must exist concurrently, but when mixed together, both of them break down; belief in Divine Providence turns into terrible egoism, without a hint of true faith, but rather, complete idol worship, because man uses the power of faith to justify himself, but in actuality he is serving himself, and as a result, his moral responsibility for his actions goes awry.
The murderous driver must first recognize the severity of his terrible crime, have complete regret and remorse for all of his reckless behavior, accept the punishment he deserves, and contemplate how he can correct his ways henceforth. Also, he must do everything in his power to appease and benefit the grieving family, and to set up a memorial in memory of those killed in the accident. After this, he must believe that even from this awful place which he has reached, he can return in complete repentance – until from all his sorrow, regret, and rectifications, all his sins will be forgiven, and at that point, he can also believe that everything came from God, and was for the best.
A Different Story about a Reckless and Murderous Driver
Some people react differently. For example, someone who was used to driving recklessly and ran over and killed four family members, but, unlike the previous man, he understood he was completely guilty, his heart was filled with sorrow and regret, he recalled the warnings of his friends, and realized just how right they were. For entire days, he could not sleep properly. Minutes after dozing-off, in his mind he would picture those killed, and would wake up in horror. He stopped bathing, did not brush his teeth, and could not even eat – the grief and despair completely destroyed his appetite. His friends told him he had to see a doctor to get sedatives, and if that did not help, he should get psychological help. But he refused, because when they mentioned this, pictures of the deceased ran through his mind. And in his heart he thought, how could he worry about himself, about his lack of sleep, about his normal eating and drinking, when right now, the bodies of the people he had run over were rotting in their graves. Thus, gradually, the murderous driver cut himself off from the entire world, stopped worrying about his family, went insane, and died at an early age.
He also committed the crime of mixing of issues. Indeed, he is obligated to regret, repent, and do everything to atone for his sin. However, simultaneously, he must take care of his health so he can fulfill his duties towards his family, in order to repent, and so he can do whatever possible to elevate the souls of the people he ran over.
As terrorists attacks in the name of Islam continue to haunt Europe, and while most of the Western world’s leadership has yet to understand the danger of Muslim violence – and in its moral blindness, is still wont to blame Israel for the conflict in Eretz Yisrael, we can gain a certain amount of comfort and satisfaction from the newly appointed government in Britain, headed by Theresa May.
In her speech to the members of the Bnei Akiva a year ago on Israel’s Independence Day, Theresa May called attention to a deep and meaningful point which few leaders of the nations of the world understand. Several times she mentioned that, unlike all other peoples, Jewish survival is not a given. Over the individual Jew, his country, and over his people, there is a constant existential threat, and the Jewish nation must constantly defend itself against repeated attempts to destroy her.
Hopefully, a leader meriting such wisdom and sensitivity will have the moral courage to stand with Israel. The new Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, is also known to be a friend of Israel, to the point where during his recent visit Israel, the Arabs refused to host him in Ramallah because of his determined stance against any kind of boycott of the State of Israel.
In contrast to the majority of Israel’s media, who suffer from a lack of knowledge and impaired moral judgment, it would be fitting for those media personalities with a strong Jewish identity to take note during these days when we read the Haftarot of consolation, the positive processes occurring in the global arena. And in this manner, we will all pray that Am Yisrael merits fulfilling its great, Heavenly-designated mission, by sanctifying the name God and repairing the world, and merit, along with the entire world, true peace.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: