He notes that the impurity of a world without Torah is what makes a Jew sick, pointing out how Yaakov Avinu only got sick once he ventured into the impure environment of Egypt.
(Needless to say, this means specifically the impurity of the non-Jewish world, and not the wonderful non-Jews who strive to follow the 7 Mitzvot of Noach. A truly non-Jewish world rejects Torah, instead of embracing Torah via the 7 Noachide Laws, like a sincere non-Jew does.)
Quoting the Chatam Sofer (Shabbat 86b), Rav Schwartz explains that we cannot bring medical proof from non-Jewish medical healing on how to heal illnesses found in Jews — even when it appears to be the same illness.
Does this mean that, say, studies showing that extra doses of vitamin C & zinc reduce the length of illness don't apply to Jews?
So I'll risk extrapolating that yes, it could mean that vitamin C & zinc will work fine for Jews too, but it doesn't have to mean that. In other words, the studies don't prove that it will be effective for Jews, but yes, it can also be effective for Jews.
(Interestingly, recently, there was an unusually high rate of measles in the frum community, despite frum communities being generally pro-vaccination and therefore comprising a high percentage of people vaccinated against measles. Could the Chatam Sofer's chiddush explain that? I don't know enough about the whole issue to say for sure, but it's intriguing.)
Rav Schwartz says:
Hashem says, “I will separate you from the nations.”
This is the key we need in order to merit the promise that Hashem made to us: “Any illness which I placed upon Egypt, I will not place upon you, for I am Hashem, your healer.”
That is how we are truly healed – when we are separated from the nations.
But when we are influenced by the nations, we are susceptible to their various sicknesses which Hashem brings upon them.
In other words, the more we think & act as if we're saying, "I'm one of Yours, Hashem!"— then the more Hashem treats us like one of His.
You Make Me Sick, Mitzrayim!
Only when they allowed their hearts to hanker after the influences of Egypt.
Bamidbar 11:4 - 5:
But the multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
Yet despite the powerful sway of the Erev Rav, Rav Schwartz reminds us that we also have the power to NOT be influenced.
The proof is that in Egypt, we did not change our Hebrew names, our refined Jewish style of clothing, or our holy Hebrew language.
Apparently, that's all the proof we need.
We Must Trace the Source of Anything We Encounter
How do we prevent illness?
We prevent illness by distancing ourselves from non-Torah influences.
How do we do that?
First of all, says Rav Schwartz, we must trace the source of anything we encounter.
Is it an authentically Jewish source or a non-Jewish source?
In other words, is it sourced in holiness...or not?
In this lecture, Rav Schwartz specifically discusses the following issues:
- The compulsion of some to immediately seek to bring any new non-Jewish product or idea into the frum world (with kosher certification & rabbinic approval, of course).
- The enthusiasm to get a hechsher on as many different foods as possible or to create a kosher imitation.
Yet what, for example (says Rav Schwartz), is the root desire of those who seek to either kasher non-kosher foods or to create a kosher imitation?
Giving into physical desires, making money, garnering accolades for this "accomplishment"...
Now, maybe sometimes there is a holy reason for doing the above.
For example, the wide availability of hechsherim means that secular Jews have more of a chance of eating kosher food (even without meaning to).
But generally Rav Schwartz's stated reasons are the real ones. Not always, but mostly.
- New styles of clothing are created by some of the most degenerate people in the world.
Miniskirts, high heels, and tight pants are some of the least uncomfortable clothes to wear.
Waist-length loose hair is also a major pain in the neck (and in a shaitel, a massive expense in both the purchase & the upkeep).
Yet look at how some otherwise frum people insist on wearing them.
Their insistence is certainly not out of a dedication to uphold Jewish values because miniskirts, high heels, tight pants (for either men or women), and long loose hair (for either men or women, real hair or wigs) are not tsnius.
So what is the source? We all know it's not holiness.
It's something else.
Going off on a tangent: It is my secret wish to go back to the clothing of our Imahot – long, loose robes. With the right kind of design and fabric, these can look elegant enough for a wedding. And it's not just me. I have a chassidish friend with impressive yichus who secretly wishes the same. Maybe someday, we'll no longer be confined to wearing modern Edom-style shirts & skirts...sigh...
- Many books today are authored by frum people borrowing non-Torah ideas.
And yes, Rav Schwartz acknowledges that they get rabbinical approval for these books, even when the entire book is in the spirit of the non-Jewish ideas about life.
(Usually, rabbanim do not read the entire book; they judge by a sampling & their estimation of the author's character, plus their good-hearted desire to help a fellow Jew with his or her parnassah.)
This happens quite often with books on psychology & psychiatry, although we must commend those frum professionals who gradually broke out of the mold of their university indoctrination and started to sift through the sources, in addition to using their own experience, research, and study of Torah sources.
Rav Schwartz says in other lectures that some frum people are writing legitimate stuff and also Rav Avigdor Miller said that some frum psychologists are using genuinely kosher techniques but speaking with psychology-jargon so that other will take them seriously.
The supposedly frum chinuch today is another massive culprit of dressing up non-Jewish ideas in Torah garb, then selling it to unsuspecting new mothers.
(Actually, I was a suspicious young mother myself because a lot of what I came across presented as "authentic Torah chinuch!" reminded me of all the Western child psychology I'd been reading in my teens & twenties. But my peers were uncomfortable with my questioning the methods we were learning, so there was no one to discuss it with, and thus it took me a while to break away from it. Reading Miriam Adahan's Awareness and then a talk with my rebbetzin really helped me cut free from it all.)
It's important to note that the people selling Western child psychology as "authentic Torah chinuch!" are not tricksters, but simply unaware that it's not actually Torah chinuch.
Rav Schwartz himself says that some of the people misguiding others are not bad, but well-intended. For example, those who are, say, trying to get charedim into the army aren't always Erev Rav, but a Yisrael-soul convinced it's doing a good thing. They're not evil, just misguided.
I'm not trying to rip apart these chinuch "experts," especially since they have such good intentions. However, they often hurt as much as they help. The assistance and the damage goes hand-in-hand.
I can't help being concerned that parents be made aware of this so they don't suffer like I and many others have.
Having said that, there are definitely people who ARE offering authentic Torah chinuch and who help much more than they hurt.
May they be blessed.
- Our external appearance, our homes, and our actions may seem like pure Torah, but our minds & hearts often yearn for aspects of Mitzrayim (i.e., the non-Jewish influences).
This is a huge challenge. As written in a previous post, the secular world has everything down to a science.
They carefully study & calculate how to attract your very brain.
Songs are carefully composed so that just hearing a briefest sample of a song tricks your brain into wanting more.
Movies and TV shows are timed exactly to what your brain wants regarding scenes and turning points.
Advertisements spend a fortune on research to cultivate images and words to attack your brain into thinking a certain product or idea is irresistible.
Video games also hit you right in your brain.
Facebook has long been famous for their carefully crafted addictive aspects.
The list goes on and on.
How to Fight the Mitzrayim from Within
Bring more authentically Jewish influences into your life.
- Read material by real talmidei chachamim. (Nefesh Chaya by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus is a wonderful resource for women. It's also a real page-turner.)
- Read well-written books about tzaddikim, like Rebbetzin Kanievsky.
- Listen to or read transcripts of Rav Avigdor Miller when he starts describing how the non-Torah lifestyle & values appear through Torah eyes. (It's pretty witty too.)
- Listen to Jewish music composed by Jews with pure souls: chassidic niggunim or Sephardi piyutim are a great place to start.
- Do mitzvot. Learn Torah. Give tzedakah. Do chessed.
- Pay attention to talking like a Jew — what slang do we use? Do we pottymouth? Lashon hara? Any meaningless chatter or unnecessary clowning around?
- Talk to Hashem as you would a Best Friend Who truly cares about you and genuinely wants to listen to you.
Also (and I feel kind of silly saying this), but I'm obviously not any different or better than anyone reading this. All the above are things that I've either had to face with myself or am working on now.
I'm learning new aspects and gaining new insights all the time — sometimes on a daily basis.
Basically, you want to keep adding light to whatever your own personal darkness is.
May we all succeed in meriting a complete healing of both the body & the soul.
- Rav Avigdor Miller on Choosing the Right Psychologist
- Erev Rav Talks (a collection of drashos given by Rav Itamar Schwartz)
- Erev Rav Talks, pg. 34, It’s Not A Financial Issue of the Government (when he says "In fact, those people [who are pushing for the draft] might not even be aware that the ‘Sitra Achara’ is controlling them, and they might even be earnest in their intentions. Some of them actually are earnest, and they aren’t trying to be wicked. They simply don’t understand what they are doing to us.")
- Kosher Novels, Films & Shows, especially when he says toward the end: "Only the books and sefarim which have been written by those who served Hashem through a richly developed internal world of their own – whether the author was a man or a woman – are appropriate for a bas Yisrael (Jewish girl/woman) to read. There aren’t that many of these books/sefarim available, but they do exist."
- Why This Generation is So Astounding