BIZAYON HATORAH! Comedy Video Made By Frum Jews Uses Sefer Torah In Despicable Manner

(Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 08:01 AM)

st[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

There is no question that “Ivdu es Hashem BeSimcha – Serve Hashem in joy” is a paramount Mitzvah. Indeed, the Satmar Rebbe writes that it lies at the very foundation of all of the Taryag Mitzvos (Divrei Yoel Parshas Lech Lecha, first piece). Humor, for many people, is an important tool in developing that Simcha – joy.

There is, however, a time and place for everything.

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One cannot and one may not violate severe prohibitions – all in the name of humor.

A recent YouTube video has crossed the line in its attempt at humor and has caused a horrific bizayon haTorah – literally.

Essentially, the piece, in an effort to create a humorous video, depicts someone who has difficulty lifting the Torah almost dropping it. He goes home to work out and eventually comes back to do the Hagbaah, but this time does an effective job. The only thing is that the second time he was not called for Hagbaah, but for Shlishi.

The problem with the video is fourfold:

1] It is using a real genuine Sefer Torah for a different purpose – this degrades the Sefer Torah which is clearly forbidden by Halacha.

2] The first scene also has the person pretending that he cannot hold the weight of the Torah and swings it to and fro as if it was a “close call” and almost falls. This is also a disgraceful use of the Sefer Torah and is forbidden

3] The video also depicts the horrific abuse of the gartel of a sefer Torah, where it is actually used to wipe the brow of the actor, rachmana litzlan, to make the point that he is nervous in the act of Hagbaah.

4] The video was filmed in a shul that demands a certain level of sanctity and decorum rather than frivolous behavior.

NATURE OF THE VIOLATION

The nature of debasing a Sefer Torah is a debate among the Acharonim. The Pri Magadim in his Mishbetzes HaZahav 153:1 writes that disgracing a Sefer Torah is actually a full Torah prohibition. The Daas Kedoshim (282) who argues holds that it is a Rabbinic violation – not a Biblical one. The Pri Magadim, however, does not identify which Torah prohibition is being violated. This author would like to suggest that it is either “lo saasum kain lashem elokecha” or “ki dvar Hashem baza.”

SOURCES

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Yuma (7:1) explains that only on Yom Kippur was a sefer Torah brought to the Kohain to lain from. At all other times, the Yerushalmi indicates, it is forbidden to bring a Torah to others as it is degrading to the Torah to bring it to someone else. The Shulchan Aruch codifies this idea in OC 135:14 that a Sefer Torah is not to be brought to a prison in which to lein from it even on Rosh hashana or Yom Kippur. There, of course, it would have been a Mitzvah to lein from it, but it is a dishonor to the Sefer Torah – how much more so here.

The Zohar in Parshas Acharei Mos (71b) is even more stringent on the matter. The Zohar forbids the transfer of a Sefer Torah from one shul to another. This is on account of it being an act of disrespect to the Sefer Torah itself. By the same token we do not bring a Sefer Torah to anywhere where it will not be leined from for at least three times.

EXAMPLES OF SHAMING A SEFER TORAH R”L

The notion of respecting a Sefer Torah is found in numerous areas and in other halachos as well.

The Rosh in tractate Megillah (3:13) indicates that the reason why we do not lein from the Haftorah while the Sefer Torah has not been rolled is because it is a bizayon – disrespectful and shameful for the Torah to be opened while they are reading from a Navi. If it is a bizayon for the Torah to be opened while doing a lesser Mitzvah – how much more so is it a bizayon for a Torah to be opened while filming a comedy skit!

Similarly the Tashbatz Vol. III #98 writes that there is a bizayon HaTorah when the Torah is to be read and one leaves the room even just between the verses. We see clearly that merely leaving the Torah is considered a degradation of the Torah.

The Shulchan Aruch writes that when wrapping a Torah the gartel must be swung around the Torah rather than moving the Torah around the gartel – because of Bizayon for the Sefer Torah. This is yet another halacha that shows how careful we must be in the use of a Sefer Torah.

The Kav HaYashar (chapter 54) writes that when a sefer is opened and there is something that gives off a stench in the room – the sefer should be closed. This is true by regular Seforim – how much more so regarding a Sefer Torah.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE NOW

There is no question that this video should be removed from YouTube at once. The very existence of it shames the Torah and undermines the proper veneration that we must have for our Holy Torah. The producers of the video clip should certainly use their talents to bring joy to Klal Yisroel, but they should do so in ways that do not undermine our Torah values, and they should retract the video and explain that it was removed on account of the fac that the Sefer Torah, gartel, and the shul were treated improperly. This can make a Kiddush Hashem out of the affair.

KIDDUSH HASHEM IS GREATER THAN CHILLUL HASHEM

There is a fascinating passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi in Sanhedrin (6:7): Rabbi Abba Bar Zamina said in the name of Rav Hoshiah: Greater is a Kiddush Hashem then a Chillul Hashem.

The obvious question is that this statement is patently obvious. Of what need was there for Rabbi Hoshiah to state it? One possible answer is that Rabbi Hoshiah was teaching us a profound insight in matters of Chillul Hashem. If someone made a grave error that causes a chillul Hashem, it is not too late for him. He can rise to the occasion and walk it back or make up for the deed that was done.

Rabbi Hoshiah is presenting us that when someone does such an action, when he undoes the action that he had previously violated – then a great Kiddush Hashem has occurred. This Kiddush Hashem that man was endowed with the ability to change and undo a wrong he may have committed and that this is what Hashem wants of us, is actually greater than the original Chillul Hashem – the desecration of Hashem’s Name that he had originally initiated.

The producers should really consider this matter carefully and remove the offending video immediately. Although much work and effort was obviously made in producing it, they know deep down that it is the right thing to do.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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27 Comments

  1. Climbing says:

    Thank you Rabbi Hoffman, I had the same thoughts.

  2. must_hock says:

    I would have never came accross the video. Now as curious as I am. I searched and found if. The author is possibly creating more attention to this than would have ever been

  3. philosopher says:

    Thank you Rabbi Hoffman for writing about this.

    I have not seen this particular video, but can just imagine it based all of the stupid comedy/music videos I’ve seen, all within the context and themes of portraying “Yiddishkeit” or even using pesukim to promote stupid and immaturely done music videos that is a chillul Hashem.

    There’s a fine line in making good comedy and other forms of entertainment based on our Jewish lives and indeed there is good entertainment out there. But some people just don’t have the maturity and decency and respect for Yiddishkeit to walk the fine line and end up making a bezoyan haTorah and a chillul Hashem.

  4. appleface says:

    So many people confuse Immaturity and silliness with Simcha! These people obviously never experienced Real Simcha!

  5. Wise-Guy says:

    I’m wondering if it’s possible that the “Torah” used here was not a real one.
    (We’ve all seen the small Torah’lech that the kids use on Simchas-Torah. Perhaps they also have such in large sizes.)

    And it’s maybe also possible that this wasn’t filmed in a real Shul.
    I see bookcases of Sforim, but couldn’t see if there’s an Aron-Kodesh.

    (I know I’m stretching the “Giving the benefit of the doubt” a bit. But maybe it’s possibly true….)

    If indeed I’m correct (hopefully), then the main error they committed was that they didn’t state a clear disclaimer, notifying viewers that the Torah-scroll depicted is not genuine.

  6. mentsch1 says:

    Oy
    Such am haratzus!
    But Rav Hoffman, I recently saw a chazan kidnapped and thrown into a dumpster during kedusha on simchas Torah. And when I protested, I was told to leave because it’s the minhag of the shul . So disgusting it is, surprising it is not.

  7. Meno says:

    I agree with everything in this article except problem #2. It was just camera tricks, he wasn’t actually swinging it around.

    Regardless, the video is extremely disgraceful, and it is very sad that many people don’t understand that.

  8. apushatayid says:

    This is only an outgrowth of using Gedolim as props in advertisements for various causes. No kavod hatorah for gedolim and now no kavod hatorah for a sefer torah (even if it IS a fake) or a beis knesses.

  9. jewish source says:

    I truly believed it was a fake sefer in my subconscious instinctively I did not believe it was real I was melamed zechus

  10. Curiosity says:

    This is just as symptom of a greater lack of yirat Shamayim that permeates many “frum” communities.

  11. Bubby B says:

    While Rabbi Hoffman, may be correct in all his allegations; it would have been more in the, “true Ruach HaTorah” and Yiddishkeit for him to have contacted the producers privately.
    As was mentioned by another commenter, I too would probably not have known about this, without R’Hoffman bringing it to the fore. He’s advertising for the video and, although I’m by no means a Posek/Posekes/Maharat, it seems to me his advertising this matter goes into some form of Lashon Horah.

  12. mendoza says:

    rabbi hoffman , you talking about it more wrong

    a] you are causing more people to find and look at the video

    b] i understand he made a mistake . and he will do teshuva , but who made you the policeman of the world ? hua ?

    c] there is a way to tell someone to do the right thing .. deachai shalom

    d] btw are satmar ? or nuri karta ?
    becuse u sound like one

    e] do teshuva and stop the maclokis !!!!!

  13. mendoza says:

    8. Dovid wrote:

    Haters please take a break and enjoy a good laugh!

    The Torah that was used was not a Kosher Torah and therefore it poses no problems- A little humor never killed anybody!

    February 9, 2016 6:51 pm
    Reply

  14. Meno says:

    #12
    How does he sound like satmar or “nuri” karta?

    I’m not sure what you think those are

  15. HockPurposesOnly says:

    why are you trying to make fights? Would’ve been smarter to contact him privately instead of making a public discussion. Maybe you want people to think your’e very frum bec. you got backlash on your article supporting Rechnitz.

  16. apushatayid says:

    what does satmar or neturei karta have to do with kavod hatorah and kavod shamayim? whether he should or should not have reached out to the producers privately is a question I will leave to someone more knowledgeable than me. to all those who cautioned rabbi hoffman to give benefit of the doubt, how do you know he didnt reach out to the producer of the video and only wrote this after getting a negative, or perhaps no response, and you are not giving rabbi hoffman the benefit of the doubt?

  17. Mark Levin says:

    Never found any of his stuff funny whatsoever, and I have a great sense of humour.

  18. Talmidchochom says:

    I am confident that true Bnai Torah and yirei shomayim were not involved in this stupidity

  19. HockPurposesOnly says:

    #16 the producer/actor wrote an apology/response and said he wasn’t contacted. That’s how i know. Btw he took down the video.

  20. ajewisayid says:

    1) Why is there an article about this. Wouldn’t the best thing to do if you felt there was a problem with making a Bizayon Hatorah to directly email the producer and ask him to remove it.

    2)Who said its a real sefer torah ? Is’nt he a beniney and there for you would HAVE TO be dam lkaf zchus?

    3)Unfortunately I read through some of the comments on this page and some people have said such nasty things and such pure Loshan Hara that has nothing to do with the video.

    4)We have to work together. I dont think its appropriate to try and publicize someones (potential) wrongdoing . This wont help.

  21. eloquence says:

    First of all, to the commenters stating that they believe the people in the video are not “true Bnei Torah or yerei shamayim”

    I am fairly certain that there is an issur of Motzi Shem Ra. Based off of your comment it might be something you have never heard of. The fact that you can so easily and in such a public manner shame another yid is disgusting.

    On a second note, there is absolutely no need for this article to be posted in such a public setting. As commenters before me have already posted, this article has brought significantly more attention to this video than it otherwise would have had. The proper way to have addressed the situation would have been to be in contact privately with the producers of the video. Destroying them in a public forum is absolutely vile.

    It’s disgusting to me how people can go around ridiculing others when we have so many problems of our own. Maybe before we hate on our peers we should look at ourselves to see where we can improve.

  22. joe shmoe says:

    Whoaa!

    I don’t see where Rabbi Yair bashed the people in this video. He explained how we have to be careful with kavod hatorah and bet Knesset! This does not mean that he has to verify this story. And YES, there is something wrong with people making videos with humor regarding a shul (or lookalike) as well as a torah (or a lookalike). This belittles kavod hatorah (even if only a lookalike) and Rabbi Yair was right in pointing out that behavior that belittles kavod shomayim or kavod hatorah is wrong for many reasons including the ones noted.

    Accepting mussar is accepting being human!

  23. YW fan says:

    First of all I am in complete agreement with comment #12. I see absolutely nothing good coming out of this article! To #16, if he did reach out to the producer he probably would have also gotten his consent before posting this article and I highly doubt that he would get it! In any case (and this is for all readers) I’m gonna be brave and tell the truth now (and I dare say not all of the above commentators are doing the same). The 1st time I saw the video I actually DID see the humor in it and only when I saw this article did I realize that MAYBE I was wrong! And finally to all the people who say they never actually saw the video even after reading this article…DON’T GIVE ME THAT!

  24. pshater says:

    Look, there is no doubt that the video was very wrong and it’s anyone’s guess what could possibly have been going through the producers and performers minds during creation.

    However, this response was an awful and frightening way to react.

    We can all attest to the flagrant social media society we live in where anyone who wishes can post any sort of treachery and in seconds ruin someone’s life and parnassah.

    We strive so hard to avoid this culture; to refrain from the the lashon harah on the internet and the evils and destructive power inherent.

    The hypocrisy is painful. The author could SO EASILY have approached the creators privately and voiced his concerns, but no; let’s jump to post a vindictive, condemnatory article on Yeshiva World all in the name of righteousness and the Torah. Somehow, somewhere I feel a Sefer Torah is crying just a little bit harder because of this.

  25. philosopher says:

    Whether the producer of this comdey was contacted or not, the larger issue is how “frum” entertainers produce cringeworthy, imature “entertainment”. I guess there are enough people that go for this “entertainment”. One can call this lifestyle “Orthodox Jewish culture” which is living by rote and habit as opposed to living with meaning.

  26. mendoza says:

    enough enough
    lets talk about not talking during
    davining
    thats more vec tik

  27. pshater says:

    I owe the author a public apology. I jumped to allege that had the author quietly reached out to the creators they would have realized their misjudgment and pulled down the clip. After posting my comment I did reach out directly to those involved.

    My harsh words were not only out of line and flat out wrong. The creators were not apologetic at all. This video is so against everything we believe in yet those involved clearly didn’t feel that way and didn’t even feel a need to remove it out of respect for others. What a chilul hashem. I was so very wrong.

    Rabbi Hoffman, I hope you are moichel me.

    And by the way; regarding philosopher’s comment – this has NOTHING to do with the quality of frum entertainment. People are entitled to enjoy and produce whatever quality entertainment they want; this is an issue of chilul Hashem and bizayon to our holy Torah.

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