Introduction to the current issue of Zman (Nissan 5773)
The True Master of Disguise
My mind is still reeling from this month’s cover story. In it, we detail how a CIA agent, armed with the most advanced spying equipment, crawled through the catacombs beneath the Kremlin to place a listening device that monitored Soviet activity during the Cold War. As this was happening, the subject of our cover story — Tony Mendez, the “master of disguise” — was overseeing an incredible body-double “exfiltration” at a gala Moscow event to help two Soviet spies escape to America under the noses of the KGB.
And this is only one of his amazing stranger-than-fiction operations.
Disguise — what a perfect theme heading into Pesach. Pesach reminds us that everything in our lives is ultimately manipulated behind the scenes by the true Master of Disguise. Our challenge is to realize it even today, even in current events that seem to run of their own accord.
As of this writing, Israel is locked in heated negotiations over the makeup of the next government. At stake is nothing less than the identity of the Jewish state, epitomized by the issue of forced conscription of yeshivah students.
In a recent shiur, Rabbi Yosef Viener emphasized how extremely dangerous this decree is and yet how difficult it is to explain to the average secular Israeli that the reason his country is still in existence is because the limud haTorah is generating tremendous zechusim. How does a Saddam Hussein fire 39 SCUD missiles into civilian areas and not one person is killed? How is it that war after war, incoming missiles cause relatively minor damage? How has a tiny nation been able to survive in a sea of hostile nations a thousand times its size?
The answer is that there is a Hidden Hand involved. There is a Master of Disguise pulling the strings behind the scenes.
How do we merit His help? Through Torah learning and its support. There is more Torah being learned now in Eretz Yisrael than at any time since the time of the Gemara. That zechus has enabled the miracle of Eretz Yisrael to continue.
Between regional instability and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, we need more people learning Torah, not less. We need to realize that the trajectory of a missile and the presence or absence of people at its impact is a mysterious calculation not in human control. No matter what the outcome of the current political situation, the issue of forced conscription desperately needs our continual attention and tefillos – as well as our continual focus on the protection Torah provides for klal Yisrael.
For years, the CIA needed to keep the work of their “master of disguise” hidden. But we need to do the opposite: to make the work of our Master of Disguise revealed. That is what Pesach is about. Kol hamarbeh l’saper, harei zeh meshubach. “The more one tells about the miracles in Egypt, the more one is to be praised.” May all Jews succeed this Pesach seeing through the Disguise and realizing Who is pulling the strings.
Yaakov Astor, Editor-in-Chief
Click the link to download (free, with his permission and encouragement) Rabbi Yosef Viener’s shiur on internet addiction (called “Family Security” or “Internet Filters”).
See here for a written adaptation of that shiur, which was originally published in the Pesach edition of HaModia in the special supplement called, “Kids of Hope.”
In HaModia’s Pesach edition there was a special supplement called “Kids of Hope.” I had two articles in there. One was entitled, “Girls At Risk” and the other was “Internet Addiction.” The latter included interviews with Philip Rosenthal, a therapist in the field and an expert on cyberspace crime, and Rabbi Yosef Viener, who offers to have anyone who wants contact him to be their internet policeman, so to speak. Here is an excerpt from the Internet Addiction article, specifically the part involving Rabbi Viener and his offer.
Rabbi Yosef Viener is a Posek, Halachah Columnist for HaModia and Rav of Kehillas Shaar Shamayim in Monsey, New York. As the first address for the community’s questions and concerns, every Rav is privy to things the average person has little or no idea about. Rabbi Viener not only fields shailos and hears peoples’ problems from his immediate community, but from many people all over the world.
Far from an alarmist, it is uncharacteristic for him to state with unusual absoluteness: “There is no single problem facing the individuals and the community at large greater than this. Nothing even comes close.”
He illustrates what he means:
A first-year beis midrash yeshiva bochur I had never met called me up. He had been home for bein hazman and was about to go back to yeshiva. He asked me if he could come over. I said yes. He came into my study, sat in a chair and proceeded to cry for the next twenty-five minutes. I couldn’t even hear what he was saying.