Prologue:            The land spoke a single language with a few issues (11:1)– The prelude to the story of Migdal Bavel is somewhat contradictory. Earlier we had read that the nations had spread themselves throughout the world based upon family and language. Now it seems like the Torah is suggesting that there was a single universal language. How does that make sense? Moreover, Achdus or unity seems to be a desired state in life. Why would Hashem punish the people for wanting to stay united?

HaRav Yaakov Ariel Shlita notes that there is a fundamental difference between a Safa and a Lashon. While both are normally assumed to refer to spoken languages, the Safa refers to the external language of the people, utilized when explain mundane, external issues to each other. Lashon speaks to the internal language of the people – its heart and soul. The differences between the nations are not merely in the spoken word, it is in each country’s style, culture and mentality. When the nations aligned to build the Migdal (tower), each wanted to make a name for itself. THAT ALONE, was a recipe for disaster.

Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita often notes that true unity is a gift unique to Am Yisrael. We have the ability to relate and unite internally and fully – not just superficially. Hence the nations of the world are referred to as “Mishpichos Haadama” while we are “Am Yisrael.”



Treating the Suicidal Terrorist



                A mental health professional faced an impossible dilemma.  He was charged with the responsibility for a major prison system in Israel.  Among those who were prisoners were numerous terrorists who were sentenced to long prison terms.  Facing life sentences for their crimes, many of these individuals became suicidal. The mental health professional was asked to provide mental health counseling and psychotherapy to help the terrorists.  He wanted to know if based on the Torah’s ethical system was he obligated to provide the psychotherapy or perhaps should he ignore the request given the seriousness of the crime.


                On the one hand, the Talmud (Avodah Zara 26a) notes that one is not allowed assist the murderers who kill Jews for sport. This matter is cited by the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 158:1) as being of the principle “Lo Maalin – that we don’t pick him up”.  But does psychotherapy fall into the category of a “pick me up?”


                Rav Zilberstein Shlita (Shiurei Torah L’Rofim III:290) seem to feel the conversations and psychotherapy do not meet the criteria of “Maalin” since the individual is already in a safe situation  --on suicide watch in prison.  Moreover, he notes that Rav Eliyashiv ztl.  maintained that “Maalin” didn’t apply for a totally different reason: in the moment, the convicted terrorist wants to give up his life.  By giving him the motivation to live, we are also extending the time he serves for his crime.  This does not meet the requirements of Maalin according to Rav Elyashiv.


                At the same time, the question of providing psychotherapy in Israel raises a different question. We learn that there is a prohibition of “Lo Seichanem” which the Gemara (AZ 20a) interprets as not to give a free gift – even advice (See Rambam  Hil. Rotzeiach 12:15).  Wouldn’t this apply to treating the terrorist?  Wouldn’t providing the psychotherapy count as advice?


                Rav Zilberstein explains that telling somebody not to do an Avaira is not a “free gift”.  The intent of the person providing the advice, is Kavod Shomayim.  Rav Elyashiv ztl. adds that the rest of the advice helps  him accept his punishment – that’s no gift.


                And what about the possibility that if he is paroled he might sin again?  Rav Zilberstein explains that while parole is not ideal, Rav Elyashiv ruled that since world oversight would look badly on a society that does not provide proper mental health services to all of its prisoners – this would promulgate a large Chilul Hashem and endanger many more Jewish lives worldwide. There it is incumbent to provide full and complete mental health services to all prisoners to the best of the ability of the mental health provider.


Shabbat Shalom