The evil army

The evil army of Sparta

Excerpt of a shiur given over by Rabbi Eliezer Berland, shlita, on 29th Tammuz, 5780, (July 21st, 2020)


As for the Avvim who dwell in the open cities until Gaza, the Caftorim who went out of Caftor destroyed them, and dwelled in their place.” – Devarim 2:23

Caftorim, this is caput.

Caftorim were midgets, who grew to the size of a caftor – a button. Caftorim are midgets. A person comes to the world in order to be a midget – this is the purpose! To always be a midget, to be the smallest, the nothing of nothings.

“The Avvim” – it’s written in Tractate Chullin 60b, that they had 16 rows of teeth, above and below. The Avvim – that everyone was distorted. Even just from seeing them, people become distorted. They were giants, each one 10 metres, 30 metres, 60 metres.

Anyone who saw them became ‘distorted’, from sheer fear.

They lived in Gaza. Once upon a time, all of Gaza was full of giants. Each one could lift up 20,000 ton. [Today, the most that can be] lifted up is fifty kilos, for one second. The champion of the world can lift up 300 kilos for just one second. Here, we’re talking about 20,000 ton!

“And the Avvim who dwell in the open cities until Gaza” – they were huge, scary giants, with 16 rows of teeth, and whoever saw them was led astray. So, the midget Caftorim came, 10 midgets came and made war on the Avvim, and they vanquished them and conquered Gaza.[1]

A person comes to this world to fight against the Avvim.


Orpah was meant to have been a Moabite, the daughter of a king. How suddenly did she come to be with the inhabitants of the land of the Plishtim (the Philistines)?

After all, Ruth and Orpah were sisters, from the land of Moab. It’s written that they were the daughters of Eglon[2], or the grand-daughters of Eglon[3]. One says that Ruth was the daughter of Eglon, and another says that Ruth was the daughter of Eglon’s daughter.

Ruth – she had nothing. Only two barleycorns. She renewed the understanding of this halacha, who gathers just two barleycorns?! What sort of mad person, is this?! Ruth.

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“And you will eat, and you will be satisfied and you will leave over.” – Megillat Ruth, 2:14

“And it was left over in the days of Hezekiah”[4] – that in his days, the whole of Israel sat and learned Torah, and anyone who left the beit midrash (study hall) was stabbed with a sword. (The intention is that here, the bounty that Ruth merited to have was continued, and was ‘left over’ for all of Israel.

And all the bounty that she merited was only because of the Torah they possessed, that an am haaretz (person ignorant of Torah) wasn’t found amongst them.


And this is also what Rehoboam ben Shlomo wanted to do, after he saw that his father, Shlomo, didn’t merit to bring down a Beit HaMikdash  (Temple) of fire, and only a Temple of stone, that was destroyed because of our many sins.

He wanted to continue the full tikkun (rectification), and about this it’s said:

“So now my father saddled you with a heavy yoke; I shall add to your yoke! My father chastised you with sticks and I will chastise you with scorpions!” (Kings 1, 12:11)

You’re going to get scorpions from me! If you vote for me, you’re going to get scorpions!

Even the most primitive Polynesian in the world knows that if a person wants people to vote for him, and to crown him, and not someone else[5], that you don’t say to them that if they vote for him, he’s going to rule over them with more harshness than the previous king did.

So of necessity we have to say that the deeper meaning of this is very different from the more simple understanding.


A person wants people to vote for him.

He says, there will be free public buses, until the age of 18, you’ll get free hospital treatment, you’ll get bread for a shekel…

Amnon Yitzhak said if I am elected, there will be bread for a shekel.

They said, this is called ‘bread and circuses’ – you will get bread for free and amusements for free. The Caesar said, today there is going to be plunder from all the countries, no end of booty!

They said, bread will be distributed for free, and entertainments for free. There will be shows in every place – for free! Bread and circuses.

A person wants them to vote for him, so he says there will be free bread! Free milk! Free medical care! Free medicine!

What sort of person says, I’m going to give you scorpions! Scorpions?! You’re going to eat scorpions. At 4 in the morning, I’m going to put a scorpion into everyone’s bed!!


Although, this is what people like to hear, that there is going to be discipline.

There is going to be iron discipline. There is going to be control. Not every child is going to do whatever he wants, whatever he feels like.

This one gets up at 12, and this one gets up at 10, this one is awake the whole night, and that one is going to get up at 1.

There is no such thing as this! Army discipline!

Like in Sparta (an ancient Greek nation that existed at the time of Ahashverosh). Sparta was a place where they prepared people to become soldiers with extreme cruelty.

Whoever couldn’t go to sleep outside, under the stars – they also had female soldiers. He used to wander around there outside, aged three, sleeping without a blanket, without anything, in the snow, in the rain, it didn’t matter.

They said to them just think that now you are in the army. Now, you are in a war. Now, you are in a combat position, a flood is going to fall on you, you are in the middle of the sludge, in the middle of the mire.

What does it mean, to be in a war, Hashem should have mercy?

In the middle of that combat position, everything is mud and mire. Snow is falling on you, and rain, and hail.

In Sparta, they educated the children from the age of three to sleep in the fields.

It seems, they must have been Breslovers.


So Rehoboam said, by me, you are going to eat scorpions.

What’s going on here?! In the days of Shlomo, you did whatever you did, you woke up, you went to sleep.

It’s written in the Midrash Rabbah, Eichah, that they played with balls on Shabbat, whatever it was possible to do, from seven in the morning until eight at night. You can go crazy a million times, they played with balls.

If this is on grass, then it’s assur (forbidden), because it pulls up the grass.

But if this is a paved floor, so they say, everything is paved, it’s muttar, permitted. Basketball is permitted, just not football mamash (i.e. on a grass pitch), because this is already money and livelihoods, and chillul Shabbat (desecrating Shabbat).

They come in cars. Stam, to play with a ball on Shabbat, doesn’t involve any aveira (transgression) apart from that it’s the way of the outside world, and the deed of a hooligan.

Only hooligans play with balls…


So, Rehoboam said, there is no such thing as this, with swords. Next to each person there will be stood a sword or a knife. Whoever will try to straighten their back will get a knife in the back (like it was in the days of King Hezekiah, the King of Judah.)

There is no hefkerut (irresponsibility / lack of accountability), the hefkerut is over!

This is what people want to hear, that there will be discipline, and that there will be a new king, and there won’t be any more hefkerut.

There is going to be seder (order). People will wake up in the morning at 5am, and they will go to the mikva, and immediately at 5:45 am, it’s already Shmonah Esrei, and tomorrow it will also be Hallel.

It will finish Hallel at 12pm, and mussaf will be finished at 4 in the afternoon.

People want discipline! They want order! They don’t want hefkerut!


By Shlomo, everything was hefker (lacking responsibility / accountability).

Hefker Beit Din – hefker.

One person gets up, another doesn’t get up, one person prays, another one doesn’t pray.

There still wasn’t Shmoneh Esrei then, this was only arranged by the Anshei Knesset HaGadolah (the People of the Great Assembly), at the beginning of the Second Temple period. Everyone used to pray ‘the prays of Chanah’, ‘He kills and He gives life’. ‘From Hashem, the pillars of the aretz (land). Pillars of the land – this is the tzaddikim.

Chanah said to Eli, “I am the isha hanitzevet (the woman who stands)” (Shmuel 1, 1:26). This is me, the standing one! I am nitzevet! I don’t move as much as a hairsbreadth!

A person needs that he will have such sisters that he won’t move as much as a hairsbreadth, and he won’t give up on the prayers, and he won’t give up on doing birkat hamazon (blessing after bread), and won’t give up on praying with kavana (intention).

This is called nitzevet, standing.

A person needs to educate his sisters, that you don’t come here without a bracha.


“I am the standing woman, with you in this.” – I’m a friend of Nitzevet (the mother of King David)[6]. So, “for this youth have I prayed” (Shmuel 1, 1:27), that I would dafka bring to the world Shmuel.

My helper said to me, Shushan, Eli said to Chanah, ‘accept David.’ David, when Shmuel died at age 52, David was exactly 20. When Shmuel was 32, David was born. Eli said, accept David, why do you need Shmuel?! He’s a young man with chutzpah! It’s forbidden to clarify halacha in front of your Rav. It’s assur to say a single halacha!

“They slaughtered the bull and brought the child to Eli” (Shmuel 1, 1:26).

They went to search for a Kohen, so Shmuel said, why are you looking for a Kohen? Slaughter it! We’ll do shwarma for everyone! Now, it’s just forbidden to eat meat[7], from today at 8. So there is nothing to do, shwarma here, for people.


One of the Rav’s grandsons asked if it’s possible to bathe on erev Shabbat in hot water (in the Nine Days).

[The Rav replies]:

Also not on erev Shabbat. Perhaps it’s possible [to bathe] limb by limb, there’s a permission for limb by limb, not for the whole body in one go. The right hand, the left hand, the right leg, the head – and that’s it. If it’s done separately, ever limb separately, then it’s possible to have hot water. A little.


And is it possible to cut fingernails on erev Shabbat (in the Nine Days)?

Assur (forbidden).

[The shiur was given just after erev Rosh Chodesh Av]. Now we wash the clothes and we are wearing them. For men boys, it’s possible to change [clothes] also in the Nine Days – only for boys, to honor Shabbat with a white shirt, new pants, lichvod Shabbat. And so before Shabbat, like this it’s permitted to wear new clothes, even a totally new shirt.

[The Three Weeks] – this is Chabad, Chachmah, Binah, Daat….


…[This Shabbat, before the Nine Days] –

Shabbat Chazon, we will receive prophesy.

Once, there was 60 ribua (myriads) of prophets. We also need in this generation 60 myriads of prophets. This is Nitzevet, if the daughter doesn’t move even a hairsbreadth, from three prayers a day….

And Chanah prayed for three hours, and Eli never saw something like this.

“And Eli said to her, until when will you be drunk? Put your wine away from yourself!” (Shmuel 1, 1:14). Put your wine away from yourself! How is it possible to be so drunk?! He consulted the Urim and Tumim, and what came up was [the Hebrew letters] Shin, Caf, Reish, Hey – shicrah (drunk).

According to Reish Lakish, [the letters on the Urim and Tumim were] protuding. In Tractate Yoma, 73b, if it was protruding, so it also lit up for him in order. The shita (approach) of Reish LaKish is that you couldn’t make a mistake, because the letters lit up in order.

But, according to Rabbi Yochanan, they stam lit up. Shin, caf, reish, hey, lit up….

[I.e. they weren’t in order, and had to be ‘arranged’ properly by the High Priest to understand their meaning.]


Chanah said to him [Eli], what, you don’t know how to put the letters together correctly.

It wasn’t ‘shikor’ – drunk – it was Kashera – kosher. “No, my lord.” (Shmuel 1, 1:15) – No my lord, you don’t have ruach hakodesh (the spirit of prophecy), says the Gemara. In a manner of speaking, he fell apart.

You see here a woman, for three hours, bring her a something to eat! It’s written in the Sfat Emet, we need to print this. The Sfat Emet, on Bemidbar, for Shavuot, 5656, that if he had brought some food, then immediately Moshiach ben David would have come, within a second, and not after four generations, when he was already being called a ‘rebel against the King’ every moment.

They called him a rebel against the throne, and they decreed against him a death sentence each second.

David was the biggest neshama (soul) of all the generations.



[1] For an explanation of this statement, see Tractate Sotah 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See Tractate Nazir 23b.

[4] See Tractate Sanhedrin 94b.

[5] At this time, Rehoboam’s throne was being challenged by Jeroboam, who wanted to depose him and ultimately succeeded in splitting the 10 tribes away from his rule.

[6] See Tractate Bava Batra 91a.

[7] The Rav gave this shiur over at the beginning of the Nine Days, 5780, when it’s forbidden to eat meat.


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