But if you will not hearken unto Me and will not do all of these commands and if you will scorn My laws, and if your soul will spurn My judgments so that all of My commandments are not carried out, and so that you renounce My covenant . . . (Leviticus 26:14-15).
This warning is commented upon by our Sages as follows:
"Many do not study the Word, but they fulfill it. Concerning these men, this Scriptural quotation says: 'You will not hearken and you will not do.' From this we learn that one who does not study will also not continue to fulfill the Word. Many neither study nor fulfill; but they do not scorn those who do fulfill it. Referring to these men, these Scriptural verses say: 'If you will scorn My laws.' We learn from this that one who neither studies nor fulfills will eventually scorn those who fulfill it.
"Many neither study nor fulfill, and scorn others who fulfill it; but they do not hate the Sages who teach it. Concerning them, these verses say: 'and if you will spurn My judgments.' Here we learn that one who neither studies nor fulfills and scorns those who fulfill it, will also come to hate the Sages who teach it. Many neither study nor fulfill, scorn those who fulfill it, and hate the Sages who teach it; but they do not oppose the observance of it by others. Concerning them the Scriptural verses say: 'so that all of My commandments are not carried out.' From this we learn that one who neither studies nor fulfills, scorns those who fulfill it, and hates the Sages who teach it, will eventually oppose its observance by others.
"There are many who neither study nor fulfill, scorn those who fulfill, hate the Sages, and oppose the observance of others; but they nevertheless still acknowledge that it was revealed on Mount Sinai. Concerning this category of people, the Scriptural passage says: 'all of My commandments.' This is to teach that one who neither studies nor fulfills, who scorns those who fulfill, who hates those who teach it, who opposes the observance of it by others, will eventually deny the Divine revelation of it at Sinai.
"A man can have fallen into all of these errors, but so far he might not have denied the existence of G-d. Concerning this, the Scriptural passage concludes with: 'so that you renounce My covenant.' This teaches that one who has fallen into all of these errors will also ultimately deny the existence of G-d entirely!" [The Sifra, a Halachic Midrash to Leviticus]
As explained in the Sifra above, this development of apostasy passes through the following seven stages: 1) the study of G-d's Word is abandoned; 2) G-d's Word is no longer fulfilled; 3) those who live according to G-d's Word are scorned; 4) the Sages, who teach G-d's Word, are hated; 5) observance of G-d's Word by others is opposed; 6) the Divine revelation of G-d's Word is denied; 7) the existence of G-d is denied.
(To be continued . . .)
Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch