Friday, April 07, 2006

Setting Things Right


By Rabbi Yehuda Richter

(Read this article and many more at www.hameir.org/dst )

Three participated (in the scheme to throw the Jewish babies into the Nile), and they are: Bilam, Job, and Yitro. Bilam gave the advice and was eventually killed. Job was silent and suffered great affliction. Yitro fled, and his children merited to sit in the Sanhedrin (Sota 11)

The belief based public is stunned. "For what has the Lord done this unto the land? What meaneth the heat of His anger? (Nezavim) Those who specialized in giving wicked Israeli governments the benefit of the doubt, in "learning zechut" - find themselves today as the most hated sector in Israel, a virtual state enemy! The public who spoke optimistically and constantly about "adding light", "strengthening the good" and "the Am" (nation) – ended up with a party called "Kadima." If Shinuy was a party intended to fight the haredim, know that "Kadima" is a party that was established specifically to fight the national religious public. We can make a new sticker: "With (misplaced) Love, We Have Lost"

The head of the Ulpana in Maale Levona stated recently: "The haredim of today have committed the sin of the spies in their relation to Eretz Yisrael. The national religious sector has committed the sin of the Golden Calf in their relation to the state." Indeed, the state has become an entity of worship and the IDF uniform has become intrinsically "holy". Yet, these are precisely the two bodies which threaten the national religious sector! The Golden Calf has risen against its maker!

Since the liquidation of Gush Katif, the belief based sector has pledged to do some self-introspection. More face-to-face meetings. More involvement in the IDF. More reaching out to those in Tel-Aviv. Without getting into the validity of these slogans, there is a basic mistake being made. When one wants to do "tsheuva" or make amends for wrongs committed, there is a natural tendency to run to those farthest from you: to make amends with the neighbor, with the store owner, with an acquaintance. But sometimes we forget the most important "tsheuva" – with those closest to us who have been hurt. This is why Rav Chaim Vital says: "Man is judged mainly on how he treats his wife." For it is always easier to do tsheuva with those who are distant, and to forget about those closest.

Almost a year ago, a young man in yeshiva approached me and said: "This mass mobilization against us is in essence a repeat performance of what was done to Rabbi Kahane and his students. But we were silent then. Now, measure for measure, God is bringing the same war upon us." This young man astutely grasped what is written in Masechet Sanhedrin (106, Etz Yosef) – "He who is able to protest against the evil and does not protest, will be punished with the same type of evil."

The police and army behaved cruelly in Amona? Good morning! For decades the army and police have behaved similarly towards the haredim at demonstrations for Shabbat or desecration of graves. They behaved with the exact same cruelty towards Rabbi Kahane and his students, before and after his death. And the belief-based sector was silent. We are stunned at the travesties of justice of the Israeli judiciary? That children of 12 and 13 are held for weeks or months in prison on petty charges? That Jews are routinely burdened by restriction orders, house arrest and administration detention? But that is what Rabbi Kahane and his students had suffered for decades. And we were quiet.

Twenty years ago, the authorities banned the Kach party from running for Knesset. The right wing parties were in cahoots with the left, from fear that Rabbi Kahane would take away their seats. Rabbi Kahane said then: "You are not banning me, you are banning Torah. Today they banned Kach, tomorrow they will ban somebody else." Before the Supreme Court ban, Rabbi Kahane students requested from rabbis in Israel to sign their names on a statement that Rabbi Kahane was simply quoting from the Torah. The rabbis refused to sign.

When the authorities decided to close the "Center of the Jewish Idea" on Jaffa Street, we were quiet. When they shut down the Jewish Legion, what did we do? Who protested? Who cared? Can we be surprised that the government of Israel today threatens to close down three hesder yeshivas which called for refusing orders? After all, God punishes us measure for measure.

For years, the belief based public did not accept Rabbi Kahane's followers into their institutions, yeshivas, newspapers or even settlements. And so, it is easy to talk about "ahavat Yisrael" or "to settle into the hearts of the Tel Aviv residents", but much harder to make amends and fix relationships with the "black sheep" of our family.

That is what Job did. At first, he was indifferent towards the suffering of others. But at the end of his life, the midrash teaches that "he gave his soul for the downtrodden." We must acknowledge the truth: Rabbi Kahane saw 30 years ago what we see today. The time for tsheuva has come.

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