A Year Since the Tragedy of Gush Katif and the Shomron - but Where Has All the Faith Gone?

Here we stand today - the eve of the 9th of Av, and the eve of the anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the Northern communities of the Shomron/Samaria. Houses, Synagogues, Yeshivot, Mikvaot, schools, Kollelim - all smashed, uprooted, burned or - worse - converted into mosques and "museums" of terror by the Muslim hordes (much in the way that the Nazis wished to preserve certain "Jewish buildings" to stand as a testiment to the "Jewish community that was"...)

The fact is - and this should be evident to all but the most deluded: we lost the battle. Evil won and good lost. It's a sad reality, and one that needn't have been so, but it is indeed the reality.

Who is to blame? Well, each person has their own list of people and organisations and other groups and cliques, but in short, the government, the army, much of the religious leadership, and the supposed "Yesha Council" (them especially in fact), all played their part in this latest of Jewish tragedies.

Ridiculous "demonstrations," consisting of literally tens of thousands - and on some occassions hundreds of thousands - of people did... absoloutely nothing. They just stood, waved banners, flags and placards, sang a few songs, lit some candles, said a bit of tehillim and... they went home.

Some people blocked roads - they made an awful lot of people late for work that day (not that that bothers me,) and accomplished... nothing, because it had no teeth.

Because "painting the country orange" is like painting a house orange when its about to be bulldozed down. Instead of being just a big mess, it becomes a big, orange mess. But nothing more.

All the soldiers who carried out the evil commands, giving as their excuse the pathetic "we were only following orders." All the religious leaders who either ignored what was going on in return for money for yeshivot and/or political brownie points, coupled with those Rabbis who even discouraged the resistance with false words in the name of "Torah."

All the politicians who with their evil plans sent this all into motion. And all the other politicians who remained silent, even though they knew what would happen when and if they did...

All of these people must bare some of the blame.

But instead of ranting and raving and gnashing our teeth and then... going home, why don't we learn something from our mistakes for once? And yes, that includes the self-righteous "national-religious" public who say "I told you so" about Oslo and the expulsion from Gaza so smugly - and yet who at the same time ignored the blatantly true words of warning given by Rabbi Meir Kahane z"tl h"yd all those years ago - words which have so clearly come true today.

When the Sages in the Talmud talk about the Laws of monetary damage, many of Chazal say something truly amazing:

It is true that inflicting monetary damage or harm upon a fellow Jew is a despicable deed, but what is far worse is one who inflicts damage upon his brother through words and other spiritual ways.

How is this?

I have heard several answers given (not my own), but the main one is that whilst monetary damage can always be made up for by paying the victim compensation, a person who has been harmed spiritually and/or emotionally is far harder to do Teshuva over. How can you "make it up to him," when the damage is so great and so internal, that nothing you can physically do can compensate for it? Money is (for most people at least) an external part of our lives. It comes and it goes. Emotions and spirituality are internal - and far, far more important.

So it is TRUE that the evil forces - the "sitra achra," the "Erev Rav," the "Hellenists," or however you want to define them, succeeded in their despicable plan to destroy those holy communities. But just because the PHYSICAL battle was lost - why have we suddenly given in on the spiritual front as well?

How many people have given up hope since then, and retreated to the confines of their little communities and their little yeshivot and their own little bubbles? How many people have been turned insane and lost their faith? How many people have now resigned themselves to losing again and again and again - every time some evil person comes into office in Israel? (And that happens almost every year, so watch out!)

This is a far worse deafeat for our nation than anything else!

The Gemara relates that when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was told he could ask 3 requests of the newly-appointed Emperor of Rome, Emperor Vespasian, when Yerushalayim was on the brink of destruction, he uttered those famous words "give me (the city of) Yavneh and her chachamim (i.e. the Torah institutions and the Sages there)." He also asked for two other things: that the bloodline of Rabban Gamliel - the Davidic dynasty - be spared destruction, and that the saintly Rabbi Tzaddok - who had been fasting over the impending churban for 40 years - be nursed back to health.

We are taught - aside for the fact that Vespasian would never have agreed to a request of "spare the Temple" - Rabbi Yochanan asked specifically for these things because he knew that the most important thing of all that would see us through all of our troubles is the Torah, and the spiritual essence of the Jewish Nation that is built through it: faith and trust - Emunah and Bitachon - in the Almighty G-D. The belief - the KNOWLEDGE - that some day He would bring us back. And the rest is history...

We know that Rabbi Yochanan succeeded, so he was obviously on to something there.

The truth is that if we give up now we will have lost not only the battle, but the war as well! Let them gloat over the churban of Gush Katif - it will be rebuilt, and the smiles will be wiped off of their evil faces. We will return to the shores of Gaza just as well returned to the Hills of Judea, and the walls of Jerusalem, and the streets of Chevron, and Tzfat, and Bnei B'rak...

But if we lose the spiritual war, then that will be the real disaster. When the Jewish People have their Emunah and Bitachon, then nothing can stop us, and we always inevitably win - even if it is after a long and bloody struggle. But if we lose that - the faith and trust in G-D that all will be well so long as we do our part - then the future is much less certain. Certainly, such a "generation of slaves," would obviously be of too small faith to merit the Ge'ulah Sheleima, and this defeat would set the Final Redemption back an entire generation! (G-D forbid!)

We must surely learn from our mistakes of course. Pretty human-chains, loud demonstrations, and blocking off roads certainly don't provide a winning formula. And certainly then, the "political avenues" are fraudulent, and those who suggest "changing things from within" should be chewed up and spat out of the camp. Much, much more is needed if we are to prevent a similar such tragedy in the future - even though it will hurt to fight so hard at the time. But ultimately, the eternal nation is not afraid of the long road. We have surely experienced far worse.

But one thing that we cannot do is lose our faith. What some of those demonstrations DID show was an incredible amount of faith (if without the neccessary "teeth" of action)

And also, remember this. Last time - at the destruction of the Holy Temple - they took EVERYTHING - and yet the Nation still did not give up hope, and we did not forget Jerusalem. So why this time?!

The truth is, that Ge'ula will come anyway (as our Holy Sages tell us, and as is written in the words of the Holy Prophets), but we also know the 2 starkly different ways it can come: speedily and with haste, or in a long, drawn out and painful process. It is up to us how to bring it. Surely if we give up hope, we will not have earned the former. It is up to us. Let us pick ourselves up after this year of "aveilut" - mourning - perhaps light a candle if you wish, and stand straight and look forward and upwards. The fight is not yet over, and we have learned so much from our past mistakes.

Now we must finish it!

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