Monday, July 28, 2014

seeing the birah dolekes -- and doing something about it

I used to think that the point of the Midrash that compares Avraham’s discovery of G-d with someone who observes a birah dolekes, a burning castle, and wonders where the castle’s owner is, is that question, “Where is the owner of this castle?”  I used to think that what made Avraham unique was the fact that he asked what was going on while everyone else just saw the birah dolekes and moved on. 

I’ve since changed my mind.  I think what made Avraham unique was the very fact that he saw the birah dolekes in the first place. 

I’ve been wondering just what it takes to rouse American Jewry from its state of apathy.  What does it take for people to see that there is a birah dolekes on fire?  Is Israel being in a state of war not enough?  Is the overt anti-semitism of Europe not enough?  Is Chicago Jewish schoolchildren being taunted with pictures of Holocaust ovens and being told to get in enough?  Is the absurd request by John Kerry or Barak Obama for Israel to declare an immediate cease-fire even while its enemies openly declare their intent to continue to wage war enough?

There is a birah dolekes out there.  A quick “shir ha’ma’alos” after davening on Sunday morning before you run to sit by the pool and sip your iced tea or eat an ice cream cone is better than nothing, but let’s face it – if you were in danger, wouldn’t you hope others would do more on your behalf?

There is a birah dolekes out there.  When a building is burning, do you need to check whether the firemen or those who come to help share your hashkafos, or are shomerei mitzvos?  Do you even need to check if they are Jewish?  When the building is on fire, anyone with a water or hose who comes to help is my friend.  Anyone who cares for the State of Israel and is willing to speak out to save Jewish lives is someone I'm willing to join forces with, at least on this issue.   We’ll work out our hashkafic differences some other time.

Read what’s out there in social media, on comments to websites, heck even in some of the mainstream press – this is not about whether Israel has a right to the ‘67 borders or other borders.  It’s about whether Israel right to exist as a country.  It’s whether Jews in France, in England, in Germany, can live without fearing attacks.  It's about whether Jews deserve the same rights as anyone else in the world.

I started writing this in the morning and took a break at lunch to make my way to the rally I posted about yesterday.  I came back filled with a dose of optimism.  Thousands of people were there.  The subways were filled with folks making their way crosstown, uptown, downtown to attend, many if not most of the men wearing kippot and women with hats and sheitels, people carrying signs and flags. 

We take it for granted that our kids will by osmosis develop a love for Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.  That’s laissez faire chinuch.  You can talk about these ideas at your Shabbos table or send your kids to schools where these ideas are taught (and how many of our schools don’t even talk about current events in Eretz Yisrael?  How many of our kids know more about the Civil War than about the history of the modern State of Israel?), but children learn from our behavior.  Kol hakavod to the parents pushing strollers at that rally today, to the camps that bussed kids in from the mountains, to the young people who were out demonstrating and who showed that idealism and activism are alive in our community.

We talk about the need for achdus during the nine days.  Here was a rally sponsored by the OU, by United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, by the Union for Reform Judaism.  It brought diverse speakers and diverse groups together under one banner, because at the end of the day Jewish life and the Jewish State is something we all believe in.

Kol havadod to everyone who showed up at this rally and/or to the many other events taking places in communities all over.  Kol hakavod to everyone making their voices heard, whether it is at a rally, on social media, writing to a newspaper, calling a Congressman or Senator.  Kol hakavod to everyone adding tehillim, learning, doing more mitzvos, during this time of crisis.  You see the birah hadolekes and are doing something about it.
When you read and see so much hatred out there, it is hard to think that your little bit makes a difference.  But when you see 10,000 or 15,000 people disrupting their Monday afternoon to come together, you feel a little better about our future as a people. 


  1. "Is Chicago Jewish schoolchildren being taunted with pictures of Holocaust ovens and being told to get in enough?" And the principal was relocated, not fired! Regardless of antisemitism, that's a level of cruelty one wouldn't want to see in a principal. Unless the people judging him don't think it's any big deal...

  2. a) This appears to be the converse of The Rov's aphorism: anyone who works to prevent Klal Yisroel from living in Eretz Yisroel is Amalek, regardless of actual parentage.

    b) May I sadly point out to you a short-sightedness on your part. To your list of France, Germany, England... you should add Miami, Boston, Chicago...

    One difference is that in Miami, at least, people may obtain the wherewithal to defend themselves.

  3. Anonymous10:44 PM

    please have yourself a fantastic shabbos nachamu
    and may Hashem have rachmones on Klall Yisroel and the entire world and send the MOSHIACH now!☺πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜€