Tuesday, June 05, 2018

sitting on the fence

Rashi writes that the Torah juxtaposes the story of the meraglim in parshas Shlach with the story of Miriam's criticism of Moshe and her punishment (see the meforshei Rashi -- maybe the Torah is simply recording events in chronological order?) because the meraglim should have learned from what happened to Miriam not to speak lashon ha'ra.

R' Mordechai Eliyahu (quoted by his son R' Shmuel here) asked: Miriam criticized Moshe Rabeinu, the adon ha'nevi'im.  The meraglim were critical of a place, an inanimate thing, sticks and stones.  How can that be compared to Miriam's crime?

Speaking against Moshe Rabeinu is not just ordinary lashon ha'ra -- speaking against Moshe undermines the dvar Hashem.  If you cannot trust that Moshe acted 100% in accordance with the ratzon Hashem, then the entire Torah c"v is subject to question.  So too, speaking against Eretz Yisrael is not just lashon ha'ra -- speaking against Eretz Yisrael undermines the dvar Hashem.  The Torah's mission for Klal Yisrael is for us to establish a nation al pi Torah in Eretz Yisrael.  It can't be done anywhere else and any other way.  If you don't accept that as a positive goal and don't think that's what we are here for, then you are missing the boat of what Hashem wants from us.

The glass I am happy to say is at least half full.  I don't think anyone alive 50, 40, or even 30 years ago could have imagined thousands of kids wearing kipot who are shomrei Torah and mitzvos marching down 5th Ave. in support of the State of Israel, this while l'havdil the Reform invite Michael Chabon to speak at their graduation and bash the State.  Amazing.  These kids grasp, to some degree, what our mission is. 

The Reform and Michael Chabon don't worry me.  Nor am I worried too much about rebbes and their followers who chose the same say as the parade to hold an anti-Zionism rally in Nassau Coliseum

What bothers me is the half empty part of the glass that consists of the thousands of bnei Torah, who, while not openly sympathetic to Satmar, still do not think it is incumbent upon them to march, to rally, to speak out in support of and defense of Israel.  Where were they on Sunday?  Where are they for other rallies, demonstrations, etc.?

There are, of course, those people who are simply apathetic.  They don't think about the issue, so case closed.  I am not speaking about those people.  I am speaking about people who think they are following a "shitah," meaning they have thought about it a bit, or at least think they are following in the footsteps of people who have thought about it.

I think I get it.  I am not aware of any Roshei Yeshiva from hesder being invited to visit Lakewood and being given the kavod that the Satmar Rebbe gets when he goes there.  And as bnei Torah, the torah of people like R' Elchanan is like your bread and butter, so certainly his anti-Zionist views will have an impact on your hashkafa.  So you have to hedge your bets.  You do deep down feel having the State is a good thing, but you don't want to actually get labeled as a Tzioni, you don't want to risk going against da'as Torah, so you park yourself on the fence.  You don't go to the Coliseum, but you don't go to the parade either.  You can even pretend you are pareve for all kinds of religious reasons -- you can't skip seder for a parade or rally, can you? -- and so remain seated on your perch, not tilting to one side or the other.

Sadly, it doesn't work that way.  The NY Times doesn't care why you didn't show up.  They don't want to hear a pilpul about your hashkafa.  PR and politics is very simple -- showing up IS the battle.  Not there = you don't support the cause. 

And the RW world knows this too.  How do I know?  Because a few years ago they gathered with Satmar in Manhattan to say tehillim and protest AGAINST the State because of the supposed threat the draft law posed to yeshiva students.  You can say tehillim at home or in your shul.  Why come to Manhattan to do it in public?  Answer: PR and politics.  Because the NY Times is not interested in the sentiments you express in tefilah in your beis medrash at home, but they are interested in a rally.  

You can't remain on the fence.  Your vote will be counted for or against, willy-nilly.  So you might as well start thinking about what you really hold and act on it. 

There is an even greater reason than PR and politics that should motivate you to get out there and do whatever you can to support the State.  I was davening in shul on Shabbos and noticed the gabai very deliberately left out the words "relishes tzemichas geulaseinu" in reciting the tefilah l'shlom ha'medina.  Again, the glass is very much half full! -- at least in this shul the tefilah was recited, which is more than I can so for many other place.  But why leave out those words?  The idea that there is a "lo zachu" geulah that will unfold slowly (kim'a kim'a, as the Yerushalmi and Midrash put it) though natural means, with the land being given to us by the nations, with kibutz galiyos taking place before binyan hamikdash, is well established in Chazal, Rishonim, and achronim.  What does this person think the geulah is supposed to look like?  My guess is that he envisions a miracle.  Isn't that what most people expect?  But most people's view is wrong. 

You should support the State because if you take the time to investigate the sources, the evidence will, I am certain, lead you to the conclusion that the re-establishment of an autonomous Jewish state, even with all its present flaws, is the most significant theological event in 2000 years.  That this is a step -- we can quibble over how big a step and how many more steps are needed -- toward our ultimate geulah is undeniable.

The question is how do we get people off the fence?  And again, I am not speaking about convincing the NY Times, or the BDS crowd, or the Reform.  I am speaking about our community minei u'bei.  How do make people see support of the State as a religious obligation, not merely a hechsher mitzvah because Eretz Yisrael is the best place to learn, or because we want Jews to be safe?  Our obligation to the State should go far beyond that.  

I don't pretend to have an answer.  I'm just glad the somehow the glass is getting there, filling up bit by bit.  I just wish the process would go faster.