web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

It’s Not Always Critical

Jewish children of diverse ethnic descent learning together certainly does not fit into the same group as the prohibition of idolatry.
restorations

Photo Credit: YY

Whether you live on the East Coast, or have relatives there, I’m sure that many readers had their ears and web browsers set this week to the development and results of Hurricane Sandy. Seeing the city that never stops in a blackout, viewing the pictures of flooded subway stations, and seeing mass evacuations even before the rain fell from the sky, truly set the stage for something major to happen, something so  critical requiring such vital preparation.

And indeed, the various adjectives used to describe Sandy were right on the dot. From “ the biggest to hit US mainland” to “the most dangerous” and “Frankenstorm,”  all the above authentically described the meters of water penetrating homes and cities, injuring and killing innocent civilians, compiled with endless damage to property and loss of power.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

It seems that every election is “the most critical in our history” and the issues on the table, before any election or vote, “have never been more vital to the existence of the Jewish people.”  An agreement between two parties to run a joint-ticket in the coming election resulted in a member of the party, firmly against this unified ballot, claiming the need to stop it “in order to save Israel’s democracy”! Not long ago, a certain Jewish group hit the barricades in order to prevent frum Sefardic children from entering their school, contradicting an explicit court order. Their leader branded their refusal to fulfill the order, with the threat of jail, as “the war of the generation.”

When a woman singing in front of men caused soldiers to walk out rather than violate the prohibition of Kol Isha, a controversy broke with a certain Rabbi claiming that “Troops will die rather than listen to women [sing].”  Demonstrators against women’s prayer groups at the Kotel  have gained the title of “warriors” and one joining a late-night Minyan to allow a mourner to say Kaddish was shown gratitude for his “Mesirut Nefesh”/Self-Sacrifice. Finally, about once a year, someone seems to refer to a local dispute than no less than a “Holocaust” with religious Jews and leaders using the term  “Yehareg Vaal Yaavor” (Give your life rather than transgress) regarding far more commandments and issues than the three cardinal sins!

Part and parcel of learning Torah is to clearly identify what is a Biblical commandment, what’s Rabbinic and what is custom. Though we are devoted to fulfilling all of the above,  it’s important to know the origin of a Mitzva so we can keep a sense of proportion.  I would not envy the nursing mother who would consider fasting on Yom Kippur in the same category as fasting on Ta’anit-Ester. While both are fast days, her personal situation would dictate a totally different mode of behavior on these two days, based solely on having a true sense of proportion between a Biblical edict and a custom. Similarly, forcing one to violate Shabbat and eat pig is not the same as forcing one to listen to a woman’s voice. Jewish children of diverse ethnic descent learning together certainly does not fit into the same group as the prohibition of idolatry.

Indeed, beyond the three cardinal sins,  at times, even a mere custom, such as the customary color of a Jew’s shoelace, can be so vital that one must give their life and not transgress [Tractate Sanhedrin 74b.]  And yet, when there isn’t a danger of uprooting Jewish life, we must be extremely careful not to make a mountain out of a molehill!

So frequently our Rabbis in the field are faced with issues and controversies that challenge them as they attempt to show professional spiritual leadership. Almost every one of them is faced weekly with the dilemma of when do they take a stand, when do they pick a fight, when do they back off, and even when do they give in. However, it is rather abnormal for a Rabbi never to have a dilemma, thus he is forced either to never take a stand or to always feel the need to create a controversy over every single issue, thinking everything is critical and life-threatening to the existence of the Jewish community.

Not every issue is as critical as the next. And therefore, we should be very careful to use the proper terminology so we dare not give the false impression, to our kids, neighbors or students, that “life depends” on your vote, that participation in a demonstration for a just cause is “crucial” and the need to write letters of protests is no less than “Pikuach Nefesh.”

I fully believe that passion is needed for the very issues that are so important to us. There can be deviation from person to party as to what those critical issues are. And yet, it seems uncanny that we are asked to be passionate about everything.

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “It’s Not Always Critical”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Shin Bet Foils Nascent Hamas Coup in Palestinian Authority Territories
Latest Indepth Stories
Donald Trump

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

US President Barack Obama speaks on the negotiations with Iran.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Rather than asserting Jewish rights on Temple Mount or protecting Jewish lives Israel chooses soccer

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

More Articles from Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein
what me worry

Using the term “Halacha” for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

Israelis wave flags and signs saying "Together We'll Win" during a demonstration supporting an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

This past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31). This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonement, the Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

As the year is coming to an end, with endless days filled with doing the very same commandments, we besiege G-d on each remaining day, asking for one vital ingredient for the one yet to come: May we never get used to our routine.

I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/its-not-always-critical/2012/11/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: