One of the techniques I have found most helpful when mediating disputes between rebellious adolescents and their parents is to give the teenager six or eight index cards, and ask him or her to jot down a request or concession that he or she would like his parents to grant. Then I ask the teen to stack the index cards in priority order, with the most important request on top. Finally I have him assign a value from 1-10 for each of the requests, with 10 denoting something that he would consider of paramount significance and 1 representing a matter that is not terribly important. I then hand a similar number of index cards to the adolescent’s parents and ask them to do the same.
While this exercise is certainly not a miraculous cure for friction between teens and their parents, it is often helpful in establishing healthy dialogue and effective problem solving in a strained relationship.
With this in mind, I wish that someone would gather Israel’s Orthodox Knesset members (who purportedly represent their observant constituents in Eretz Yisrael) and ask them to assign a value from 1-10 regarding the importance of moving the clocks from Daylight Savings Time weeks before the rest of the civilized world.
For those who live in the Diaspora and may not be familiar with the yearly tempest in a teapot, here is some background: Most countries in the Western world move their clocks back from Daylight Savings Time around the end of October. However, a number of years ago, religious Knesset members in Israel introduced legislation to implement the clock change a week or so before Yom Kippur in an effort to “shorten” the fast day for Israelis.
Not surprisingly, this issue provokes resentment among non-observant Israelis year after year, as they complain about losing an hour of afternoon sunlight during the beautiful fall season. This is compounded by the fact that due to Israel’s brutal summertime heat, some of the nicest weather days are in the fall. These days are now shortened by the clock change, with people around the country returning from their offices after dark during part of September and all of October.
So I ask our Orthodox Knesset members the following question: Is this matter really a 10 on a scale of 1-10? Is it even a five? Don’t we have more pressing matters on our communal agenda than this one? Why are we adding yet another point of contention in our already strained relations with our secular brothers and sisters?
There are certainly other solutions to this “problem” that do not require wholesale changes that affect the entire country for weeks on end. We could change the clocks in our shuls and homes if we wish to do so for the day of Yom Kippur – just as sleep-away camps in the United States do during the summer months. This is done in order to operate on Eastern Standard Time, which allows for night activities after dark and for the children to go to bed earlier. We could start prayers an hour later on Yom Kippur, or we could simply not change anything and “deal with it” – as the kids say. My wife and I were vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer, and we fasted on Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz until nightfall, which was at 11:15 p.m. So again I ask: Why are we needlessly provoking enmity over this non-issue?
What concerns me most is that this issue of the clock change is indicative of the “everything-is-a-10 mindset” that some (or many) in our community maintain. Certain issues are indeed a 10, and we rely on the da’as Torah of our gedolim to guide us as to which issues fall into that category. But in all other nonessential matters, we should practice the concept of darchei noam (paths of pleasantness), and be sensitive to the wants and needs of others outside our community. Keep in mind that no one was ever brought closer to Hashem by force.
Even if we don’t practice tolerance for its own sake, we ought to do so strictly for pragmatic reasons. I have no doubt that sooner or later (probably sooner) there will be a colossal pushback from secular Israelis who are resentful at their growing perception that observant Jews are not only appropriately lobbying for the right to practice religion as they wish, but are imposing their will on the broader community.
We went through this a few short years ago when Tommy Lapid and his Shinui party garnered 15 Knesset seats by tapping into anti-haredi feelings. At that time, there were terribly painful cuts made in yeshiva and family subsidy support, some of which still has not been reversed. But just because Lapid bungled his mandate and slid off the political radar, the feelings of those who voted for him did not diminish over the course of time.
We would be well served to maintain our perspective on non-urgent communal issues, and start acting as if we do not have a limitless number of cards in our deck to needlessly squander.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.
To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s Dvar Torah Sefer, “Growing With the Parsha” or his popular parenting tapes and CD’s – including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children” – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.