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Posts Tagged ‘sharing the burden’

Is Learning Torah ‘Sharing the Burden’?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I have to respectfully disagree with the esteemed Mashgiach of Lakewood, Rav Matisyahu Salomon. An article in YWN quoted him as saying that the statement being made about Haredim in Israel not ‘sharing the burden’ is apikursus – heresy.

I suppose that the way he explains it, it might be heresy to say such a thing. To make the claim that learning Torah is not “sharing the burden” is indeed a slight to learning Torah. Learning Torah does help protect Israel from harm by its enemies just as a physical army does. Those are two necessary components.

But it is a gross misunderstanding to characterize “sharing the burden” in the way Rav Salomon does. The burden that is not shared – is the one that involves putting oneself in harm’s way. I can’t repeat this enough times. Rav Salomon cannot possibly think that yeshiva bachurim (lomdei Torah – those who study Torah) risk their lives in the same way as a solider in combat does. They are nowhere near harm’s way while they are in a Beis HaMedrash being protected by soldiers who do share the burden of risking life and limb.

Once again we see a great rabbinic figure who apparently does not understand what it is that really upsets the non-Haredi public – which includes many observant Jews. To say that our views are apikursus is both false and insulting – even if unintentionally so. Nor does Rav Salomon even attempt to give credit to those who do risk life and limb protecting those lomdei Torah – as did a Gadol of the previous generation, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz.

How sad it is that a leader of such great stature in the Haredi world feels he has to insult so many observant Jews in order to make his point about the importance of learning Torah. Would it not serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to first acknowledge the contributions of those who do serve in the IDF?

And wouldn’t it also serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to understand that “sharing the burden” means participating in the risk to life and limb equally… and not meant to denigrate the contributions of lomdei Torah to our survival as a nation?

Statements such as those made by Rav Salomon are very upsetting. Is there any wonder why there is such a lack of Achdus in Klal Yisroel? But all is not lost. I do in fact agree with his final paragraph:

HaRav Solomon said if there are מקטרגים (opponents; detractors) on the Torah, the Gra teaches us that this is a sign of the תביעות (claims) against us in Shomayim [Heaven] and while today we do not have prophets, one can know this is bases on מידה כנגד מידה (measure for measure) and we must look and see from where the פורענות (troubles) come from and this is the area where the teshuvah [repentance] and מעשים טובים (good deeds) must be focused.

Indeed. Perhaps God is sending a message about an area that needs improvement. And perhaps the first place his community should be looking at is in how they have reacted to this very issue. Perhaps if they would treat those of us who have made this statement (about sharing the burden) with a measure of understanding and respect instead of calling us apikursim, we would return that respect and understanding measure for measure.

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Anger at Haredim: Who Is to Blame?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

When one hears the term ‘Hate Crime’ it usually conjures up images of white supremacists beating up innocent black youth or some neo Nazis doing the same to an innocent Jewish youth. But hate is not unique only to cross racial or religious cultures. One can hate one’s own. A Chasidic girl’s school (Bobov) was recently torched in Israel.

This – says MK (member of the Kenesset) Yisrael Eichler of the Haredi Yahadut Hatorah (UTJ) party – is but one example of hate crimes perpetrated against Haredim that is completely ignored by the media. From 5TJT:

“Every day people spit at and curse hareidi Jews, particularly recently, and nobody is horrified by this.” Says Eichler. And yet if a girl gets spit upon bya Chardi Jew an entire party is created that receives enough votes to get 19 seats in the Kenesset!

The arson attack was the tip of the iceberg, Eichler said. “Every day people spit at and curse hareidi Jews, particularly recently, and nobody is horrified by this.”

“But when somebody in Beit Shemesh spits on one girl, a party was built on that spit that got nineteen mandates, and another twelve religious mandates joined them to boycott hareidi Jews and starve their children,” he said, referring to the Yesh Atid party and its pact with the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.

I don’t know how true it is that crimes against Haredim are ignored by the media. If true his indignation is understandable.

But I think he fails to understand why it is happening (if indeed it is). Did all these secular Jews wake up one day to become haters of Haredim – for no reason at all? To many of us who live outside of his world the answer is obvious. They were not born this way or suddenly cast into an anti Haredi spell by demons from outer space.

It is because of the Haredi sense of being in service to God to the exclusion of all others. They truly believe B’Emunah Shelaima (with complete faith) that they have the only true path to God. Their understanding of Torah supersedes the understanding of all others. And that nothing colors that understanding.

As such they view any opposition to themselves as either ignorant (at best) or outright hostility to God. The latter being the more common attitude.

Does he really think that Yesh Atid got their 19 seats because of bad press? …or from one incident in Bet Shemesh? Is it possible he may just be missing the real reason?

I think it is far more likely that the issue of the day – sharing the burden by serving in the army – is what drove this election. That may not be the only issue that drove Israelis to the polls for, but it was certainly one of the more important ones.

Their attitude about the draft is but one area that they badly stumble over. It isn’t so much the issue itself that polarizes the secular and Dati parties from Haredim. It is the way that Haredim characterize and react to it… that does. Their righteous indignation translates to condescension which is palpable – often turning into outright hostility!

Take for example Rav Shmuel Auerbach recent comments as reported in the Jewish Press. Referring to the requirement to resist the draft he said:

“[S]tand guard without any changes, because this is one of the fundamentals of the faith, in the category of ‘ye’hareg v’bal ya’avor’ (a commandment one must obey even at the cost of their own life). …The issue at hand (the draft) is nothing short of eradicating our religion… (emphasis mine)”

One must die rather than serve one’s country. That is how he refers to military service in Israel. Can either MK Eichler or Rav Auerbach or the many other Haredi rabbinic leaders not imagine how the typical Israeli mother whose son is subject to be put in harm’s way might react to that kind of statement?!

The answer must be that they are incapable of imagining it. The belief in the righteousness of their cause blinds them to the perspectives of others. Anyone who does not see it their way must be an enemy of Judaism to be resisted at the cost of their own lives if necessary. Yehoreg V’Al Ya’avor. Virtually all Haredi rabbinic leaders seem to feel this way to one extent or another.

Jew Against Jew, I Don’t Like This

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Chazal, our sages say that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, Jew against Jew.  All the recent political infighting, especially  since the recent Israeli Knesset Elections, just make me fear God’s wrath.  What punishment does God have in store for us, God forbid?

Even Jews who claim to be Torah observers, following God’s commandments are dividing rather than uniting us.

Shas: It’s Over, We’re Headed for Opposition: Sephardic hareidi party vows to fight from the Opposition, keep funds from going to “hilltop youth.” And the NRP, a.k.a., Bayit Yehudi’s new leader, Naftali Bennett, has not learned the most important skill needed to be an effective politician, getting along and reaching agreements.  His pact with Leftist leader, who’s also a rookie MK, Yair Lapid, is not good for the country.  People voted for Bennett’s NRP so that he would influence from within the government, and he’s just pushing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu further Left.

One of Lapid’s demands is that he won’t sit in the government with Haredim, so when you add all this together, you have a big problem.

And in the meantime, the modern Amaleks in Iran are making progress on their nuclear weapons.  And is the “free world” (sic) ready for this?  No way.  The United States President Barack Hussein Obama is fiddling on his roof talking the negotiations talk, and Israel is still threatening. But after years of these threats, nobody takes them seriously, especially not the Iranians.

The more Israelis fight among themselves the more we’re inviting Amalek to attack.

Bad news, and I don’t see a good solution to theis.

I also recommend reading Arlene Kushner’s  “Deplorable,” which expresses my feelings, too.

Now I’m referring not to the state of the world, but to the state of Israeli politics. I am so often proud of who we are. But now? I would gladly grab hold of certain political shoulders and shake until the heads that sit on those respective shoulders rattled. Where? I want to ask. Where is your devotion to the state and the greater good during these difficult times?
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When Politicians Take Emotional Positions

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I don’t see how any coalition that forms at this point could possibly survive.

During the election campaign, Likud and Shas acted horribly towards HaBayit HaYehudi and Naftali Bennett, and things didn’t improve afterwards either. And besides the Bennett and Lapid pact, no one trusts one another at all.

And if you listen to the politicians, you can really feel that palpable hatred and mistrust, especially coming from certain Haredi politicians.

There are Haredi politicians who are going so far as openly threatening to help destroy settlements just to get even (which in their anger and hatred, they forget includes ten of thousands of Haredim also living in settlements).

What’s even more absurd is that much of the Haredi street no longer agrees with their political leaders.

Yes, there is that hard-core that would definitely sit in jail for years, rather than go to the army, get a job, and support their families, but much of the Haredi world is opening up to the idea that there is no shame in working for a living while still learning Torah.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a Haredi soldier currently in the Shachar (Air Force) program.

He told me the program wasn’t exactly like they described in brochure (so to speak). There were and are a lot of problems that needed fixing in order for the environment be more kosher for Haredim and he’s not happy with the job he got stuck with. But on the other hand, in another year or so he’s free to do what he wants, whether it will be to get a job, or sit in yeshiva and learn forever.

What was interesting, is that nearly all the other Hareidim in the room had also done army service to one degree or another, and all were working, and all had Havrusahs. In fact, there was a siyum masechet going on at the time for one them, and this week, another will be doing his siyum.

So despite serving in the army, and despite working for a living, these Haredim were still voluntarily learning and living a completely Haredi lifestyle.

Are there problems with the army programs for Haredim? You bet there are. But the biggest problem is that there aren’t enough Haredim in the army to make a difference and fix it.

How can you really expect a non-religious soldier to create a totally kosher environment when he hasn’t the faintest clue what that even means? If there were more Haredim in the army, they would be able to ensure that the environment met their needs, because they actually understand what those needs are.

You can’t force a society to change overnight. You can’t throw an entire sector in jail (they tried that during the Disengagement, and it doesn’t work).

But the reality is that most Haredim want to join Israeli society and share in the national burden, but Israeli society must also be prepared for the changes that will be demanded of it too for that to happen, and for that to work. And I don’t think Israeli society is ready for that either.

But those changes will be good for everyone. But they need to be introduced at the right pace.

But going back to the politicians, if we take them all at their word, I don’t see how this coalition will not evolve into everyone doing their best to hurt one another until the collapse, and that eventually includes even Lapid and Bennett.

Israeli society may be healing and working to repair the rifts, but the politicians? At this point I’m having trouble seeing that happen.

Israel might need to roll the proverbial dice again and go for new elections, because this atmosphere is simply too poisoned.

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