In your best interest, avoid looking at the pictures and videos of the evil committed by the wicked Hamas. People have suffered from PTSD due to the evil they watched. We must guard our eyes from looking at that which damages us. Watching evil hurts us.
The best way to help our people at the time, besides serving in Tzahal, is to pray to Hashem, recite Tehillim, learn Torah, perform chesed, and increase our halachic observance. Obsessing on the news from Israel serves no one’s best interest.
– Rabbi Chaim Jachter is a prominent rabbi who serves as the rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and is a popular Torah teacher at the Torah Academy of Bergen County. He also serves as a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth and has acquired an international reputation of excellence in the area of Get administration. He has authored sixteen books on issues ranging from contemporary Halacha, Tanach, Aggada, and Jewish Thought all available on Amazon.
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Since we here in Chutz LaAretz began to hear bits and pieces of the tragic news regarding the horrific attacks in Eretz Yisrael this past Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, most of us have been eager to learn as many details as possible about what is taking place. After the conclusion of Yom Tov, we quickly went to whatever news outlets we normally consult and intently took in whatever information we could. Since then, many people have regularly, and in some cases almost incessantly, been checking their phones, their computers, their radios, and so on, in an effort to get the very latest updates and to be as well informed as possible.
All this undoubtedly comes from a good place. We naturally care deeply and sincerely about what is going on in Eretz Yisrael, and we appreciate that whenever any segment of Klal Yisrael is in danger, it is a problem for us all – all the more so if the danger is in Eretz Yisrael. Moreover, we all have friends and/or relatives there, and in many cases, this includes soldiers who have been called up to battle, about whose well-being we are genuinely concerned. We therefore want to find out as much as we can about what is happening there. And finally, there are probably some among us who may feel a certain sense of guilt that we here are not on the front lines and are not facing imminent danger; we therefore “compensate” by disrupting our lives to at least some extent in order to identify in another way with what transpires there almost moment to moment, as if we are indeed directly part of it all.
Unfortunately, however, like other things, when such behavior is overdone and it becomes compulsive and obsessive, it is generally no longer good. As mental health professionals can better describe, excessively listening to and seeing ongoing reports of war, graphic descriptions of suffering, and heart-wrenching stories of sadness can cause depression and anxiety. Chazal are clear in a number of places that we have to be alert to a person’s mental health; see, for example, the Gemara in Moed Katan 26b about withholding bad news from someone who will be negatively impacted psychologically by such news, and in Bava Basra 147b about executing a transaction without the usual halachic requirements in order to help maintain someone’s emotional stability. In his introduction to his commentary on Pirkei Avos entitled Shemoneh Perakim (Chapter 5), the Rambam presents advice for a person suffering with depression and anxiety, suggesting that he listen to some music, or look at a beautiful nature scene and the like – anything to undo the feelings of melancholy. The Aruch HaShulchan (Evven HaEzer 121:13) suggests that a person who is (even relatively mildly) morose and despondent may not be considered to have all his wits about him from a halachic perspective. It is thus obvious that a person should not regularly do things that will likely put him in such a frame of mind.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, quoted his grandfather Rav Chaim that maintaining one’s sanity is necessary in order to maintain one’s humanity. One first has to be a normal, stable human being before one can go on to pursue other achievements, and for this reason, the halacha in many situations (which must obviously be examined on a case by case basis) permits even the violation of mitzvos if doing this will preserve a person’s life from an emotional and psychological perspective.
In light of the above, it would appear that it is not a good idea to become obsessive about following the news from Eretz Yisrael and constantly checking out reports for updates (not all of which are even accurate), as this can cause undue mental distress, and it is ultimately unproductive and time consuming, preventing more productive accomplishments. It would seem better to designate a few fixed times during the course of the day to obtain the latest news and to find other, more useful, ways to display identification with our brethren there.
– Rabbi Michael Taubes has been involved in Jewish education, formal as well as informal, for over 40 years, serving both in the classroom and in various administrative posts. He is presently a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and Yeshiva University High School for Boys. In addition, he is the spiritual leader of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck, N.J.
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Probably not! It certainly can lead to depression and a morose feelings. Better to be active in volunteering and supporting Israel financially and saying Tehillim for the success of our soldiers against these monsters of Hamas, than to be glued to the news reports.
However, it is certainly understandable!
Israel is being threatened by terrorists who have no regard for life and decency. They must be blotted out with all our human power and the power of Almighty G-d.
Here in Israel where I live, we hear sirens and news reports of thousands of rockets launched at Israel with the sole objective of killing innocent people. The scenes portrayed on the internet on the cruelty and barbaric behavior of Hamas is overwhelming. I finally understand the mitzvah to blot out Amalek. These people are the example par excellence of who Amalek is and the understanding that these people must be destroyed and driven from the land of Israel.
We have only one land given to us by G-d. It makes perfect sense that we should be protective of it and want to know how our soldiers are faring during this war.
May G-d show us a swift victory and bring all the hostages and our soldiers home safely.
– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat, Israel, and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, N.J. His email is [email protected].
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It’s our Homeland. It fills us with trepidation to see what’s happening there. To do anything obsessively is never a good thing. Checking back regularly, with balance, though, is perfectly normal and acceptable.
– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet is a popular Lubavitch lecturer and rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue
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No. It’s not healthy, and therefore not proper, to do anything “obsessively,” so when the question is formulated this way, the answer is easy.
A slightly different question – how closely should one follow the news out of Israel? – demands a more detailed treatment.
Much hinges on what should be considered “news.” I admit that even though I live in Israel, I follow American sports far more closely, and I can’t tell you who represented Israel in the Eurovision most years. If one has interest in such matters, then great, but there is no need to cultivate such interest.
I do believe it is important to stay informed about the basics of Israel’s political, diplomatic, economic, religious, and defense situation, and to learn about it significant events, both contemporary and historical.
Much of this falls by the wayside in times of crisis, like the present, especially when each and every one of us can make a difference.
– Rabbi Elli Fischer is a translator, writer, and historian. He edits Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha in English, cofounded HaMapah, a project to quantify and map rabbinic literature, and is a founding editor of Lehrhaus. Follow him @adderabbi on Twitter or listen to his podcast, “Down the Rabbi Hole.”