Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Of Cheeseburgers and Protests

Let us stipulate that one of the rabbinic leaders of our time is indeed a huge Talmid Chacham. Let us further stipulate that he has a long list of great accomplishments in his career including many Seforim on Halacha. Indeed he is a great man; a kind man who opens his doors to all comers. He is in fact known for his great compassion to his fellow Jew.

The only thing he ever does wrong is that he has a cheeseburger for lunch every day. And he does it in public! Of course no one questions him because of who he is. What should our attitude be about this fellow?

While this analogy is not perfect I think it demonstrates what is wrong with Edah Hacharedis leader Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss. That description fits him. He has all of the traits and accomplishments I mentioned and perhaps more. But substitute Chilul HaShem for eating cheeseburgers and this description is pretty close.

According to an article in VIN a Shas MK has publicly protested his treatment by the Israeli police force during a protest at the Jerusalem branch of microprocessor giant Intel in Jerusalem . To be fair I don’t know the details of his mistreatment. He was apparently handled roughly. If true then perhaps that could have and should have been avoided.

In defending the police action the Minister of Internal Security said the following:

“It should be noted,” continued the Minister, “that during the event the police did not note the presence of the Gavad of the Eidah Charedit, HaRav Tuvia Weiss. Furthermore, despite claims to the contrary, the police did not make use of any means to disperse the crowd, rather the protestors were moved away from the site as the police advanced toward them, without the use of force or violence.

He said. She said.

I don’t know the truth here. But I do know who is mostly responsible for any violence that resulted from this – or just about any protest in Jerusalem. It is Rabbi Weiss. He not only orders those protests but apparently participates in them.

His reason this time is pretty much the same as always. He wants to protect the sanctity of Jerusalem. Any time something comes up that threatens his sense of Jerusalem’s sanctity he calls for a protest. And often those protests turn violent. Very violent! And when one or more of his ‘Chasidim’ gets hurt, he cries, ‘Police brutality!’ Apparently it’s very possible that this time he was a victim of some rough handling himself.

Though I wish him no personal harm I feel no sympathy for him here. His constant calls for useless protests have created one Chilul HaShem after another. That makes him just as guilty of wrongdoing as does eating a cheeseburger in my view. I’m sure that he would never dream of eating a cheeseburger. He wouldn’t even dream of eating anything except the most Mehadrin of Mehadrin foods. But when it comes to Chilul HaShem he has completely lost sight of his contributions to it.

Now I’m sure he would vehemently dispute that. He and his Edah would very likely say that he has every right to protest Chilul Shabbos. And that his intent is always peaceful. That it is the Israeli police who incite the violence and his Chasidim’ are merely reacting to it.

I don’t believe that it is all the police. Nor that his ‘Chasidim’ are completely innocent. Oh - I’m sure that there is some police violence and that some innocent protesters get hurt. But there is so much evidence to the contrary that to blame it all on the police is laughable.

However, even if what he said is true one cannot get away from the fact that it is Rabbi Weiss who ordered these protests in the first place. Unless he is completely oblivious to what goes on there, he has to know there will be violence and that people will get hurt.

He apparently does not agree that images of religious looking Jews with long beards - dressed in Chasidic garb who literally spit on reporters and otherwise taunt ‘outsiders’ - are a Chilul HaShem. And that doesn’t even address the serious threat to human life by the toxic fumes inhaled by residents in neighborhoods where dumpsters are set fire.

Rabbi Weiss must think it is a Kiddush HaShem when the world sees these images. Or he just doesn’t care what the world thinks. I would love to know where in his vast knowledge of Torah he gets these ideas.

And what exactly is he protesting with Intel? I am virtually certain that they are not a Jewish owned company – although the original founder and owner. Andy Grove, was a Jewish holocaust survivor. Non Jews are allowed to keep their businesses open on Shabbos. If Jews work there, it is a private matter between them and God and none of Rabbi Weiss’s business. Besides - Intel has gone beyond the call of duty in trying to minimize if not completely eliminate Jews working there on Shabbos.

That’s not good enough for Rabbi Weiss. Apparently he wants them to shut down or move out of Jerusalem. So he and his Edah continue to protest and cause havoc. Never mind that all manner of industry is leaving Jerusalem in droves because of this climate of Charedi violence and intimidation. This leaves Jerusalemites decreasing opportunity for decent employment.

And how does a religious member of the Knesset respond to all of this? Does he criticize the Rabbi Weiss and his Edah for causing these disturbances in the first place? No. Heaven forbid he criticizes a Gadol. Instead he criticizes the police for rough handling him. And he quotes the Talmud to support that criticism.

He sees the as yet unsubstantiated rough handling of Rabbi Weiss as causing great harm to Kavod HaTorah. That may be true if Rabbi Weiss was handled as roughly as this MK has indicated. But harm caused to Kavod HaTorah by Rabbi Weiss is far greater than what this Shas MK is complaining about.

And that’s why the Chilul HaShem in Jerusalem will continue. Until a Charedi MK who speaks for other Charedi leaders stands up in the Knesset and condemns what Rabbi Weiss and his Edah is doing, things will only get worse.