Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Help Me If You Can, I'm Feelin Down

Guest Post by Rabbi Dovid Landesman

Yesterday, I attended the demonstration in Kikar Shabbat called by the Eidah ha-Chareidit to protest the proposed revisions to the Tal law. I participated not because I am a supporter of  the Eidah; rather, I suspected that I wanted to comment on what the demonstration represented and I therefore sought first hand information as well as impressions.

The demonstration, to my mind, was extraordinarily sad. It was well organized and the police presence was absolutely minimal which meant that it was peaceful. But to witness how a few thousand young children, little boys who project an aura of innocence and purity, were exposed to bitter hatred and vituperative demagoguery – frankly, it makes me cry.

The single speaker,  anonymous  but introduced as a mechanech in one of the participating chadarim, was blessedly brief but extremely inflammatory. At one point he told the children that they should not be impressed if they see a policeman or soldier with peyot, tzitzit and a yarmulke – despite his appearance, such a person cannot be a true frumme yid.

I wonder if this “mechanech” ever told his young charges about an Israeli soldier named Roie Klein hy”d, a major in the IDf who died in the Second Lebanon War when he fell onto a grenade so as to save the soldiers around him. The last words he said were a request that his soldiers join him and say Shema Yisrael.

Does this “educator” ever talk about Colonel Dror Weintraub, the commander of the brigade stationed in Chevron who, while making kiddush on Friday night for his family, heard firing from the area of M’arat ha-Machpeila, put his becher down and ran out with his M16 never to return.

Does he even know who Yossi ben Chanan is, an IDF brigade commander who was gravely wounded in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war. Lying in a ditch next to his burned out tank, he removed the symbols of rank from the epaulets on his uniform and handed them to his driver, instructing him to wear them because he knew that the Syrians were less likely to kill a captured officer than they would a non-com.

All that these children heard, and I suspect, all that they ever hear is about the horrid tzionim who want to prevent them from learning Torah and keeping mitzvot. The pashkevilim on the walls of Meah Shearim compared the present government to Stalin, Torqemada and Antiochus among others. What a chilul ha-kodesh, what a desecration of those who were moser nefesh for Torah u’mitzvot.  I do not hate the Eidah for their politics; I despise them for what they are doing to Jewish children.

But there is even more that makes me depressed. There were signs all along Malchei Yisrael and in Kikar ha-Shabbat echoing the Eidah’s labeling of the proposed revisions of the draft as a gezerat shmad. They were signed by people I respect – Rav Berel Povarsky of Ponoveh and Rav Ovadiah Yosef  among others.

I find it hard to believe – perhaps I refuse to believe – that these intelligent, caring and learned people truly believe that going to the IDF is equivalent to shmad. That would be a horrible insult to every ben Torah who serves or has served. I can only ascribe their pronouncements to their being forgeries – which are not at all uncommon in the chareidi world – or that they too have been swept away by the rhetoric of the Eidah, similar to Moshe’s unfortunate characterization of klal Yisrael as rebels at the time he hit the rock.

More seriously, to my mind, was the letter signed ostensibly by Rav Yitzchak Scheiner, rosh yeshiva of Kaminetz, in which he called on the olam hayeshivot to be ready to go to jail – or worse!!! How can a responsible person allow such venom and such calumny to spill from his pen!?

I am by nature quite cynical. Thus, I find it hard to believe that the Eidah arranged the demonstration because they felt that the tefillot of tinokot shel beit rabban are the most effective means of abrogating what they see as a gezerat shmad. Rather, it is clear to me that they were flexing their muscles to demonstrate to Bibi that they control the streets and can bring out the troops en masse whenever they choose.

Again,  and as I have written numerous times, the Eidah itself is a fanatic fringe; their resolution to follow their own agenda is unbreakable and nothing would please them more than to have a number of men thrown into jail for draft dodging, for it would greatly strengthen their ranks. 

I don’t believe that there is any point in entering into a dialogue with them. Dialogues by definition depend on their being two participants and with the Eidah, there is simply nothing that they feel should be discussed. At the same time, I am aghast at the possibility that their agenda will infect the greater olam ha-Torah and that the few sane people will hide in fear as the lunatics gain control of the asylum.

Why am I so depressed? By training and by exposure, I firmly believe that gedolai yisrael have a clarity of vision that most of us lack. I don’t see this as a form of nevuah; Chazal were clear that gedolim err and the Torah requires a korban when the Sanhedrin rules incorrectly. Nevertheless, one of the qualities that is gained by intensive Torah study is the ability to perceive truth without being blinded by personal agendas and interests. How do I explain to myself the policies of the gedolim in the face of the present crisis?

Can you please help me?