Sunday, February 02, 2014

Should Achdus Include Extremists?

'National trash can' in the 'Chardak manufacturing factory' (Photo credit - Ynet)
One of the themes of this blog, as most people who read it regularly know – is Achdus. I go to great lengths to try and include all segments of Orthodoxy under the umbrella of Torah Jewry. I like to say that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

To the extent that I want to be inclusive, I have been criticized on both sides of the ‘religious aisle’. I believe that the left wing of modern Orthodoxy should be included. Even though I have some serious problems with their approach to observant Judaism I have argued that as long as they proclaim fealty to the fundamentals of our faith and follow Halacha - they are a part of us.

I also value Charerdi  Hashkfos as legitimate even as I disagree with some of it. But I get criticized by the left for tolerating them because among other things - they so strongly reject anyone to their left as being outside the pale and refuse to see or deal with their own problems. I advocate inclusion of even Satmar with whose Hashkafos I have profound differences. They too believe in the fundamentals and follow Halacha.

But even I have my limits. I don’t know who is responsible  for the continuing attack against the IDF in Israel, but I don’t think I want to include them in any kind of Judaism that I want to be a part of. It is one thing to be opposed to serving in the army. It is another to lie about it in the most disgusting of ways. From Ynet: 
The anonymous campaign managers have published several cartoons created by children who have joined the battle against the "draft decree." The drawings were posted on bulletin boards in radical haredi concentrations, and the leaders of the campaign have promised to release additional cartoons soon.

One of the posters shows haredi soldiers going up in flames inside a military post, crying out "help" and "Tata" (father in Yiddish – a common cry of despair in the haredi sector). Next to them stands a satisfied, smiling man-fox wearing an IDF uniform, with a beard and a skullcap, apparently symbolizing the person responsible for their recruitment and burning.
What makes this particularly egregious is the fact that they paint a religious Jew in uniform (derogatorily called a Chardak) to look like a member of the Nazi SS. Deserving to be burned alive! This kind of ‘cartoon’ is worthy of Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda whose job it was to make the Jewish people look like an evil subhuman race of vermin (who through our sly and clever underhanded  tactics were out to subjugate the innocent and  virtuous pure German of ‘goodness and light’).

I don’t know who these people are. They might follow Halacha and believe in the fundamentals of Judaism, but they make a mockery of that very same Judaism and unworthy of the Torah’s description of the Jewish people as a kingdom of priests and a holy people. To call what they are doing a Chilul HaShem is an understatement. 

And yet these Jews are somehow tolerated within their community. Not that these tactics are approved of by even the most rabid anti Israel member of the Eida HaCharedis – whose ideology they follow. But they will not discipline them and would never allow any form of government sanction. They will fight any attempt by the government to do so. Why? Because they are otherwise members in good standing of their community, reflecting their values albeit doing so in a misguided way. In other words, their hearts are in the right place if not their way of expressing it.

I don’t see how anyone can be so antagonistic towards a government that protects them from harm that they would certainly experience if the IDF were not there. But I’ve said all this before and this is not the first time such vile cartoons have appeared.

I believe that the stridency of Charedi opposition to the government is the real culprit here. These extremists have taken a cue from the Charedi leaders and politicians and are merely expressing that view in the most attention getting way they can. The way they describe the army, it is the gateway to hell. Any religious Jew entering it will exit it irreligious… or at best with a far lower standard of observance. While that can happen it is far from the only truth. People who enter the army religious and come out irreligious are probably not all that committed in the first place.

As I have said many times already, the army has declared its intent to accommodate the Charedi lifestyle for all Charedi recruits… in some sort of application of the Nachal Charedi program. And there is also the fact that Charedim will be allowed to fulfill their service obligations via a Sherut Leumi type program. Which is basically a mandatory Chesed program.

Sheurt Leumi has been the service of choice for the vast majority of Dati Leumi / religious Zionist young women. What is significant and not as well known is that religious young women are accommodated for Kashrus, Shabbos, Tznius, and all manner of concern for the religious Jew. The same thing would be true for men who will be drafted.

And yet conscription into national service is seen as a nefarious plot by the government to destroy Yiddishkeit! And when that is the mindset projected in public, it is not too much of a leap to go from there to these cartoons.

How can Charedi leaders and politicians so misrepresent what national service is all about? I can’t believe they are so clueless about it that they actually believe what they are saying.

So I have a dilemma. On the one hand I hate to reject any group out of Orthodoxy that believes in the fundamentals of Judaism and follows Halacha. On the other hand, How can I accept a group that causes so much harm to the Jewish people and desecrate the name of God so much by tolerating cartoons like this?

I should mention that I do not see the left causing harm to the Jewish people via their unconventional innovations.  I do not believe will these innovations will ever catch on with the mainstream. But the extremists on the right are a far larger group whose numbers increase exponentially with every generation… all while their leaders seem to shrug them off while espousing the same general attitude of antipathy for the government.

That said, I do have hope for the future. It may not seem like it now, but I do believe that eventually the extremes on both ends of the religious spectrum will fall over the edge. They will never become a part of the mainstream.  One can push the envelope leftward only so far before crossing over to the other side of the line.  And that will put them outside the pale. The extreme right will collapse of its own weight – and ultimately the more moderate middle will prevail. That is where the future lies.

The future of Judaism lies in a community of Jews that are moderate – which I believe is the largest portion of observant Jewry. They are truly the wave of the future. As I have pointed out many times - this community of ‘sociological centrists’ (as opposed to ideological centrists) already exists. It is this community that is sustainable. It consists of a majority of moderate Charedim and a sizable minority of right wing modern Orthodox Jews. 

They respect each other and lead virtually identical lifestyles, Hashkafic differences will remain but will be irrelevant in their day to day interactions. They share similar religious values and consist mostly of men who have been educated towards good careers which can support their families. They are Koveah Itim (set aside specific times for Torah study) and may actually becomes sturdy partners. Or attend the same Shiurim - like Daf Yomi. They also support the elite of Torah scholars in their full time Torah studies. Their families interact socially regardless of their differing Hashkafos.

What about the extremists on the right or the left? I guess they will always be around. But in the long run I don’t see them as any part of a future united observant Jewish community.  They ought to be ignored because in the long run extremists don’t really matter.