Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let us Not Lose This Moment

From the Facebook page of Gal Gadot
There are many people who comment on my blog that add tremendous value to it. Their comments are thoughtful and very often enlightening. One of those whose comments reflect that is a woman who calls herself kweansmom.  In a recent comment she pointed out something that many of us have overlooked.  

I have commented about the Achdus among differing factions of Orthodoxy that often are at each other’s throats.  Whenever we are in times of trouble, we unite. There is no more Charedim versus Modern Orthodox or Religious Zionist. I haven’t heard a word lately about the army being a social engineering experiment. Instead there is universal prayer for the welfare of the Israeli people who face an existential threat by an enemy that has sworn to wipe Israel off the map. And has embarked on a terror campaign of daily nonstop indiscriminate rocket fire in an attempt to do so.

But one thing that has not been focused upon so much is how the secular public in Israel is reacting. The answer to that question is illustrated by the photo of Gal Gadot, an Israeli model and actress, lighting Shabbos candles. It was posted by kweansmom in one of her comments. She added the following: 
At the Shabbat table today, our neighbor commented on the achdus brought about by the operation, and that for a change, many haredim are openly grateful to the IDF. I commented that the unity works both ways, as many traditional but not necessarily Orthodox Israelis are expressing more openly religious feelings as well. 
Just like it is sad that only tragedy brings Orthodox factions together, it is sad that it takes the same tragedy to get secular people to become observant of Halacha.

It isn’t only Gal Gadot who has increased their religious observance, there is the story of an entire battalion of secular soldiers who have taken upon themselves the Mitzvah of wearing Tefllin daily. There is the story of a Israel commanding officer talking to his troops about to enter Gaza about saying a prayer before embarking on that mission. One may recall the entire Kenesset saying Tehilim for the missing (at the time) 3 teens before they were discovered murdered. 

Even MK Yair Lapid who proudly identifies as a secular Jew has taken upon himself to always be Dan L’Kaf Zechus for a fellow Jew  is a Torah based concept. While he may not be taking on any Mitzvos Bein Adam L’Makom, his  pledge to observe a  Bein Adam L’Chavero Halacha was probably motivated in the desire to seek God’s grace for His people.

We ought to look very hard and carefully at what is going on here. The people of Israel are a religious people. Even secular Jews who are not observant believe in God and that God has an active presence in this world. I think this has been shown to be the case in many polls taken on the subject. It is now more evident than ever that secular Israelis can be reached.

Once this conflict ends and we go back to a normal existence, we ought not to forget images like the one of Gal Gadot… or any of the other images I mentioned. What has to stop is business as usual. There ought to be some serious reflection on how we religious Jews interact with each other and how we interact with the secular public. We ought to take a lesson from Yair Lapid and learn to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus to all of our brethren – religious or secular - instead of thinking the worst of them. Let us look at the positive in each individual regardless of his Hashkafos or how religious he is.

If we really want to influence our religious opponents, we ought to take the concept of brotherhood seriously and respect them even when we are in strong disagreement.  There ought to be no more use of words like parasites and Amalek. There ought to be no more talk about the nefarious motives of the other… or calling people like Yair Lapid a Rasha. He is not a Rasha.

There ought to be interaction on all issues of the day with willingness to compromise for the benefit of the greater whole. There ought to be no assumptions of nefarious motives by one side about the other. If that happens we can hopefully achieve some permanent Achdus instead of the temporary kind generated by troubled times.

The same can be said about our interaction with secular Jews. There ought to be a lot more of it. This is where Chabad has got it right and from whom we should take note. Their religious convictions are so strong that they do not fear their observance being tainted by interacting with secular Jews. That is unfortunately not the case for most of the rest of observant Jewry. They fear being negatively influenced by people whose values are not Torah based. Especially where their children are concerned. While this is a legitimate fear, it need not be the determining one. 

Today’s secular Jews are not Yesterday’s secular Jews.  A few of generations ago many Jews that were raised in religious homes became disillusioned with religion and left religious observance in droves to find other movements that  spoke to them. Communism, Zionism, Secularism, , Reform, Conservative and even atheism had more appeal to them than the values of their parents. Why this happened is beyond the scope of this post. This phenomenon has produced today a generation of Jews that are ignorant of their faith. Many of them that are naturally spiritual people looking for meaning in their lives

We need to recognize that and reach out like never before. This war should be a wake-up call. We should not allow our resolve to be better and to influence others in positive ways - wane after the War. There ought to be Achdus not only with observant Jews. We should seek Achdus with all Jews. That should be our goal, and we need to follow up. The old paradigm of religious self interests ought to be discarded once and for all.

Let us hope that we never hear words of enmity ever again from one segment of Jewry (or from any of their leaders) against another. Instead let us integrate in the fullest sense of the word.