Friday, March 14, 2008

Final Thoughts

It's been a rough week. For the bereaved, for the injured, and for all of Klal Yisroel. Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb has written a poignant article about the massacre at Merkaz HaRav where he asks the following:

The most salient question for the rest of us, however, is what we will take away from this latest episode in our blood stained history. It’s not enough to lament or even to cry. We must find meaning even amidst the madness.

It is difficult if not impossible for me to search for meaning in an event like this. This incident was so gut wrenching, it hinders me from any attempt to draw meaning. It is almost sacrilegious to try. How dare I?! How can anyone attempt to draw meaning on the backs of these precious murder victims and their families?

Watching the images of those very young men who were massacred left me incapable at first of any contemplation about meaning. This is one of the reasons that Rabbi Don Segal’s comments were so abhorrent to me.

I was not the only one who was so disturbed by Rabbi Segal's comments. The Charedi newspaper, Yated Neeman was also disturbed. This is a paper with which I rarely if ever agree. But this time we are in full agreement.

It is against type for them to criticize Rabbinic leaders of their own community. But this is exactly what they have done. Very courageous. I applaud Avrohom Birnbaum for writing and the Yated and for their courage in publishing an article that reflects sentiments that mirror my own.

These sentiments reflects the basic humanity and compassion that we as a nation descendant of Abraham Avinu should have. They too realize that ‘the show must not go on’. This is not the time to promote our own ideologies. Not on the backs of the bereaved. This is the time to unite as one people. Here in part is what the Yated wrote:

In truth, although it is painful to admit, in the aftermath of the tragedy we have observed that even some fringe elements of Chareidi Jewry seem to be analyzing what message the bloodthirsty terrorists were sending and, lehavdil, what Divine message is inherent in the fact that bloodthirsty terrorists attacked the religious Zionist yeshiva of Merkaz Harav.

Do they not understand that to the majority of Arabs, we are the same as Merkaz Harav? They will attack any target, any Jew and any yeshiva upon which they can get their bloodthirsty hands, r"l. How foolish it is for simple, superficial people to view a tragedy in such a detached way - as if it is us and them. Yes, we have real ideological differences with religious Zionist hashkafa, but what does that have to do with the tragic loss of eight kedoshim? They were killed because they were Jewish and the terrorists would kill us or any Jew in Eretz Yisroel, r"l, just because we are Jewish.

I could not have said it better myself. Now is not the time for analysis. And yet it is an incident like this combined with the Yated’s reaction to it that takes me right back to what Rabbi Gottlieb said. I can’t help but see some meaning here. Is too obvious for me to ignore… even under these circumstances.

Times like this bring together those of us with even the most disparate of views. It is too bad that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to do that. One of the things I have always sought is mutual respect between all segments of Orthodoxy. This does not mean we must see eye to eye on all things. We can disagree. We should disagree when our principles demand it. It would be a blow to the very concept of Emes if we were not true to our own beliefs.

But even as we disagree we should realize that we are all one people. Even when the differences are truly great. What unites us is greater than what divides us. That phrase should be more than just a tired cliche. Uniting doesn't necessarily mean agreeing. It means respecting each other. It means that when we must disagree that we do so agreeably.

But that isn't how we always act. We tend only unite in times of tragedy. Maybe this is what God wants to tell us. He sees His people unite only in tragedy so He provides us with it. And then we unite.

With all due respect to those among us who have been assigning blame to opposing Hashkafos as the cause of our tragedies, I would quote Pogo, the famous character created by cartoonist Walt Kelly: 'We have met the enemy and he is us'.

Those who are trying so desperately to derive some meaning from this horrible tragedy... to learn some lesson from it, I humbly suggest that the lack of Achdus might just be that lesson.

It is in this spirit that I would applaud the Yated Neeman for their courageous editorial.