Friday, March 25, 2016

Reject Our Unworthy Members

Profoundly offensive act by Jews we should reject from Orthodoxy
There are a lot of Orthodox Jews, myself included, that often say that all observant Jews have more that unites us than what divides us. No matter how widely our Hashkafos differ. Even if the gap is wide as it is between Satmar and the most left leaning of Orthodox Jews. 

I have always believed that. As long as we all do not entertain heretical beliefs we are all united by our adherence to Halacha. The Halacha that is seen as the most indicative of that is Shmiras Shabbos - Sabbath observance. If one is a Shomer Shabbos, that shows that they are observant. Even if there are minor infractions of Halacha – which all of us are guilty of at one time or another. With few exceptions in history, there is no Jew alive or was ever born that lived their lives without sin.

But sometimes behavior becomes so offensive that it challenges that notion. At least for me. A photo of a hanging IDF soldier on display in the Meah Sheraim section of Jerusalem yesterday qualifies as challenging that notion.  The group responsible for that abomination not only challenges that notion, for me it disqualifies membership in the greater Orthodox world.They should be rejected from Klal Yisroel, despite their obvious observance of Halacha. 

Their observance of Shabbos is probably more meticulous than that of most other Orthodox Jews. And yet by this act they have removed themselves from the congregation of Israel no less than Korach and his Eidah did when they challenged the leadership of Moshe. 

Hanging Jews in effigy – even on Purim – is so beneath contempt, that I have no words. IDF members are holy Jews whether they are observant or not. They are ready to give up their lives in defense of the Jewish people, Meah Shearim Jews included. 

What makes this even more offensive is that the model for hanging anyone on Purim is that of Haman, the Hitler of his era. Haman, like Hitler, wanted to commit genocide against us. So that when someone is hung on Purim in effigy, they are basically comparing him to Hitler. 

One may want to counter my words with the ‘broad brush’ argument. Saying that I should not paint the entire Meah Shearim community this way because of a few miscreants. And that the extremists responsible for that ‘prank’ are just as condemned by their leadership as they are by me.

Sorry. I don’t buy that for a minute. One need only look at the screaming rabbi embedded in yesterday’s post to see how false that is. This attitude is shared by their leadership. The leadership may not be the ones hanging an IDF soldier in effigy.  But they certainly agree with the sentiment. If they do ever mouth words of public condemnation, it is only  for public consumption. They are otherwise on board with it.

This is not a case of  Elu V’Elu – Divrei Elokim Chaim – these and those are the words of the living God. Elu V’Elu is meant to support legitimate Machlokes - Halachic disputes in Klal Yisroel. Like those of Hillel and Shamai. They disagreed on almost everything and yet their views are considered legitimate in the eyes of God. Elu V’Elu is not meant to justify an evil such as this. 

Had they just maintained their opposition to joining the IDF for ideological reasons, that would be an Elu V’Elu. But hanging a Jew effigy to illustrate just how opposed they are - is so disgusting that in my view it completely destroys their membership – not just in the holy nation of Israel, but in the human race as far as I am concerned.

And yet, the Charedi world seems to tolerate them. And even admire them.

Who are the people of Meah Shearim? To the best of my knowledge most of them are descendants of the Yishuv HaYashan – Orthodox Jews who made Alyiah (emigrated) to Israel well before the Zionist founders of the state did - and established residence in this part of Jerusalem. They were devout Jews consisting of Chaisdim and the Talmidei HaGra – disciples of the Vilna Gaon. They settled there without any of the modern conveniences of our day, just so they could fulfill the Mitzvah of Yishuv Ha’aretz – living in the land of Israel. They have maintained a constant presence in Israel since then – rejecting outright the legitimacy of Zionism in any of its forms. 

I recall an article in one of the Charedi magazines a year or two ago where these people were praised as devout Jews - pure and holy. Where family values reign and Chesed abounds. Any one of them would give you the shirt off his back. Their only concern was serving God in the best way possible, living their lives modestly without government support – rejecting outright any government financial aid. They followed their rabbinic leaders honoring them with respect usually reserved for a head of state. In short the author of that article painted the entire community as one we would do well to emulate. 

Would that this description was the beginning and end of it. I would agree that their devout, modest, sincere, and compassionate way of life was something to emulate.  But as this event (and many others like it) shows these are not people to emulate. These are people to reject. 

I will not be hanging anyone in that community in effigy. I would never stoop that low. But I will reject them as members of Torah Judaism despite the fact that they observe Shabbos meticulously. All of them, leaders included – even as they might mouth some sort of tepid condemnation that would no doubt include apologetics like ‘but their hearts were in the right place’.

I only wish the rest of the Orthodox world would do the same instead of always apologizing for them. Their views about Israel are more like those of ISIS than they are like those of rest of Orthodox Jewry – even in the Charedi world. 

I can excuse an occasional emotional anti government outburst by a Charedi leader that - whether I agree or not - feels that his world is crumbling at the hands of a government edict. But hanging a fellow Jew in effigy is far more offensive. By orders of magnitude. And this kind of thing happens too frequently to be called an occasional outburst. A single condemnation by the Charedi world is not enough. They have to cut them off from the rest of the Torah world in all ways - financial and otherwise. 

This may not affect them. They probably don’t care what the rest of Orthodox Jewry thinks of them. But they might care about losing our financial support. If that is what it takes for them to stop it, then it ought to be done.