Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nothing to Gain Except a Chilul HaShem

Not the way to win friends and influence people
The recent arrest of a Charedi draft dodger has once again brought out threats of retaliation and disruption by his fellow Charedim. According to an article in the Forward they have threatened to disrupt a marathon scheduled for this Friday in Jerusalem. Not all Charedim. Just followers of Rav Shmuel Auerbach who told his followers to resist the draft on every level. Including refusing to obey the law requiring young people to register. This is in contradistinction to his rival, R. Aharon Leib Shteinman who urges his followers to obey the law and register.

Many people on the right would say that this is a Milchmes Mitzvah - a holy war between 2 giants. And that a mere mortal like me has no right to state his views on the matter. But I disagree. B’Makom Chilul HaShem, Ein Cholkin Kavod L’Rav. In matters where God’s name is desecrated, one may not impart honor to a Rav.

In my view Rav Auerbach, who has long ago departed from the pleasant ways of the Torah reflected by his saintly father, feels that violating the dictates of a revered religious leader 20 years his senior; recognized by other great Charedi leaders (like R’ Chaim Kanievsky) as the leader of the generation - is a great idea. That he causes a lot more harm than good does not apparently occur to him. (Of course - he probably feels that the opposite is true.)

One can debate whether the tactic used by Rav Auerbach will better accomplish the mutual goal he has with Rav Shteinman of exempting their Bnei Torah form army service. One can also debate whether that is even a good idea on such a mass scale. But this is not about either of those issues.

It is about the Chilul Hashem of obviously religious Jews acting like hooligans and wild animals. It is about the wisdom of disrupting a public that in any case has no sympathy for draft dodgers. And in far too many cases see the entire Charedi world in Israel in the most negative light with little redeeming value. Even among many observant Jews like those in the religious Zionist camp. Can they be blamed for seeing them that way when their own children serve in the military and put their lives on the line every day protecting their people?

Of course I’m sure that Rav Auerbach thinks he’s creating a Kiddush Hashem with such public resistance. But he’s not. If he were, Rav Shteinman would be right there along side him urging his followers to do the same thing.

Instead he and his followers increase whatever enmity already exists between the Charedi world and the non Charedi world. They are driving the wedge between them even deeper. It isn’t just his followers that by their behavior look bad. They make all Charedim look bad. I doubt that the secular world even realizes that there is a virtual war between these two factions. A war so strong that there has been physical encounters between them where people got hurt. This is one reason that Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak has lost its luster in recent years. Despite its reputation for high quality Torah study, its new reputation is one of discord, fighting and injury!

I therefore cannot protest Rav Auerbach’s approach enough. He accomplishes nothing towards his goal and instead drives people away from Judaism. When a secular Jew sees this behavior and the reasons they give for it, he will run the other way. If this is Torah, they want nothing to do with it. They will say that all these people care about is themselves and the money they get from the government. Everyone else can go to hell.

This is the attitude that Rav Auerbach generates. The damage done is incalculable. Which is why I consider it to be such a Chilul HaShem. (His father must be rolling in his grave. Many times over!)

How ironic it is that his father, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach every action was a Kiddush HaShem. There are so many stories of the lengths to which he went to avoid a Chilul HaShem. Thus making his every move a Kiddush HaShem. I cannot conceive any way he would have approved of what his son, R’ Shmuel is doing!

Instead of distancing our non observant brothers and sisters form Judaism with disgusting behavior like this, they should be engaging with their secular neighbors using the pleasant ways of the Torah.

Although there are some Israelis that are anti religious, it is rather well established that most Israelis are not. They are in fact traditional. While not observant on an Orthodox level they are still observant of many Mitzvos. For example I believe that most Israelis actually fast on Yom Kippur. And I’m sure they all have a Pesach Seder. Most are probably proud of their Judaism. R’ Auerbach would do well to have some positive engagement with these people. And encourage their religious observances and their pride in Judaism with the kind of behavior his father was so famous for.

Instead of wasting time with protests like these that inconvenience the public and drive people away from observance, Rav Auerbach should be doing the opposite. Instead of encouraging discord in Israeli society,  he should encourage harmony. As things stand now, he is driving Jews away from Judaism and doesn’t seem to care.

If I were Rav Shteinman I would call for a counter protest this Friday and invite the secular world to join him. Maybe that will send him the message he really needs to hear.