Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two Charedi Videos

It is said that R' Shach would cry upon hearing of the death of any IDF soldier
I love the Charedi world. I really do. Even though I am not Charedi and do not always agree with them, I admire and respect the devotion they have in serving God. They are, in my view, role models for that. Very few Jews – even Orthodox Jews - can live up to a standard where how one lives  and virtually everything one does  - is all about serving God.

For the most part those virtues which in part consist of dedication, commitment, and compassion serve them well as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.  Family values are a part of their very being. Kindness, charitable giving, and Torah study is part of their collective soul. 

This is not to say that they are saints. Who among us is? But they are probably less sinners that most of the rest of us. This applies to both the Yeshiva world and the Chasidic world. (Yes, I know there are exceptions.)

This might sound strange coming from someone that has been so critical of Charedim on so many issues. But that’s only because I care. I want to see them flourish. Not flounder. I want to see extremism destroyed, not tolerated. Unfortunatley there are far too many that follow a philosophy of extremism (a minority to be sure) - and some of those act on it without enough protest from their leadership.

Some people have accused me of trying to make Charedim over in my image as a Centrist. Much as I would love to see every Jew follow the same Hashkafa I do, that is not my goal. My goal is for each community to represent their own Torah Hashkafa in a positive light. All in the spirit of Elu V’Elu. 

While it is legitimate to criticize them when we feel it is warranted - we must at the same time recognize and admire their many strengths and positive attributes.  Live and let live within the parameters of the Torah through Halacha and Mesorah. That is my belief. Citicizing them L’Shem Shomayim only when it is warranted.

Obviously criticism is subjective and based on the individual critic’s personal perspective or bias. There can be clear differences of opinion about what is and isn’t legitimate criticism. But that’s just called being human. As long as it is L’Shem Shomayim – we should all agree that it is legitimate to criticize.

I mention this to be clear about my intent as I criticize yet another disgusting event in the Charedi world. It happened last night on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. An event that is in stark contrast to another event in the Charedi world that was very inspiring. (More about that later.)

Last night I was directed to a video recording of a protest held at the epicenter of the extremist Charedi world, Kikar Shabbat. This is the intersection in Jerusalem where the Geula meets the Meah Shearim. It was held at the exact same moment when sirens were sounding indicating a moment of silence for fallen soldiers. They ignored it. Instead of being silent, they continued loudly protesting.

They of course have every right protest in a democracy. But it is the height of insensitivity to do that during the very moment where a national moment of silence is being observed. Regardless of how they feel about this method of memorializing the dead. They consider it a non Jewish way of doing that. But that doesn’t really matter. They should have done what most Charedim in Israel do that agree with them about it being Jewishly inappropriate and nevertheless stand in silence so as not to hurt the families that have lost loved ones in battle.

The callousness of these extremists is appalling. People died serving the very country that allows them to protest it. These were young soldiers who fought Israel’s enemies valiantly and gave up their lives. And yet these miscreants could not care less. There is not an ounce of compassion for the families that mourn the loss of their sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; and in some cases husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. They see what they believe to be an evil government and all they can feel is hate.

What is almost as sad as the demonstrators themselves is the bystanders looking on. Where was the outrage?!

I realize that these are so many of these kinds of protests that a lot of mainstream Charedim just have ‘battle fatigue’. They are probably just tired of all this and look on with dismay – hoping it passes quickly.

But still, to see this display of callousness without a single person there saying a word (at least none that was recorded) was depressing and makes me angry. I can only surmise that this ‘fatigue’ combined with decades of anti Zionist indoctrination has led them to tolerate this Chilul HaShem.

That video should however be contrasted to another one. One that is entirely the opposite. It is a different kind of a Charedi response to fallen soldiers. One that is a Kiddush haShem. It is a recording of the magnificent Rabbi Menachem Bombach teaching a classroom (or assembly) filled with Chasidic students. He is teaching them what it means to lose a loved one in battle serving their country.  

This is what I mean by Charedi compassion. It’s there. But because of all the anti Zionist indoctrination -these young children have somehow become immune to the tragedy of a fallen soldier.  This video is truly inspiring and gives me hope that the innate compassion that is part and parcel of the soul of the Jewish people becomes unlocked from the prison created by a rhetoric of hate.

I hope that this kind of truth will catch on. True, Rabbi Bombach’s school is unique and counter culture to his Chasidic anti secular studies heritage. But the compassion he teaches is certainly not counter culture. Hopefully this approach will somehow spread to other Chasidic schools, regardless of how they feel about Zionism or about teaching secular subjects.

God bless Rabbi Bombach. He is truly one of my heroes. Unlike those extremists, he is the real deal. We need a lot more like him and a lot less extremists who participate in protests like the one at Kikar Shabbat.