Monday, May 31, 2021

Introspection? Yes! But by Whom?

Israeli MKs Litzman, Deri, and Gafni (TOI)
Rabbi Reuven Leuchter’s usually insightful column in Mishpacha Magazine is something that I often agree with. But his latest column is not one of them. In that column, he said the following: 

The Jewish world is reeling from the wave of tragedies that began on Lag B’omer. Even the biggest apikorus would have a hard time blaming it all on chance. Hashem is sending us a wake-up call. We all know that.  

He then goes about trying to figure out what that message might be and what we should do about it.

It isn’t so much whether God is or isn’t sending us a message. Nor do I have a problem with trying to improve ourselves. That is always a good idea. 

But I do have a problem calling someone an Apikores if they don’t see it that way. And even if there is a message - the most obvious one would be that the Charedi political leadership needs to do Teshuva. Teshuva for leaving security in the hands of a group of minor religious leaders that organized a massively attended event without the slightest clue about safety precautions. People that refused to consult with any safety experts or allow anyone interfere with their poor decisions. Teshuva for putting organizers first and and the safety of their own people second. 

That Rabbi Leuchter ignored this as a possible message is very disappointing. Frankly I am sick and tired of constantly blaming everyone else for something that clearly was not their fault. And refusing to recognize who very well might be!

Making matters a lot worse is the following. Not only are  Charedi political leaders refusing to recognize their own part in this. They are actively seeking to prevent any attempt to ascertain who is responsible - lest the blame falls upon them. From the Times of Israel

It was the worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history. Yet 30 days on, as the traditional shloshim mourning period draws to a close, all attempts to establish a formal state investigation into what went wrong have failed.

Perhaps most shocking of all: Though the dead are almost all Haredi, it is the Haredi political parties who have resisted most fiercely a formal probe…

On May 24, in a vote in the Knesset brought by the secularist Yesh Atid party to establish a state investigation commission, the right-wing bloc walked out of the plenum at the behest of the Haredi factions Shas and United Torah Judaism. The proposal failed. 

They even rejected a commission that included their own Charedi representatives:

MK Betzalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, a social conservative who shares the Haredi distrust of the civil judiciary, drafted a proposal for a parliamentary commission of inquiry instead. It would be made up of Knesset members, including the religious parties.

The Haredi factions nixed that proposal as well.       

This has shocked a lot of people. How can the Charedi political leadership whose constituents were most affected by this disaster be the ones to block finding out exactly what happened; who was responsible; and how to prevent it from ever happening again?! 

There was a lot of handwringing by a number of Charedi spokesman who offered a variety of explanations about why they are opposed to a fact finding inquiry - while offering alternative suggestions. One of which I think is the most honest: 

These proposals share one unifying theme, best uttered, according to Hebrew media reports, by MK Uri Maklev at a UTJ faction meeting: “We have to make sure our people aren’t hurt.” (emphasis mine)

There you have it! I think that says it all. Charedi politicians care more about their own hides than they do about the truth. A truth that would very likely implicate their own responsibility in this disaster. It is hard to miss their  know-it-all but ignorant attitude about the safety (or lack thereof ) of that event. And their complete rejection of any outside interference. Why are they like that? Here’s why: 

…the heart of Haredi culture, (is) its sense that it has achieved a kind of purity and superiority over the surrounding society through its separatism and isolationism. 

It appears that there is a bit of Charedi rebellion going on. It isn’t only little old me asking these questions. It is their own constituents: 

The sense that the Haredi political elite has spent the 30 days since the catastrophe desperately fending off any inquiry that might see it blamed for the tragedy is driving a new outpouring of rage at the Haredi leadership from within its own community. 

If there was ever any reason for introspection by the Charedi politicians - this is it. It is time to stop blaming everyone else. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions about the way they view the word outside of themselves. And to stop looking at everyone outside of themselves as the enemy. Because in doing that they surely share the responsibility for what happened in both tragedies. 

One may ask, Who am I to make these kind of suggestions’? What right do I have to make these demands on  people whose thinking  is guided by people many consider to be the greatest rabbinic leaders of our generation’? 

Maybe I don’t have that right. But that doesn’t make that kind of introspection any less needed. Just ask the families of the victims.