Monday, August 08, 2022

Too Much Religious Fervor

Extremist RW MK Itamar Ben Gvir on the Temple Mount yesterday (TOI)
Is there such a thing as too much religious fervor? I think there is. It might be counter-intuitive to say this.  But I think the facts speak for themselves. I believe that too much religious fervor is one of the major causes of violence. Not just violence between religious and secular. But violence between religious ad religious.

One does not need to go far to see examples of such violence. If you’ve been to the Meah Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem – just wait a minute! It’s bound to happen. Sooner or later dumpsters will be burning. Or a storeowner selling products not ‘approved’ by the their rabbinic leadership will be beaten to a pulp by fervent ‘activists’ that believe they are acting on behalf of God. Or their store will be vandalized, or even torched. 

But in my view, it is not from the Charedi community where the most fervent Jews come. It is from the Religious Zionists. Their religious fervor is what brought thousands of them to Har HaBayis (the Temple Mount) yesterday on Tisha B’Av. 

They truly ache for the day the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt. Perhaps even more so than devout Charedim. Taken to its ultimate extreme there were some instances where right wing Religious Zionist fervor had spawned plans to blow up the Mosque that sits there now. True, it was a very tiny group people that did this.  But it was their Religious Zionism that motivated them. 

Right wing religious Zionists are the true believers. Their fervor causes them risk their own lives in furtherance of their religious cause. In the process they are blinded to the dangers that it might cause others. Because they sincerely believe that this is what God wants of them. 

In service to that fervor is the desire to ascend the Temple Mount. I believe it is because they feel the need to ‘show God’ just how much they long for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash by coming as close as they possibly can to the actual area of where the the 2 Batei Mikdash once stood. They of course realize that it is forbidden to tread on certain areas there. But they go where they believe it is permitted - determined to prove to God, and show the world, and especially the Arabs - just how much that area means to them and to assert their right to be there.

It is with that mind set that they are ready to incite Palestinian violence if need be Which can and has happened. How could it not have? Right wing Religious Zionists that go up there are filled with religious fervor. But so too are the Palestinians that ascend the mount. As are all the terrorist organizations that have vowed to kill us. They are just as incited as the Arabs on the mount. They all  believe that they are to rightful owners of Har HaBayis and have been there for hundreds of years.

These fervent Jews don’t really care about all that. That they upset fervent Muslims is almost irrelevant.  Sure - they go up there in peace and do not intentionally incite a violent response. But they have to know that when thousands of Jews ascend the mount praying for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash - that it will not sit well with them.  

To these right wing Religious Zionists, it doesn’t matter. By dint of their their religious fervor, they are emotionally invested in doing it and oblivious to the possible violent consequences. Or they consider it worth the price. They hope it doesn’t happen but if it does, so be it. 

When they are challenged about the dangers., their response goes something like this: ‘The Arabs hate us anyway.’ ‘They attack us all over Israel regardless of whether we ascend to the mount or not.’ ‘So why stop doing what’s right in the eyes of God?’

This is what makes them so dangerous. The fact that Arabs might hate us and attack us anyway doesn’t mean they won’t react separately to provocations that challenge their own fervent beliefs. Reactions that might come from beyond  Har HaBayis in the form of rocket attacks by fervently religious  terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah – all of which are supplied with deadly weapons by their sponsors in Iran – the most fervent Muslims of all in the region.

The question is, though, do they not have a point? Should we not demonstrate our longing for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. Especially on Tisha B’av which is what that day is all about? What better way is there of doing that a than ascending the Temple Mount in supplication and prayer at the closest place that one can go to do the place the Batei Mikdash once stood?

The answer is that it is not better when it presents a danger to the nation by way of retaliation. Just because we are in ‘control’ right now and may technically have that right doesn’t mean that we should exercise it. Not when the consequences may be deadly. 

There is another reason not to ascend the mount. The fact is that virtually all non Religious Zionist Poskim have forbidden ascending Har HaBayis - even though they concede that there are areas that  technically would be permitted. Their argument is twofold. One is that there may be inadvertent crossing into forbidden areas. And that in any case it unnecessarily incites the Arabs for no Mitzvah purpose.   

It’s true that Religious Zionist Poskim have delineated those areas of the Temple mount that one is clearly permitted to ascend. They certainly have the right to their own Halachic opinion. But when you measure the potential violence against the lack of any real Mitzvah by going up there, the pain is a lot worse then the gain. What do they really gain is showing the Arabs who’s boss? True, they might do it for religious reasons. But they are blinded by their religious fervor to the damage they cause. Or they simply think it’s worth it. 

But is it? Not in my book. Jewish blood does not come cheap. We are obligated to abort all Mitzvah observances - save 3 of the 613 - in order to save a life.  Showing the Arabs who’s boss is not one of them.

A lot of religious Jews all over the world might have been inspired by the thousands of fervent Jews that went up to the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av. But I was not one of them. I was, however, inspired by what took place just below the Temple Mount on the Kotel Plaza where thousands of Jews from the broad spectrum of Orthodoxy (sans the right wing Religious Zionists) expressed their own fervor in a way that was far less inciting then those who ascended the mount.