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Thursday, July 27, 2006

With My Brother in Pain

This article has been THE topic of conversation in my ultra-Orthodox neighborhood all week. The magazine where it was published - Mishpacha - does not have a web site. But since I get all Jonathan Rosenblum's articles by email, I had it all along, and I found it on his web site too so I can give you a teaser and tell you all to go read the whole thing. For those of you who are familiar with the ultra-Orthodox world, it will be pretty easy to guess which paragraph made this a topic of conversation....
Dan Margalit, one of Israel’s most prominent media figures, began his July 4 column in Maariv, with a shocking accusation: "The youth Eliyahu Asheri was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists, and only half the nation cried bitter tears. Because his parents are settlers and raised him in Itamar to a life of mitzvot and good deeds – because of his address -- his blood was deemed less red."

According to Margalit, a wide cross-section of the population view Chanan Barak and Pavel Slutsker, the two soldiers killed in the Palestinian attack on the IDF outpost at Kerem Shalom, and ybl"ch, Gilad Shalit, the soldier kidnapped in the same operation, "as the salt of the earth, the children of all of us, but not so Eliyahu Asheri."

"Have we made a silent agreement with the Palestinian terrorists who want to kill Israeli citizens that they may do so, as long as they confine themselves to settlers?" asked Margalit.

Margalit’s indictment takes on even greater force because he writes as a man of the Left, as one who believes that Itamar should be dismantled and that Prime Minister Olmert’s convergence plan offers the best hope for the future. Yet he finds himself pouring out lamentations over the absence from Eliyahu Asheri’s levaya of simple Jews moved by a love of their fellow Jews.

We have lost the ability, Margalit claims, to separate between our political arguments, on the one hand, and the unity of the Jewish people, on the other hand. He goes so far to compare the present situation to the division of the Jewish people into two kingdoms during the First Temple period.

AS TORAH JEWS, we nod our heads at Margalit’s analysis, and at least console ourselves that his strictures do not apply to us. How could they? After all, for us the mutual responsibility of Jews for one another is not just a slogan, it is a religious principle.

And unlike our secular brethren, we can provide a coherent account of why every Jews counts, and why we bear responsibility for one another. At Sinai, we received the Torah as one entity – k’ish echad b’lev echad. Hashem entrusted us there with a national mission to which every single Jew has some unique contribution to make.

And indeed it is an easy enough matter to demonstrate the connection between a waning attachment to Torah and a decline in the sense of responsibility for one’s fellow Jews. A pure ethnic identity has proven incapable of transmission from one generation to another.

Still, we are perhaps a bit too quick to pat ourselves on the back and assure ourselves that nothing is lacking in our concern for our fellow Jews. Our well warranted concern with protecting ourselves and our children from the spiritual pollution around us, for instance, comes at a cost. For one thing, it can cause us to forget the bond we share with other Jews.

Times of war provide one good test of the strength of our connection to our fellow Jews. We tirelessly proclaim that our Torah learning and mitzvos protect the Jews of Eretz Yisrael no less than the might of the IDF. We will never convince those who do not share our perspective. But at the very least let us check to see whether our own actions attest to our sincere belief that learning and mitzvos can help determine the outcome.

Removing Hizbullah rockets from range of northern Israel may well entail a large Israeli ground offensive into Lebanon, with the call-up of thousands of reservists. If thousands of troops are still mired in Lebanon two weeks hence, or if the residents of the North are still stuck in bomb shelters, will yeshivos close down, as usual, for bein hazemanim? Will the increased intensity of our learning and davening be palpable? Will we be spending our time thinking of concrete ways to relieve the stress of families under fire – perhaps even inviting them into our homes?
Last night, someone in synagogue told me that Rabbi Moshe Shapiro, one of the country's most prominent Rabbis, said that last year Jews were expelled from their homes in the Gaza Strip, and most of us managed to go about our business as usual and ignore it. So this year, God has given us a more serious crisis in the hope that we will show our concern and try to reverse the decree against us. Are we up to the challenge? The next month or so should hold the answer.

Like I said, read the whole thing.


At 3:34 PM, Blogger M. Simon said...

I'm a pretty secular Jew and yet I agree with the major points made.

I disagree re:the evacuation of Gaza.


Sharon gave you an opportunity.

It looks like the present government is going to squander it. Idiots.

The suffering will have been in vain. That is the sin.

Nothing wrong with suffering for gain. The Torah is full of such stories. Retreats followed by counter attacks.

The problem with the current set of fools is that they think they can remain on the defensive forever. They don't get the counter attack part.


BTW you ought to install the blogspot turing test so people can do proper links.

It is in one of the setting menus.

Go to "Change Settings"
Then "Comments"
Then "Show word verification for comments" click "Yes"

At 8:33 PM, Blogger ShumBaayaMyLord said...

Carl, thanks for sharing this. I've just been reading Faranak Margolese's interesting new book "Off the Derech," where she attributes a statement to Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l to the effect that the Mashiach tarries not due to the distance from Torah u'Mitzvot of non-observant Jews, but to the failure of will on the part of observant Jews to truly live the meaning of Torah u'Mitzvot...


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