Stop the Name Calling and Debate the Issue

The across the board outpour of condemnations that followed Noam Freidman’s action in Hebron was certainly expected. But Saul Yahalom, an MK from the NRP knew that the same old and familiar expressions of condemnations do not impress anyone anymore, and so he decided to deal with the issue from a political and ideological point of view. And so, during a radio interview, he very enthusiastically came up with the following gem : “Only a fool or an evil person thinks that the use of violence can achieve political gains.”

Out advice to Saul Yahalom and those of his ilk (so many in the religious-Zionist camp become absolutely hysterical after such incidents, because they know that despite the claims of its “leaders”, a large number of their students believe that such deeds are justified) is not to make a joke out of himself. If he has a moral problem with it, or if he thinks that the Jewish law opposes it, let him bring down sources or logical arguments. Instead, he makes a fool of himself.

Only a fool or an evil person thinks that the use of violence can achieve political goals? Where is Mr. Yahalom living? On the moon? After all, Mr. Yahalom is part of a government which negotiates with a terror organization that ACHIEVED ALL OF IT’S POLITICAL ATTAINMENTS through the most shocking violence! The PLO is munching away on our small land, piece by piece, only by way of it’s violent activities!

Our state as well arose through the merit of the “foolish and wicked” types from the “Lechi” and the “Irgun” who thought that the use of violence canbring about political benefits. Why didn’t they listen to the wise-man Yahalom, then? And you better believe that in those days there was no shortage of “Yahaloms” festering amongst us. Thank G-d they didn’t listen, because if they would have, we would not have a State of Israel today.

In short, our advice to the panic-stricken religious-Zionist camp is not to think you can brush issues aside with cliches and mass condemnations. Because the public is a lot smarter than it’s intellectuals, and certainly a lot smarter than their leaders give them credit for – and the students inthe Yeshivas and the Ulpans are not gullible fools who swallow whatever their “leaders” feed them.

Love of Jews

The issue of releasing the Jewish political prisoners is a reliable yardstick in measuring “Love of Jews” (Ahavat Yisrael.) What person with a Jewish heart can bear to see Jews, who acted out of nationalist motives, decay in prison while Arab murderers are set free. Only a Jew who has something dead inside of him cannot identify with the plight of the Jewish prisoners who acted out of pain, retaliation and sometimes self-defense.

Yet, we see so many right-wingers adamantly against their release. Elyakim HaEtzni, considered an extreme right-winger is against releasing the Jewish prisoners, as is the new “savior” Benny Begin. Benny Alon as well says he has a “moral problem” with helping them. We can see from this that there is sometimes no connection between nationalism or “love of land” and “love of Jews”. All the staunch Zionists (including religious ones) don’t even mention Jonathan Pollard anymore. He is simply not in their consciousness. For so many YESHA types, Eretz Yisrael is the only goal that stands before them, while Ahavat Yisrael falls by the wayside. (The attitude of so many of them is that Pollard is an “American”, and anyway, aren’t all Americans crazy?) This is their level of Ahavat Yisrael. Even their slogan “Ahavat Chinam” (unconditional love) is reserved strictly for the secularists, and is only a manipulation to placate the secularists and further the cause for strengthening the settlement enterprise. For this reason, their “Ahavat Chinam” does not extend to the “Haredim”, since the “Haredim”are not settlement supporters.

Note: The point here is not to take away from the importance of settlements,but there is a disproportionate emphasis on this one subject, while other values are ignored. When a Jew is murdered by an Arab, they scream for more settlements instead of for vengeance or the expulsion of the Arabs. Another example: Several years ago when the Russian Jews were coming out of the Soviet Union and going to America instead of Israel, many wanted the Soviets to shut their gates to these Jews, since they are not making Aliyah to Israel. But true “Ahavat Yisrael” would dictate that we should want those Soviet Jews freed in any case, even if they don’t come to Israel. Again, the ideal of Zionism does not have to overshadow the value of “Ahavat Yisrael”. That is why Rabbi Kahane fought anti-semitism in the exile, even if he knew that the ultimate answer is Aliyah to Israel.

Bombing of the King David Hotel

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the blowing up of the King David Hotel by the Irgun. We often discuss the history of the Lehi and Irgun in order to remind and educate ourselves of the self-sacrifice that is necessary in order to bring change and to swiften the redemption.

In these days of materialism and unraveling of the social fiber, along with the total breakdown of national morale, the awesome spirit of self-sacrifice has become a thing of the past. But we must pay attention to the fact that there are a few Jews today who have followed the footsteps of past heroes, and have undertaken deeds of “msirut nefesh”. Many are sitting in jails today, as prisoners of Zion inside Zion. In certain respects, their sacrifice is even greater than their predecessors of the Jewish undergrounds of the Irgun and Lehi, because today’s incitement against any national sentiment, along with the self-hate and emphasis on materialism is so much stronger than it ever was in past times.

We must remember that while the action of the blowing up of the King David Hotel is considered heroic today, it certainly was not considered as such atthe time it was done. Then, it was condemned as “terrorism”, “insanity”, and”violent”. Let this comfort us and teach us that the condemned of today are the heroes of tomorrow, and today, as well, let us not get upset by those who attack the right and the righteous, for their light will surely shine tomorrow.

Behaalotecha: Profiling the Jewish leader

In Parashat BeHaalotcha, we are witness to a unique event: the choosing of leaders. The Torah even “lets us in” on which factors played part in how these Jewish leaders were chosen.

In our parasha (ch. 11), Moshe reaches his breaking point – “I can’t carry the burden of this people alone, for it is too heavy for me”, and asks G-d to find people who can share the burden of leadership with him. How does G-d pick these leaders? After all, there was no shortage of righteous and talented Jews around.

G-d immediately singles out a specific group from which the next Jewish leadership will be chosen: “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them”. Rashi explains: “Those whom you recognize, who were appointed over them as officers in Egypt during the rigorous labor, and they (the officers) had pity on them (the Israelites) and were beaten because of them.” Though this may appear a rather surprising choice, a deeper probe into the matter will reveal to us a tremendous lesson, so pertinent for today.

The Criteria: “Ahavat Yisrael”
Who in the world were these Jewish police officers? Let us back track to the book of “Shmot” (Chapter 5). Pharo lays down a rather heavy if not impossible edict on his Jewish slaves. They must produce a specific quota of bricks without even being given straw. The Jewish officers were ordered by the Egyptian taskmasters to oversee that this quota was met. If not, the officers would be blamed for it and beaten. Thus, they were in a dilemma. Either they turn over their brothers and by doing so save their own skin, or they can refuse orders, and be severely punished for it. In short, these “officers” were supposed to be Jewish “kappos”. But these policeman, unlike others who have been placed in similar situations in our sad history, refused to bear down on their already suffering brethren, and did not hand over the names of Jews who could not meet the quota. The result? The Egyptian taskmasters thrashed the refusenik policeman instead of the Jewish slaves: “And the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharo’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten..” (5:14)

If we take this seriously, and not relate to it like some fairy tale we heard in kindergarten, we would get goose bumps all over just contemplating such heroism. What can be a more inspiring description of “Ahavat Yisrael” and caring for a fellow Jew by someone in authority. Not only did they not exploit their power, but these officers understood that sometimes they must bear the suffering of their brothers. This is what God saw. And He did not forget. The minute there was a need for leadership, He knew whom to turn to. God did not seek out people with charisma, nor did he pick talented organizers or even the greatest Torah scholars. One thing: “Ahavat Yisrael”.

The centrality of this attribute cannot be disputed. The two greatest leaders in Jewish history, Moshe Rabbeinu and David, were former shepherds. The sages teach us that God tested them through their ability to care for their flock and show mercy on those they are responsible over.

Today, everyone speaks of “Ahavat Yisrael”. But too often it is merely a slogan. When selecting the leaders, God did not choose those who make nice speeches about “Ahavat Yisrael”. God wanted people with a “previous record”: a record of suffering for one’s brothers; a record of placing one’s personal welfare secondary to that of one’s people. A record of m’sirut nefesh – going out on the line for a fellow Jew.

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