Time Magazine was right when it named its Person of the Year, “The Protestor.” 2011 was filled with protestors in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Mexico, India, Chile, Moscow—even Tel Aviv and the Wall St. area of NY were not exempt—all crying out for change.
The 1st protest movement in history can be found in today’s parsha when Moses appears before Pharaoh and tells him that Gd has commanded (Ex. 10:3): Shalach et ami, “Let my people go!” Those words became the rallying cry not only of the Jewish protest movement against the Egyptians, but most every protest movement in history…from the American Revolution to the French Revolution, from the civil rights movement to the Soviet Jewry movement. But the fact is that we have not paid enough attention to what follows Moses’ words, “Let My people go”: Shalach et ami v’yavduni, “Let my people go so that they may serve Me.” Freedom alone is not enough. That’s why so many revolutions devolved into chaos and violence. There must be a commitment to principles that guarantee continued freedom.
A few weeks ago the Jewish world was shocked as a new round of protests came out from
It soon escalated to another protest on New Year’s Eve which sent shock waves through the Jewish world. The protest was against the government of
The anger and revulsion this protest evoked was unparalleled! We cry out when any group uses Holocaust symbols inappropriately. How much more so when it’s other Jews whose own families went up in smoke in Hitler’s ovens? For them to use Holocaust symbols and to use it against the State of
My colleague Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg asks: what did they hope to accomplish with this kind of protest? Did they think this would make the typical Israeli want to extend themselves more to help them? They’re not fools. They knew that the symbols they were using were only going to antagonize Israelis. They knew that in so doing it would not draw Israelis closer to them—just the opposite. It would create more distance. So why did they do it?
The answer: Because they wanted to create more distance! Their goal, 1st and foremost, is to separate themselves as much as possible from Israelis—whom they consider to be even worse than sinners. They consider
There was a time when the ultra-Orthodox could completely isolate themselves from the general community. They can’t do that anymore for technological reasons—because of the Internet; for economic reasons—because they can’t support their families. A good deal of the Hareidi community in
But more and more Hareidim are now starting to enter the Israeli mainstream. Their sons are getting occupational training; their daughters are going to religious colleges; their wives are going to work in mainstream
No one said this better than the 101-year-old leader of Israel’s mainstream Hareidim, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who in a Chanukah letter to his followers this year, called for his followers to: Exclude all paths that lead to national service, secular studies or the army, even if they assure a special framework for Charedi Jews…they encourage all sorts of programs, academies, colleges and the like which promise degrees, licenses, academic credentials, etc. intended to introduce goals and aspirations far against our way of life.” Boycott all the college programs and employment programs and army programs that the Israeli government and people are setting up specifically for the Chareidim…it’s all a trap to turn you off to Yiddishkeit.
So what was the purpose of the protest in Nazi regalia? To create more distance. For a while it may achieve its goal, but it won’t last. Protests whose goal is only to undermine never succeed. Moses’ protest that became the Exodus had to lead to Sinai—to Torah as its ultimate goal—to endure. As Moses said, “Let My people go that they may serve Me.” The ultimate goal of the Hareidi protests must be to serve Gd—a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Gd’s Name. Instead they have created a Chilul Hashem, a desecration of Gd’s name. Let me illustrate with a true story.
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, from
I pulled into the gas station just as I was thinking about what I should write in relation to the fast day this Thursday Asara B’Teves [1/5/12]. I had just begun to wonder what message of hope and inspiration I can offer on this day which is the 1st of the 4 fasts which were decreed because of Sinas Chinam (Baseless Hatred) and which climax with Tisha B’av…
The attendant had just about finished filling my car with gas. As he squeezed a few more drops of petrol into my car and a few more dollars for his coffers I squirmed to retrieve my wallet from my pocket.
“That will be $46 sir.”
“Why thank you so much, here you go and have a Happy New Year to you and your family.”
“Thank you and by the way, you’re the rabbi of that Synagogue there on High Street; no?”
I hesitated and then responded, “Yes, that’s me. How did you know?”
He did not resemble anyone in the Shul so I figured I’d ask how he knew me.
“I came by the Synagogue the other day as I wanted to ask you something?”
“Really, you came by when?”
“Oh yesterday in the afternoon, however, I saw you were preaching so I did not want to disturb. However, now that fate sent you in to buy gas I’d like to ask you something.”
…The fellow…[showed me] page 19 of the December 28th edition of the
“Hey Rabbi, did you see this?”
Unfortunately, I nodded in the affirmative.
“Is this true? Did this really happen?”
…I nodded again in the affirmative. He looked down and then said, “This is pretty scary; no?”
…His sense of fear seemed above and beyond all normal expectations of any non-Jew reading a paper and therefore it was now my turn to ask him a question. “Hope you don’t mind my asking but why are you so concerned about what’s going on in
“Rabbi, let me tell you something. I come from
“One day I had a ride from JFK to
I came home and told my wife we should move to a Jewish neighborhood and there we will finally find peace. I looked into moving to
What these ultra-orthodox Hareidi protestors have done is no less than a Chilul Hashem, a desecration of Gd’s name. To think a Pakistani who was inspired by the peaceful way of Jews echoing the verse from Proverbs (3:17) we sing as we put the Torah away: V’chol n’tivoteha shalom, “And all its paths are peace,” is now worried because the Jews have turned from their peaceful ways, is nothing more than a desecration of Gd’s name. To wear Holocaust garb and accuse the Israeli government of being Nazis bent on destroying Jews, is nothing more than a desecration of Gd’s name. May all Jews see this and be inspired to live their lives as a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Gd’s Name. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis