Attitudes towards the אומות העולם

R’ Shteinman recently made news because of a speech that he gave which spoke unkindly of the אומות העולם.

R’ Shteinman שליט’’א

A translation of his speech is available. One should read it in context.

The purpose of creation is for the torah! As long as there was no Torah, there were all sorts of no good things, until Avraham came. From Avraham began the spark of what began the Torah, Avraham then Yitzchak and Yaakov, Yosef and the Tribes. but without torah the world could not exist. And it was a great chessed that 26 generations until the torah was given, in the merit of chessed, because they waited for the torah. But without torah there is no world! So the purpose of the world, one must know, is the torah. And today they say there are 8 billion people in the world. And what are they all? murderers and thieves, people without seichel .. but for whom is the purpose of the world? did Hashem create it for these murderers, for those evil people? Only for the tzadikim, those who learn torah, people who learn and keep torah. that is the purpose of the creation. And with parnassa Hashem helps. Most of the time the richest people specifically are not people of such great education. Why? because that is not the main thing. It depends on Hashem supporting all His creations. The mian thing is that a Jew should learn torah…Klal Yisrael are connected to the roah. The gentiles have no connection to the torah. the nations of the world don’t have anything, not security, not good deeds, and whatever klal yisrael has is only with the torah. […]

I’m not in a position to understand these thoughts. I’m not sure if R’ Shteinman realised that his words would be broadcast around the world. If he did not, then that itself is problematic as it implies that one may be too removed. My problem with what he said is:

  1. It was possible to make the comment that people without Torah values have been seen to be involved in all manner of atrocities throughout History. This includes those who are Jewish without Torah and those who are “frum” without (real) Torah. However, given the bad press that frum Jews are getting, it might have been better to appeal to statistics which clearly show that Mentchliche values and proper behaviour in our society go hand in hand with Torah observance. That being said, I’m not sure that’s the best approach to show the beauty of Torah, anyway.
  2. There were and are חסידי אומות העולם. This speech doesn’t logically admit them.
  3. There are ישמעאלים who are non violent and were and are happy to live peacefully. Why wouldn’t they be classed as בני נח?
  4. What is wrong with a בן נח anyway? It’s a halachic category. It has a purpose and a reward. Should it be sneered at? Is the בן נח somehow culpable for being born?
  5. Later in his talk he mentioned the Chayei Adam. The Chayei Adam worked for a living.
  6. I’m not sure how the Rav knows that rich people aren’t bright. Why would he say that anyway? Again, the point that we require a Bracha from Hashem can be made cogently without saying that.

At the risk of being accused of Charedi bashing, similar comments have been made by Sefardi Chachamim and Rabbis from יהודה and שומרון. Let’s segue to today’s news from Yediot.

“If the wife of a Knesset member would have been raped, this whole mess would have been sorted out, but no one cares about us” one of the demonstrators who were arrested told Ynet.

The protesters waved signs reading “South Tel Aviv a refugee camp” and “Infiltrators, leave our home.”

One of the demonstrators who spoke during the rally urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “decide whether we live in Israel or Sudan.”

Smaller protests against the illegal immigration phenomenon were held in Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Eilat.

Residents of the south Tel Aviv neighborhoods Shapira and Kiryat Shalom held another rally on Chahmei Yisrael Street. They waved signs reading, “Our streets are no longer safe for our children,” “The craziness of our life: Neglect, crime, rape and violence,” “Yesterday it was my daughter, tomorrow it will be your daughter,” and “Yishai was right.”

So one doesn’t have to be an elderly Charedi Gadol to make similar points in a demonstrative manner.

Do Israelis have a right to protest? Of course they do. Can they argue that there are too many immigrants from amongst the אומות העולם? Yes, they can. Every country has limits, and Israel has a right to preserve its raison d’être as a Jewish State. Leftists will counter that the Shoah implies Israel should take any and all refugees. Should they? Perhaps they should deport anyone who breaks the law?

These are weighty issues, and they require very careful language and associated action. There is much more to write, but this isn’t the time.

Let me close with an allied observation about the manner in which we do interact with the אומות העולם.

It is common in non Charedi Schools to sing the National Anthem on chosen days. It is common in non Charedi Schools to have a flag of Australia. It is common in non Charedi Shules to have a prayer devoted to the Government. We know הוי מתפלל לשלמה של מלכות. When a group specifically chooses not to

  • sing the Anthem
  • fly the flag
  • devote a special prayer for the Government

I am puzzled. Why? Does it mean that automatically it provides legitimacy to the more sordid elements of society? Is there a danger that through doing so people will become less Jewish (whatever that means)? You take the money but don’t show gratitude in the accepted way?

It seems to me, that being careful not to להתגרות and aggravate is a Jewish value, as is הכרת הטוב. Can someone explain why the rhetoric and the lack of material acts has become so negative and at times so embarrassing?

Are these lyrics problematic?

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea:
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history’s page let every stage
Advance Australia fair,
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

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