Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady

I’ve struggled with understanding the myriad of Israelis who after their army service make their way to Nepal, and India, then sometimes down to Australia. Nepal and India have their significant risks. I’ve only been able to understand it in terms of a need to “come down” from the psychological experience of being in the army. In this regard, I think that whilst having Chabad Houses to support these Israelis is great, the IDF needs to do lots more to develop their post IDF program, especially given the spiritual vacuity that so many seem to experience as soon as they are confronted with life after training and/or combat.

Tamar Ariel is a hero though. I don’t know why she went to Nepal, and I don’t fit her shoes so am hardly in a position to proffer opinion, but a frum girl, who was a pilot, wore a skirt to her ankles, didn’t even shake hands with commanders, is someone who had much more to her than the Chitzoniyus of Tznius. This was a lady who internally was probably more modest than her external fidelity to Halacha. She was one of a kind.

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

The article can be found here, by Mitch Ginzburg. I reproduce it below.

Cpt. Tamar Ariel, Israel’s first female religious air force pilot, a rear-seat, F-16D navigator, was buried on Tuesday, several days after she died high in the Himalayas. Hundreds of people, including dozens of IAF pilots and commanders, accompanied her on her final journey. Ariel was 25 years old.

She loved motorcycles and fighter jets and wore an ankle-length skirt to her IAF Flight School graduation in December 2012. When Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the commander of the air force, came down the line of new graduates, he nodded her a greeting, rather than clasping her hand; she nodded vigorously in return and beamed him a smile.

She was a modest and unassuming woman who resented being put on a pedestal. Her aunt, speaking over her grave, said that she did not want to pose for the photo op with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the flight school graduation ceremony because she felt it overshadowed the achievement of her fellow pilots. And though in her life she went to great lengths to state that she was not a role model, she will likely be remembered as such by many in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which is split by the competing values of army service for all, particularly among the younger generation, and the deep-seated social conservatism that spurred rabbis to press the state, since its inception, to grant all religious Jewish women the right to bypass army service with an oath of Orthodoxy.

Ariel was raised on a cooperative farming community, Moshav Masuot Yitzhak, in a home on the edge of an avocado orchard. She was the third of six children, born to a father who was second generation on the moshav and a mother who made Aliya from Puerto Rico, Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2012.

She went to a co-ed local school as a child and to an ulpana, or yeshiva for girls, as an adolescent. In 11th grade, she received her first army summons and was found suitable for flight school. After taking several preliminary tests, she decided, in 12th grade, to fall in line with what most of the ulpana girls were doing – national civilian service. “I was afraid of ‘becoming rotten’ from a religious perspective,” she told the Yedioth daily. “I thought that serving within the framework of religious institutions was more protected and safe in that regard.”

She stated that she was Orthodox, received an exemption from army service on the spot, and served for two years as a Bnei Akiva youth leader and a counselor in her former school.

Upon completion, she decided that she still had not fulfilled her potential and turned back to the army, rescinding her earlier statement. In April 2009 she passed the week-long physical exam and was accepted to the prestigious course.

Nighttime navigation drills, when paired off with a man, were awkward, she said, but not “something that anyone dies from.”

After several months in the course and after being placed in the combat fighter section of her class, she flew her first solo flight. As she lined up the landing, wheels already on the tarmac, she felt that she was losing control of the plane and that it might spin off the runway. She pulled the eject cord, according to protocol, was rocketed skyward, and broke a vertebra in her back.

After months in an elastic body cast, the army took her back to the course but moved her into the navigator track.

In December 2012, she graduated, making history. “I don’t think that women need to go to flight school — I think that they can,” she told The Times of Israel at the time. “I recommend that any woman, religious or not, give it a shot. If they call you in, if you pass the tests, it means that the army thinks you can do it. So go ahead — try.”

During Operation Protective Edge this summer she flew the most combat missions in her squadron, her commander said earlier this week.

And then, seeking some R and R, she went, along with another pilot, to vacation in Nepal, to walk the Around Annapurna circuit at what is considered the optimal time of the year. “I didn’t worry during the trip to Nepal,” her mother, Anat, told Army Radio. “The trip was planned to the minute and I had faith in her and in The Holy One, blessed be He.”

Last week, though, a highly unusual storm blew through region, pelting the high mountain passes with snow. Ariel and dozens of other trekkers encountered the brunt of the storm on the Thorong La pass, the highest point on the circuit. Sapped of strength by the altitude and the cold and the fast-accumulating snow, Ariel could no longer walk as afternoon turned to evening and the clusters of trekkers tried to make their way down from the pass to safety.

She died in the snow along with Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky, and 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

“You became a public leader,” moshav rabbi Meir Nehorai reportedly said at the funeral, “the object of admiration from all around.”

That admiration is likely to endure and to serve as a beacon to many young Orthodox women charting their path in life.

Nice article by Shmully Hecht

See the original from the Times of Israel (which I reproduce) here. [hat tip MT]

I have no issue with Shmully’s thoughts except that

  1. R’ Chaim Volozhiner was not an opponent of R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi. He in fact, while being the prime disciple of the Vilna Gaon, and the person who hand wrote the condemnation of Chassidim (Cherem) did not sign the Cherem!
  2. Rav Chaim Kanievsky is not a political person. He sits and learns and does little else. That this boor said “come and I will take you to Rav Chaim Kanievsky” does not mean that Rav Chaim was aware of agreed with the way he spoke or what he said. Rav Chaim is also a Mekubal who knows Kol HaTorah and if you look at what he signs, you will find dear Shmully, that he rarely if ever gives his own opinion. He is a humble man, who mostly says “if such a great person said X, then I (Rav Chaim, who he considers to be a “nothing” in his self-effacing way) join in. This is because he does not see himself as a leader.
  3. The one that you should be addressing is, in my opinion Rav Shmuel Auerbach, whose incredibly great father R’ Shlomo Zalman had more knowledge, feeling, sensitivity and greatness than his son by a country mile.
  4. As to the rest of them, and by “them” I mean ANYONE who can’t see the Godly soul of a Jew at all times (yes, this is something from Chabad that I am ingrained with) they will not change, not by your article or by our comments. The best thing that can be done is to work now with the Nachal Charedi and make sure it is the holiest battalion in the entire Army, and one which is a Kiddush Shem Shomayim BoRabbim. That, to me, is where ALL the effort should now go.
  5. The so-called “distaste” for those who aren’t yet frum (I loathe the word chilonim) is amongst the Religious Zionists as well. They too have much to answer for over the years in their preponderance with land over people. The two should have never been separated. Rav Froman ז’ל is an example of a Gush Emunimnik who was searing with love for others, just like Rav Kook. It seems though that hate is a catchy illness and love for others is an acquired and elusive taste.
  6. This has nothing to do with Brisk, save that R’ Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik espouses similar views to that bigot on the plane, ironically his grandfather R’ Chaim Brisker was an even bigger Ba’al Chesed for a Jew than he was the Gaonic Genius of that generation. Check out his tombstone in the Warsaw Cemetery.

I write to you in your capacity as one of the leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Israel, often referred to as the haredi movement.

On a flight last week from Israel to New York, I had a rather disturbing conversation with one of your of disciples. The individual was an ultra orthodox Jew and a successful Swiss real estate developer who resides in Jerusalem with his wife and seven children. He was on his way to New York for the wedding of a relative. I was returning home from Israel where I had spent the day attending the funeral of the father of a dear Israeli friend of mine from Yale, where I am the campus rabbi. I had met the deceased last year at his son’s wedding in Caesarea, where I was honored to officiate. On a subsequent trip to Israel I had put Tefillin on with this 77 year old man, preceded by an in-depth theological conversation about his Judaism and beliefs. On this return trip to Israel it was at the Shiva house where, upon meeting many of the members of my friend’s F16 squadron, a troubling conversation began. This was a conversation that crystallized on the flight back to New York while talking with your disciple.

Israeli air force pilots are in their mid-20s and 30s, a ripe time for young people to be seriously dating and in many instances newlyweds. It was ironic yet promising that despite being in the shiva house of my friend, we found ourselves discussing weddings and choices of rabbis. Here I was, surrounded by Israel’s bravest military officers, who held the most coveted spots reserved for only the brightest and best, that I began to hear about one particular pilot’s wedding. He had just returned from a trip to the US where he got married in a civil marriage ceremony in City Hall of NYC. He explained that he, like many of his friends, had done so because they had nothing in common nor any dialogue with the rabbis of Israel. I reminded him that on that particular morning we had witnessed three Israeli rabbis bury our friend’s father, a total stranger. I continued to point out some of the many great things rabbis were doing in Israel. In vain, I tried to shed some light on the rabbinate and build a bridge to this rather secular group of Israel’s elite.

Listening to him describe the gap that sadly divides the secular “chiloni“ and ultra-orthodox “haredi“ leaderships of Israel, I was dismayed and saddened by how far this split has actually wedged a division among our people. Could we have reached such a low point in our history that Jews living in our ancient homeland were flying across the world to avoid having to engage with our very own rabbis? How ironic I thought it was that I, an American rabbi, had flown to Israel first to marry and now bury a son and father of the most secular type of Israelis. Would this young pilot’s first encounter with an Israeli rabbi be at his own funeral?

Harav Kanievsky, I am convinced that the fault lies largely with us, the “religious,” and less so with them, the “secular. “ In fact I don’t believe there is an “us” and “them.” I was born a Chabadnik, where we are taught that there is only one Jew in the world. Yes, one Jew. But it wasn’t until the conversation with your disciple on my return flight that I began to comprehend the mindset that actually fuels this terrible divide. It is for this reason, and with hope of healing this terrible National wound, that I write you this letter.

“You look like a Chabadnik,” he started off, as he leaned across the aisle of our ElAL plane, “so tell me a story of your great Rebbe.” Not sure if I was sensing sarcasm or sincerity in his tone, I told him about my experience of once praying with the man I had just buried and how this person carried a photo of The Rebbe in his wallet for 20 years, despite claiming to be an agnostic. The truth is that “Rebbe miracle stories” were never really my forte, so I figured I would challenge him to a more serious theological debate in this final hour of our cross Atlantic flight. After all, I don’t get to meet many “haredis“ on the sprawling campus of Yale University. “What will you do about the pending proposed military draft?” I curiously asked my flight mate. “Well if it actually passes,” he said, “they will have to put a million of us in prison, for how can a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, tell us G-d fearing Jews to close the yeshivas and serve in the army? These Jews need to be despised and excommunicated for the way they treat the religious community.”

I was so shocked by the venom he was espousing in front of his wife and 16 year old son that I felt like stopping the conversation right there just to avoid embarrassing him. This verbal assault on the majority of Jews alive and the Jews who I consider my dearest constituents was not going to pass without a fatal blow. One, of course, I would have to deliver with love.

This man was by no means a Torah ignoramus, nor lacking in any level of sophistication. He was clearly a successful businessman, philanthropist, and learned Torah scholar. “I’m not sure you can blame a Jew for eating pork if that is what he was brought up eating,” I replied. It was an elementary response to such a loaded attack.

“After all,” I continued, “doesn’t your son [who was sitting next to him on the plane] eat what you eat?”

“How can you preach such hatred of a Jew,” I asked, “when the Torah explicitly says, ‘Thou shall not hate your brother in your heart’? Is that verse any less a part of the Torah you embrace?”

He replied, “well Esau, despite being the son of Isaac the patriarch, was the enemy of the Jews,” as if to suggest that any secular Jew had the status of an enemy. I explained that the Torah explicitly tells us that Esau and Ishmael had abandoned the ways of their parents’ home and clearly attained the status of another nation early in our history. To suggest that every non-observant Jew in Tel Aviv born to non-observant parents, or simply brought up in a non religious home, was now the enemy, was ludicrous.

His self-righteousness and arrogance was so revolting that I knew I needed to win this debate before we landed. I reminded him that the Jewish people were a family first and called over the flight attendant who was not wearing a kipa, and clearly the type of Jew he was critiquing. I asked the man if he believed we were all part of one family, to which he replied, “of course.” “If the plane went down at this moment,” I continued, “do you think your prayers would be any different than this gentleman? Do you really think your cry of Shema Yisroel would sound any different than his? Have you ever considered the probability of living parallel lifestyles should you have been born into his family, and he into yours?”

He would not concede. “The Finance Minister of Israel [he refused to mention him by name] is a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, and will suffer for the terrible anguish he is causing our community. He is no different than Jesus whom, though born to Jewish parents, is responsible for the murder of so many Jews through European history.” I reminded him that according to one account in the Talmud, Jesus left the seminary because of the lack of sensitivity of his Rabbi and perhaps that was why Christianity started to begin with. I reminded him of the commandment to love thy neighbor as you love yourself–to no avail. As I sat there I started to comprehend why my new friend from the squadron had flown to NY to have his wedding. How could he have any respect for Jewish leaders that did not officially declare this type of talk absolute heresy? Who could stomach this unapologetic self hatred by a “religious” Jew. All in the name of Torah and G-d!

But then I digressed and mentioned one of the greatest Rabbis in our collective history. Reb Chaim of Volozhin. He is, after all, the icon and example of Torah Judaism, who embodied the ultimate divine manifestation of Torah in a human being. In addition to being the crown disciple of the Gaon of Vilna and the author of Nefesh Hachaim, he was also the patriarch of the great Saloveitchik Talmudic family dynasty. So in a final attempt at reconciliation I asked:

What if I told you that the current President of Yale is named Peter Salovey, short for Saloveitchik? Though he is not particularly observant by your standards, he is a direct descendant of Reb Chaim. He is a dear friend of mine and despite being of the more secular type, he is extremely proud of his Judaism. In fact, he proudly quoted the great Mishnaic authors in his inaugural address as President of Yale. Do you know that he often engages in Talmudic discussions with me and others of the Yale community? Would you dismiss, excommunicate, and forsake the grandchild of the holy Reb Chaim of Volozhin in your self-righteous pursuit of an Israel that excommunicates the non-orthodox Jew?

It was at this moment that he got out of his seat and approached mine with an urgency. He finally realized what we were actually talking about. We were talking about that one Jew, the Jew that he could never forsake for it would mean forsaking Reb Chaim Volozhin. And so I got up and together we stood near the emergency exit door as he softly whispered these words into my ear, but more so into my heart and into my soul:

I envy you so much my dear Shmully, because in the merit of showing unconditional love to his grandson, I assure you that when you die, the great Reb Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for you in heaven, and he will single-handedly open the gates of Gan Eden for you to enter.

These final moments of my flight were an absolute affirmation that there is hope for our people. I could not hold back my tears and replied, “how ironic, that upon my death, at the moment I would have to face my Maker, I would not be greeted, escorted, and defended by my Rebbe, Reb Schneur Zalman of Liaidi, the founder of Chabad, but rather by his opponent, the prize student of the Gaon of Vilna, Reb Chaim of Volozhin.”

And then he said, “You know, when you return to Israel, I’m going to take you to visit our leader the great Reb Chaim Kanievsky. I want you to tell him what we talked about.”

Rav Kanievsky, I don’t want to wait until my next trip to Israel. I will simply ask you what I asked him:

What would Israel look like this Pesach if you asked each and every one of your followers today to invite one non religious friend for Pesach? How amazing would it be if 1 million non orthodox Jews came home tonight and told their spouse that their religious friend or acquaintance invited them to their Seder? What if we reinterpreted, “all who are hungry may they come and eat, all who are needy may they come and enjoy Pesach,“ to mean, “not only the physically or materially poor but those less observant than us”?

Just as I’ve been assured that Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for me in heaven, I sincerely hope Schneur Zalman of Lyadi is waiting for you. Let us hope there will be no need to imprison 1 million Jews but rather have 1 million more guests this year at the Seder.

I look forward to embracing you on my next trip to Israel.

Shmully Hecht is the Rabbinical advisor of Eliezer: the Jewish Society at Yale and can be reached at shmully@279crown.org

Adass vs Mizrachi

The following correspondence is making the rounds of email on the internet. It sheds light on the basis of the disagreement.

Disclaimer: Ian is my brother-in-law

First, we have a letter from Adass

Dear Ian
I am receipt of your email statement of behalf of the Mizrachi Organisation.
I am astounded that you would issue such a notice without the courtesy of enquiring about the aim of this gathering
You labelled this “a protest” which was “designed to attract the attention of the general community and the media” organised by opponents of the state of Israel
Unfortunately your statement is totally incorrect.
This was not a “protest” but rather a gathering of Jews – Shomrei Torah uMitzvos from most communities – to say Tehilim and Tefillos against recent decrees aimed at harming the Torah world.
We mirrored the call of the ENTIRE Torah leadership worldwide – Chassidim and Litvaks, Ashkenazim and Sfardim.
The Gedolei Hador are pained at new legislation which further erodes Achdus and Shalom between fellow Jews.
How can anyone sit back and watch as a Jewish State legislates that one Jew will put another Jew into jail for studying Torah?
This is something that saddens all of us and we pray that Hashem should bring us together as one people.

This was not a protest. No one spoke, there was no speeches. No banners or signs – Just tehillim and tefila

It was most specifically NOT done to attract the media. It took place inside a Shul – the most appropriate place for prayer.
There was no contact with the media and no street signs.

You have stated the exact opposite of what we were aiming.   We came for prayer for unity peace and you interpreted it as the opposite.

I think you owe the organisers a public apology for your words.
Wishing you a Good Shabbos and Simchas Purim
BINYOMIN KOPPEL
President
Adass Israel
 
PS Please note that I am responding on behalf of our Shul.
Mizrachi’s response is produced below
Dear Binyomin,
I refer to your email of 14 March 2014.
Your letter raises a number of complaints concerning the statement I made on 13 March 2014 which I will attempt to deal with.
First, you say that you are astounded that I would issue such a notice without the courtesy of enquiring about the aim of this gathering.
The aim of the gathering was readily apparent from the poster that was widely distributed. The poster depicted a Sefer Torah wrapped in barbed wire conjuring up the very worst images from our recent history. It called upon men, women and children aged 9 and over to “show solidarity with our embattled brethren in Eretz Yisrael regarding the proposed new law”. It contained images of large outdoor rallies held in Jerusalem and New York.  Although you assert that I should have made enquiries about the aim of the gathering before making any statement, no attempt was made to consult with the Mizrachi Organisation (or to obtain Rabbi Sprung’s signature) prior to organising the event. Presumably that was because it was anticipated by the organisers that Mizrachi would have objected in the strongest terms to what was being planned.
Secondly, you say that I mischaracterised the event by calling it a protest.
When people are called upon to assemble in large numbers to voice their opposition to legislation enacted by a democratically elected government, they are in effect being called upon to protest. A protest need not involve speeches or banners, although I note that similar events held in other cities included such features. You say that the event “took place inside a Shul – the most appropriate place for prayer”. However the poster announced that the rally would take place in the Adass Gutnick Hall.
Thirdly, you state that in organising the gathering you “mirrored the call of the ENTIRE Torah leadership worldwide”.
It is disappointing and troubling that you do not consider Mizrachi and our ideological affiliates around the world, who did not participate in any such events, as part of the Torah leadership community.
Fourthly, you assert that the legislation will mean that “one Jew will put another Jew into jail for studying Torah”.
A cursory reading of the legislation or the available summaries of it will reveal that the law has no such purpose or effect. Its intent is to gradually implement a more equitable sharing of the responsibility for protecting and defending the State of Israel and all of its inhabitants. The law does not come into effect until at least 2017. In the meantime, there is a full exemption for anyone over 26 who did not register in the past and an exemption for anyone aged between 22-26. There will be an option to perform national service rather than serve in the armed forces. Exceptional students will be completely exempt.
Fifthly, you write “We came for prayer for unity (and) peace and you interpreted it as the opposite”.
Scheduling the event on Ta’anit Esther and using the words “Gezeirot Kashot” (ie. harsh decrees) to describe the legislation recently enacted by the State of Israel plainly sought to equate that legislation and those responsible for it with with the terrible edicts decreed against the Jews by Ahasuerus at the instigation of Haman. Actions and statements such as these are plainly calculated to erode achdut. Referring to the Government of the State of Israel as “Shevet HaRasha” (the evil tribe) erodes achdut. How can you claim that you were seeking “unity” and “peace” when you describe fellow Jews in these terms.
I note that, since receiving your letter, two of the seven Rabbis who signed the poster have since expressed deep regret and emphatically dissociated themselves from the document.
You conclude your letter by saying that I owe the organisers of the event a public apology. For the reasons set out above I am not able to apologise for the statement that I made on behalf of the Mizrachi Organisation.
Yours sincerely,
Ian
__________________
Ian Waller SC
President
Mizrachi Organisation

The Mesorah Of Chesed

[Hat tip to Marek]

Article by Barry Jacobsen

A beautifully arranged presentation, graciously hosted by the Wolfson family, was held this past Motzaei Shabbos regarding the upcoming plan in Eretz Yisrael to conscript yeshiva bachurim into the IDF. Sadly, at the conclusion, I left with a feeling of disappointment.

No questions were permitted from the floor. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the speakers afterwards, who generously listened to me. But that was not the same as a full discussion of a difficult issue.

I am grateful to Rabbi Bender for his infinite chassadim to my family in numerous areas. Any comments I make are in no way intended to minimize the tremendous feelings of respect I have for him. Similarly, I had the opportunity to know the father of Rabbi Ginzberg from my days in yeshiva.

He was a paragon of seiver panim yafos, friendship, kindness, and concern about the welfare of all the bachurim. Any points I raise here are only intended as an exchange of ideas and an expression of deep pain for what I and many others see in the current state of affairs.

I was inspired to devote a number of years to learning in my early youth.

The warm feelings towards Torah, Yiddishkeit, and a Shabbos table filled with ruach will never be dimmed. The desire to maximize that path motivated me to send my kids to chareidi yeshivos where they were given a warm and meaningful Torah education. However, I am deeply disturbed at what has been happening on a wider level in the klal as a whole. I believe I speak for many others, and I know my chaverim have discussed these issues with me, as well.

After introductions by Rabbi Kobre, Rabbi Bender opened with a discussion of the importance of Torah in protecting the klal. He quoted the Gemara in Cheilek that one who says “Mai ahanu lan rabbanan, ldidhu karu ldidhu tanu,” is an apikorus. (One who says, ‘What do the rabbis help us? They only learn for themselves.’ He is considered an apostate.) Rabbi Bender discussed how there were a certain number of yeshiva bachurim learning, while the soldiers fought, during the times of Tanach. He also mentioned how the chareidim have a much lower rate of incarceration in Israeli jails than the general population, thus demonstrating that the Torah teaches good behavior. Finally, he mentioned that there are a number of chareidi organizations which do much chesed for the klal as a whole in Israel, not just for the frum segment, such as supporting the poor and providing assistance with medical issues.

Rabbi Ginzberg focused on why even people who had respect for gedolim in the past, such as those of the stature of Reb Moshe Feinstein, now seem to have wavered, and why questioning daas Torah has become more widespread, particularly on blogs.

Rabbi Eli Paley focused on some of the technical issues, such as how many soldiers the army really needs, and some of his own experiences in the army which seemed to be difficult for a chareidi lifestyle. He seemed to imply that the army is used in some ways as a form of indoctrination and acculturation with the secular viewpoint, rather than as an absolute necessity for security.

Rabbi Kobre mentioned some of the problems chareidi soldiers have recently faced, including medical exams which intruded upon their sense of privacy, and that even in the newer chareidi programs, 25% of the alumni come out non-frum. He took umbrage with a statement from a high level army chief that the chareidim are a worse problem than Ahmadinejad. Rabbi Kobre concluded that this is a state of emergency, and we all need to cry out for salvation.

All of this is true. But it is totally beside the point. The main problem that needed to be addressed, but was totally ignored, is why the chiloni sector has turned on the chareidim at this point in time. It is my belief that we are largely to blame. If it were only a matter of logistics, with the enrollment of more chareidim, suitable infrastructure would be set up so as to better serve them. But that is not at all the point of this article.

For the past 100 years, the chareidi world has been fighting Zionism like it is some kind of poison. They coined fiery slogans such as the Zionists didn’t become frei in order to build a state; they built a state in order to become frei. Aside from being totally foolish, as one can become frei by going to the McDonalds down the block without going through the backbreaking effort of building a state, it is an insult to the downtrodden Jewish people. After suffering 2,000 years of persecution, poverty, plagues, and pogroms at the hands of their host countries, which caused the spirits of many to break, is there no understanding why the status quo was unbearable? Many were converting and leaving Judaism in droves because they couldn’t take the anti-Semitism, discrimination, and misery. Many fled to America or wherever else they could get into.

Theodore Herzl warned that things would only get worse, and his prophecy was 100% correct, as we saw in the Holocaust. He knew the answer was for the Jews to get a place of their own, and he tried his best to help his suffering brethren, despite whatever personal failings he may have had. He did magnificent work. Think about how hard it is to organize a shul dinner, and then imagine how hard it is to organize a country. He had to rally the Jews, raise funds, meet with countless heads of state. The chareidim totally vilified Herzl and forbade any hazkarah in his honor within the city of Brisk after he passed away. The rav of the main shul in town locked the doors to prevent it. But the population was undeterred and broke the lock and held a massive service with thousands of people in attendance. To this day the vilification continues.

In 1923, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah passed a resolution condemning the efforts of the Zionists and vowed to fight any attempt to set up a state with all means at their disposal. This was 25 years before the saga of the Yemenite children whose peyos were allegedly cut off. This fighting and denigration of the medinah continues until this day. Chareidim refuse to say the tefillah for the medinah or for the chayalim in their shuls, citing all kinds of Kaballistic reasons, or because we don’t have power to write new tefillos (despite that we say new kinnos on Tishah B’Av for the

Shoah) or other creative points. However, in the old siddur Otzar HaTefilos, written about 100 years ago, there is a tefillah for Czar Nikolai, his wife, his parents, and children, mentioning them all by name, with effusive praise for each. We are allowed to say a tefillah for this individual who was no friend of the Jews, but for our brethren in the Israeli government, it would somehow ruin the davening.

The average Jew is tired of this stuff already. When a Jew goes to Israel and is greeted at the airport by the sign, Bruchim Habaim L’eretz Yisrael, his heart soars. When he enters Yerushalayim and sees the beautiful floral arrangement spelling out Bruchim Habaim LiYerushalayim, and sees the Old City and the Kotel, his heart is torn with emotion. When he sees young soldiers guarding the streets with dangerous weapons, the same age as our kids, who are often roaming the pizza shops, he is amazed at the level of responsibility and maturity they have achieved at such a young age. When he sees how advanced the country has become technologically, such that it exports its know-how all over the world, in areas such as military technology, water management, agriculture, medicine, electronics, software, and nanotechnology, his heart bursts with pride. When he realizes that there is freedom to set up as many shuls and yeshivos as he pleases, without any fear of pogroms or anti-Semitism, he is overjoyed and dumbfounded that for the first time in 2,000 years, this is possible.

Medinas Yisrael is the biggest berachah the Jews have received since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

Now we run into a problem. When somebody tells us that daas Torah is opposed to this, or that the founders of the state were wrong, or bad people, or that we should not say the tefillah for the Medinah, should not celebrate Yom HaAtzamaut, should not sing Hatikvah, should not stand for the memorial sirens on Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah, the average Jew becomes rather confused and torn, with his heart telling him one thing, and all kinds of yeshivishe propaganda that has been drummed into his head telling him another thing.

A little while ago, there was a picture on the front page of the 5TJT of a young child hugging his father’s grave at the military cemetery. The father died so we can enjoy the freedom and the shuls, yeshivos, and mekomos hakedoshim of Eretz Yisrael that we now have. Can chareidim not give this poor child respect for two minutes and stand still while he cries? How dare any leader not emphasize basic decency in his yeshiva.

When a frum IDF soldier is stoned and rained with trash when he enters Meah Shearim, the rest of the country is sickened. We often hear that it is one meshugeneh. Totally wrong. When verbal violence is preached at the top levels, physical violence results at the lower levels.

All the chesed that the chareidim do, while certainly well appreciated (as it is here in the Five Towns, as well), it doesn’t come to a drop in the ocean of the chesed that the Medinah does. The chareidim may provide transportation, food, or advice to people in need of medical treatment.

But who provides the hospitals, medical training, medicines, instruments, research, universities where training and innovation is carried out, and roads to transport the patients and medicines, etc. They also pay for the care, to begin with.

The chareidim give generously to the poor, but how many mouths does the government of Israel feed? Who ensures that the economy runs smoothly, that there is electricity, and engineering training to design a power grid, and water, and chemists who know how to test its safety? Who protects this vast infrastructure, and provides army personnel to stand watch day and night? The Medinah dwarfs all chesed organizations put together. Where is the hakaras hatov?

The klal craves achdus and warmth. The constant anti-Zionist propaganda spewed forth by chareidim is causing giyul nefesh (utter disgust) in me and many of my chaveirim who learned in chareidi yeshivos, not to mention the chilonim themselves.

Rabbi Ginzberg asks why there is a reduction in respect for gedolim. Well, Sunday following parashas Korach there was a massive demonstration where two warring brothers found that they don’t hate each other more than anything else in the world, as previously believed. It turned out that they hate the State of Israel even more. And the entire ideology is based on some obscure aggadeta (Shalosh Shevuos) not brought down in any of the classic codifiers, which is itself based on a verse in Tanach, from which we don’t generally derive halacha, anyway. Incidentally, a possible message of the Shalosh Shevuos is not to rebel against one’s hosts, out of derech eretz. Would that, perhaps, be applicable as well to Jewish hosts, or are they less deserving than King Henry VIII or Queen Isabella? This movement often resorts to outright lies, such as that the Zionists colluded with the Nazis, when letters have recently become available that Ben Gurion begged the British government to allow Jewish fighters to go to Europe to fight the Nazis. They also claim that enormous numbers of Jews have died as a result of the Medinah, when the number is 25,000 in 150 years, far less than in many other similar eras in Jewish history.

Another rav Rabbi Ginzberg is fond of quoting spewed forth the same type of anti-Zionist vitriol for years. One can open up a book of his transcribed speeches in English. This same rav also founded new political parties. One would think some important ideology was at stake. But it was his dislike of a certain rebbe. For some unknown reason, despite this rebbe’s incredible erudition, breadth, and kindness to all segments, this rav considered the rebbe to be inferior to himself. He disliked that rebbe so much that when that rebbe’s wife passed away, he told other rabbanim not to pay a shivah call. The klal is mortified and tired of this. These types of things have led to a weakening of faith in daas Torah.

Is it telling that the preceding two-brother chassidic movement, and the preceding rav’s yeshiva are now both torn asunder by internal machlokes?

Walls have had to be built and smoke bombs have been thrown in the beis medrash of one of the world’s most prestigious yeshivas in Israel. Midah kneged midah? Perhaps. But maybe just the natural progression of things.

When multiple generations have been raised on hatred and sinas chinam, the imbibed hatred is then used on each other, as well.

A few years ago, there was a major chinuch protest demonstration, with all chareidim in Israel urging their followers to attend. What was the issue?

The Israeli government was upset that a certain school was separating the Sephardic girls from the Ashkenazic girls by means of a fence in the middle of the school building, and down the middle of the playground.

Personally, even if a thousand gedolim held a demonstration with a million followers urging people to be cruel to young Sephardic girls, I would follow my heart and simply ignore it, and instead welcome them with open arms. The hamon am is disgusted.

Torah has become an exercise in mental gymnastics, with the primary message being ignored. When Rebbe Akiva said that v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha is klal gadol baTorah, he meant it. It supersedes all other considerations. Am I ignoring or denigrating daas Torah? I hope not. Rabbi Ginzberg has mentioned on more than one occasion the importance of keeping mesorah. There is one mesorah we have which is even older than the mesorah of learning—by about 500 years. It is the mesorah of chesed. It was taught by Avraham Avinu. When three individuals who he actually thought were idol worshippers (see Rashi) showed up at his door, he did not spit, as some chareidim now do, at priests of other religions. Rather, he served them a delicious meal and gave them a place to rest, before sending them on their way. Chesed comes before ideology.

When Avraham was told that anshei Sdom were going to be punished, he didn’t smirk that they deserved it, but he screamed to the Ribbono Shel Olam, “Hashofet kol ha’aretz lo ya’aseh mishpat!?” Will the judge of the entire world not do justice!? He was our father, and the father of all peoples of the world. Av hamon goyim.

One of the speakers mentioned that we are experiencing a war against Torah Judaism, an oft-heard refrain of the last hundred years, that the chilonim and Zionists are aiming to destroy Torah and see the chareidim as its symbol. This is needlessly inflammatory (but admittedly effective as a way to rally the troops) and simply false. Reb Aryeh Levine dressed chareidi.

Yet the Knesset dedicated a special day in his honor and made a special plaque which was awarded to him in a major presentation. He worked with all his might to help the fighters in the early days before the state.

After davening, he walked tens of miles on Shabbos to the prisoners in jail to tell the families how their loved ones were doing. He cried out on Rosh Hashanah, mentioning each by name, when they were sentenced to the gallows. The chilonim recognized that he loved them with all of his pure heart. The chilonim, in turn, loved him with all of theirs. If we acted like Reb Aryeh, and gave the chilonim the slightest bit of hakaras hatov and warmth and appreciation for the amazing achievement they accomplished (bsiyata deshmaya), not just as a condescending ruse to be mekarev them, but with a sincere and full understanding of the miracle they created and the intense effort they put in; and if we offered to move our yeshivos to the army bases to keep them company in times of war and be mechazek them with kindness; and if we stopped our foolish and angry (and baseless) rhetoric, they would never think of drafting a single yeshiva bachur. We have only ourselves to blame for this miserable situation. Let us try to rectify it before things get worse.

For now we need to know that there is nothing more to Yiddishkeit than simple kindness and mutual love and respect. In the words of Hillel, idach perusha hi—all else is just commentary. Perhaps it is not the chilonim who have gone off the derech. Perhaps it is us. I am not rejecting daas Torah, rather I am relying on the daas Torah of Reb Aryeh Levine which goes straight back to Avraham Avinu.

The author may be reached at bdj@alum.mit.edu.