Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Is Real Achdus?

A number of people were very upset with the previous post, about charedi responses to the IDF mission in Gaza. Some of these people are charedim who naturally object to any criticism of their community. But others were not charedi at all (although I am pretty sure that they do not live in Israel and are not serving or sending their sons to serve in the IDF). They accused me of attempting to ruin the amazing achdus that has been achieved in the last month.


Before I explain where I am coming from, let us perform a thought experiment. As is well known, the major budget cutbacks for the charedi population in Israel have resulted in much hostility from the charedim towards the government. Now, imagine if the government were to go even further and entirely cut off all financial benefits to the charedi population. However, at the same time, the members of the government, and their voters, promise the charedi population that they love them and will sincerely pray for their financial wellbeing. The reaction from the charedi community would be one of rage - and they would understandably not consider their criticism of the government to be a breach in achdus!

Achdus does not just mean saying nice things about other people or praying for them. It means sharing joint concerns and responsibilities.

With this in mind, I hope that you can understand where I am coming from. Six months ago, nearly half a million charedim and charedi wannabees rallied in Jerusalem and declared Shefoch chamascha on the Israeli government and its supporters who would extend a partial equality in the draft to charedim (and they were not at all concerned that this was a breach of achdus). Looking at the faces of the 64 brave young men who sacrificed their lives for us this past month, one sees that they are all national-religious or secular Zionist. To people like me, whose children will probably one day be serving in the IDF during another Gaza war, this is extremely distressing. When certain charedi spokesmen/ apologists proudly crow about the amazing care and involvement of the charedi community in this war, presenting it as equal or even superior to the work of the IDF, this adds insult to injury (and it was hearing such claims that motivated me to write the post).

I will conclude by quoting an illuminating comment from my good friend and neighbor David Bar-Cohn:
When I think about the enormity of what my wife and I invest every single day with each of our kids, on every level - physical, emotional and otherwise, being ever so careful about every detail of their lives - the LAST thing I would possibly want to do is put my precious sons at risk of life and limb, exposing them to the hell of war, witnessing bloodshed and death, going head-to-head with terrorists. It's literally a living nightmare. Yet I know it would be immoral not to be prepared to do that. No, not everyone is cut out for actual battle. And there are plenty of other jobs that need to be done in the army, after all. I don't know what my sons will choose - some may be fighters, others not. Either way is okay by me. But that's an individual decision, NOT a communal one. It is wrong for a whole sector of society not to assume the same risks as everyone else, even if they believe they are making other contributions.
Honestly, I don't know how I'll be able to look many of my friends in the face if and when I have a son exposed to war, while they simply take a "pass" and try to justify it on religious grounds.

40 comments:

  1. As a charedi (ok, maybe just Chabad) with children in the military right now, while your points are reasonable - there IS a facade of achdus right now. Like any facade, it's not perfect and not so fabulous if you go behind the scenes. But in a social context perception IS reality. So while there is plenty to pick at and complain about, and there is no reasonable comparison to actually doing military service versus supporting it, WHILE the facade of achdus is holding it behooves to hold ones tongue and enjoy the pretty sight. Because your attack DOES damage the reality by damaging the perception.

    And the perception will move things in a better direction.

    Mostly likely within 6 months everything will be "back to normal" (if not in 2 or 3), and in that atmosphere of charges and counter-charges, you can bring up your points. It that environment maybe it will convince one or two, though likely not as when being attacked people close their ears. But don't do it now.

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    1. Oh, please. If there was real achdus or there was a facade of fake achdus, comments by Rabbi Slifkin pointing out facts about the communities does not undermine it. Anyone can choose to ignore what he is writing or ignore the facts he is pointing out and maintain their facade feeling all they want. Pointing out that it's actually a facade is no crime.
      I just don't understand, a few months back the idf and the govt was amalek, but now all of a sudden charedim are putting tzitzis on amalek and giving food and moral support to soldiers to go do amalek's bidding in gaza?
      This is why no one can take seriously anything the haredi spokesmen, politicians, media, and leaders say anymore. It has no meaning.

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    2. What, people can't change their mind due to new facts and a new reality? So when formerly left-leaning individuals say, "I thought we were doing the right thing by pulling out of Gaza, but now I realize it was a mistake" - that also means that what they previously said had no meaning?

      I agree with Akiva, there is a time to point out that davening for the IDF and being grateful to them and feeding them is not the same as serving. However, those are also important, they are pre-requisites, and they need time to sink in.

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    3. Kira your fantastical post is disingenuous, whether intentionally or not. They have not stated their opinion changed or they were wrong (or heaven forbid actually apologize?!), or facts on the ground changed (in fact the situation hasn't changed at all, the IDF is operating according to its mission statement the same as its done since the 1940's. No one came out and said, wait, no, the govt is not (or no longer) amalek so we can support the soldiers now. The perceived danger became real in people's minds and behavior reflected that. How much of this is actually bottom-up rather than top-down anyway? Does the leadership actually bemoan the fact that its followers have united with chilonim and left them no choice but to play along until the crisis dies down and the next fight over draft begins? Who knows. But don't pretend that there was a philosophical paradigm shift which no one bothered to mention. It is insulting to our intelligence.

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  2. Ironically, (and BH) only one chareidi died (RL) as a (indirect) result of Protective Edge, Avrohom Wallis. It is ironic, because he and his family are apparently among the most extreme anti-Zionists in the country. Yet being against the army and the State does not mean that one is not risking one's life by being here. I agree it is not the same thing as enlisting. But nobody is immune to the dangers of war, the angel of death, or G-d's plans.

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    1. I agree - although it isn't quite the same thing as enlisting - I can say the same thing about myself and my family. We, too, are not immune to G-d's plans.

      We happen to live in the US.

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  3. Rabbi, as you point out, I am not there, but I have to question your definition nonetheless. As you yourself pointed out there was a dramatic increase in chareidi volunteers. Furthermore, does that mean that those of us in the US or elsewhere who were not able to fly to Israel and join the army were not part of the achdus of Klall Yisroel when we showed support in whatever other ways we could?

    Could you better define sharing joint concerns and responsibilities?

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  4. Achdus. What is achdus, anyway? Unity? Other than a tiny blip of time in the reign of King David and Solomon, there has never been unity among Jews. There is no such thing as unity among any good sized population, whether national, religious, or even fraternal. That's neither good nor bad, that's just human nature. That we Jews occasionally unite around a common cause doesn't change that. That too, is just human nature.

    As for the charedi behavior - it is morally repugnant. Their cowardice and avoidance of pulling their fair share is to their utter shame, laid bare for the entire world to see. They will never, ever have any moral voice at all, whatsoever - on anything - until they get off of welfare, and start pulling their weight. That's a shame, because the sense of tradition the Charedim have is a useful counterweight to the total rootlessness in general society. They could have had so much to offer. Instead, all of their moral authority, whatever of it they had, even the appearance of it, has been totally abandoned. There's no doubt the group people look up to now is mizrachi (DL.) Their voice now carries more weight even on non "eretz yisrael" related questions, because they have proven to be the true Kiddush Hashem.

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    1. To judge just from the Tanach, David was faced with quite a few rebellions, and the seeds of the split in the kingdom were sown early on in Shlomo's reign.

      Incidentally, looking back on her war, Devorah had no problem calling out exactly who hadn't been helpful to the cause.

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  5. I feel compelled to add:

    Look at the faces of the young men killed defending the country. Look at them for a long time. Look very closely. Every one of them had a family. Everyone of them was a world unto himself. Some had smiling parents in their pictures. Some had babies and children. And everyone of them is gone, changing all their families lives forever.

    What fool thinks anyone is the mood for "achdus" with Charedim?

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    1. When Mizrachj Yeshiva bachurim had been killed several years back Chareidim from the leadership on down had been had been supportive not feeling Hashem distinguishes between party affiliation. If we don't feel the pain of any Jew equally we really are in danger. If we don't keep all the mitzvos like at the time of the First Bais HaMikdash at least Hashem can see if there is a slow upswing in observance before driving us out of the land and indeed the first exile was way shorter but if we observe the mitzvos but don't have sufficient achdus like with the second exile, so that we are not doing what we should do where despite differences we love our fellow Jews just as much not looking at party affiliation first, then it is more severe because we can't see peoples' hearts and it is harder to root that out. How do we deserve the land on the basis of being a people who were promised it if we read out whole sections of our people so much that we don't feel the same pain for them as we feel for Jews we consider in our group? This is a far longer exile then and has been for two thousand years. If we are to display such disunity then Hashem will leave us with no party lines to support in Israel because we will be exiled again. We have a wonderful army but the Torah makes clear that whether we stay or leave depends on our behaving as Jews should.

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    2. Unfortunately, when you refuse to admit that anything happened in 1948, there isn't really a fear of a "new" galut, as you believe the old one never ended. This is standard thought across all charedi circles,

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    3. It doesn't matter what label you give it. The Torah says we the land will vomit us out if we misbehave. Chareidim know this.

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  6. from today’s Jerusalem Post:

    Yated Neeman' editorial speaks out fiercely against sense of closeness, solidarity felt by large sections of haredi society toward IDF during Gaza operation.

    http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Haredi-daily-calls-for-walls-to-sealed-against-haredim-recruitment-370426

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  7. Achdus is great, even if it is a façade. If we pretend often and long enough, it will become reality.

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  8. These soldiers did not have to die. The question still remains if it is a good idea to serve in an army that needlessly sends its young boys.to go die for its enemies "civilians". ?


    Moshe

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    1. You might be a high-ranking IDF officer and thus have more information than me, but somehow I doubt it. So here is a fact: Most if not all of those soldiers died actively fighting Hamas. To suggest otherwise is to defame their memories and to insult the government generally doing its best to protect us.

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    2. By the way, that's not how being a citizen and serving in a military works. You feel differently, you can vote for new civilian leadership.

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    3. Maybe he means that if we were less concerned about civilian casualties in Gaza, and attacked more ferociously, we wouldn't have lost so many soldiers.

      On the other hand, the condemnation of Israel is bad enough, even with all the precautions taken to avoid civilian casualties.

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    4. Nachum- They died for NOTHING. Hamas could have been bombed instead. To send them in to Gaza for nothing is a crime.
      " to insult the government "

      Absolutely. Its a weak and pathetic government. It doesn't do what's needed to be done to protect Am Yisrael from these wild beasts.

      - Voting in Israel is a JOKE. Pipi is a leftist just like the openly left. A real Jewish party has been and would be banned. They don't give any real alternatives + voting and even a majority doesn't make something right or wrong.

      Yehuda- the condemnation of Israel will come no matter what Israel does or doesn't do. Its not about Arab deaths, no one really cares. They just hate Jews. If Israel would be sending chocolate to Gaza, they would still find this excuse to hate Israel (JEWS).
      + Who cares about their opinion, what matters is the life of our people. Life and safety. The fact that an anti-Semite will say something against Israel should NEVER be an excuse to allow our people to be murdered!

      Moshe

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  9. Dear All
    Natan only exits based on divisiveness-if there was Achdus-he would have no "job"-same for Lipman,Lapid etc.Thus as we trend slightly towards Achdus-he shoots it down.
    Nasty stuff.
    Observant Jew with Son Finished Zahal.

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    1. Wow, what a nasty comment.

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Once again you are "spot on". The "facade" of achdus here is simply that,,a facade. I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh and volunteer for Lema'an Achai, an organization that you have mentioned many times here.
    I volunteer because in addition to the amazing work that they do, Lema'an Achai is a true example of achdus. They help people regardless of "affiliation" and the staff/volunteers represent all facets of the Jewish people.
    During this war effort, Lema'an Achai stepped up to the plate to help soldiers and families from the south. My children and I volunteered by collecting food and a few other things. I am also the "gabbai" for Lema'an Achai in my shul, which happens to be anglo charedi "lite".
    I was appalled that even on Tisha B'av, during our current crisis, how formally intelligent people could "thumb their noses" at Lema'an Achai because it isn't "charedi enough" or they aren't "us".
    Bake all of the cookies you want, tie millions of pairs of tzitzis but sadly the underlying (and sanctioned by some rabbonim) "hatred' from the charedi world toward non Charedim will always peek through.

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  11. I personally feel that there is some level of unity at the present time. It is tragic that it takes a national emergency to effect this.
    My issue, however, is with the leadership in the Charedi world. One reads stories how this admor or that rosh yeshiva had such sensitivity for the feelings of others. In now, there are legends circulating about this gadol crying for soldiers or that rebbe visiting the injured.
    So here comes the "bomb kasha":
    Where was the sensitivity and compassion during the march la'amod al nafshoseichem? Hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Jerusalem. Did any of the leaders consider for a moment how the soldiers would feel? Soldiers who, every day of their lives, put themselves in danger so that these myriads can walk safely and live freely?
    So they were upset with the evil decree? Write letters to those behind it, stand outside of their homes. But a wholesale march, whose message was clearly anti-IDF, caused immeasurable pain. It was a lack of sensitivity and hakaras hatov.

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  12. Brooklyn refugee sheygitzAugust 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    Excellent response!!
    One quibble - your neighbors sons won't decide what they will do in the army. The state and the army will decide. While the IDF grants some degree of leeway to inductees in choosing where they want to serve and the fighting corps is today largely voluntary in the sense that inductees volunteer to try out for certain units, ultimately it is the state which grants the IDF the authority to draft the population and the IDF has the authority to decide where and how inductees serve. If the IDF says an inductee is going into a combat unit then the inductee is going into a combat unit. If not not. Though of course the stories of people fighting to be inducted after being rejected and even fighting to get into combat units - such as max steinberg hy"d - are to get comended of course. But ultimately it is the army's decision.

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  13. If the Earth was invaded by Martians we'd be speaking of Achdus between us & The Arabs. It's ridiculous.

    Baal Habos.

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    1. Watch "Mars Attacks". I think it will resonate with lots of people

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  14. You are expecting an insight from the Chareidi leadership that they simply do not possess.
    In their worldview they are exceptional. They can insult and it's okay but they cannot be insult because that's a crime. They can demand of others because it's the way of the universe but others cannot demand of them because it's inconceivable. It's not that they're doing this deliberately. It's just the way they've been raised and they know of no other way.

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  15. We may not agree with Chareidim on many things, but I think if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that they are a very necessary thread in the tapestry of Jewish society. They hold themselves to a more stringent level of halachic observance, and like it or not, it keeps the bar raised for everyone else. I posit that without them and their strict insistence on insularity, the rest of us might have faded into the "family of nations" long ago.

    No, they are not perfect. Far from it. But then, just look at these last two blog posts and their comments to show that we are not either. Loving each other despite our foibles and faults is not just a "nice thing", it's essential. There is no Jewish Nation if we are not in it together. Brothers can disagree, even radically. But for brothers to trash each other like this? Who cares if they are doing it too? What has that got to do with us?

    I've often said that someone has to be the adult in the room and just start doing the right thing in this regard. Well, some people from both sides have. It may be baby steps, but it's happening. And we'd better get with the program. Because reverting back to the way things were before the war would be criminal - even if this new unity is just a facade.

    And yes, I will be writing something similar to a Chareidi publication.

    EG Edelson

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    1. "And yes, I will be writing something similar to a Chareidi publication."

      That's fascinating. Can you send a copy to this site? I have my doubts that it will get published in the Chareidi publication, but communicating with the editors is valuable in itself.

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  16. "Now, imagine if the government were to go even further and entirely cut off all financial benefits to the charedi population. However, at the same time, the members of the government, and their voters, promise the charedi population that they love them and will sincerely pray for their financial wellbeing."

    You're a genius! They should totally do this.

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  17. Rabbi Slifkin, I'd be curious to know your and others opinions on the following question.
    Who is more guilty of not doing their part of sharing the burden. a Charadey Jew who lives in EY, or a religious Zionist who lives in the USA"

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    1. Ooh, great question! I'll have to think about that one.

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    2. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts as I live in the States, and while i support and talk about the importance of sharing the burden etc... I ask myself the most obvious and honest question. Am I really doing my part, and how can i offer any honest critique of Charedey Jews who live in Israel and avoid army service. Aren't all bnai chul doing the same thing?

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  18. >>However, at the same time, the members of the government, and their voters, promise the charedi population that they love them and will sincerely pray for their financial wellbeing.<<

    If all Hatnuah, Ein Atid, Israel Beyteinu and Likud begin sincerely praying and keeping Torah, Mashiach would already come and the whole issue woud go away.

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    1. Do you have a source for this claim?

      Are you aware that there is a faction within Likud which already does this? Obviously you are aware of the fact that Jewish Home as a general whole already does this, since you didn't mention them... Yet, we know the haredi politicians and supporters have a big problem with Jewish home despite the fact that they sincerely pray and keep Torah (most of them anyway) and according to you with those actions alone they are sufficiently bringing moshiach (yet you seemingly require more of them than that). So please do clarify.

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  19. See my post http://jewishworker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/misleading-statements-in-name-of-achdus.html

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  20. "shlomo said:"Rabbi Slifkin, I'd be curious to know your and others opinions on the following question.
    Who is more guilty of not doing their part of sharing the burden. a Charadey Jew who lives in EY, or a religious Zionist who lives in the USA""

    A diaspora community means there are Jews the government may be worried enough to listen to. The idea that the diaspora community is useless and would die out is not borne out by events. Israel is treated differently and the Diaspora community will not die out because of the Orthodox having children. My grandmother's cousin Mordechai Shattner a signer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence did not listen to Ben Gurian and change his Diaspora name. Perhaps he was being symbolically prescient.

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  21. Regarding the question as whether it is better to be a Haredi in Eretz Israel or a Religious Zionist in the Galut/EXILE, as an RZ the answer is obvious to me.....better to be a Haredi in Eretz Israel. First we get the Jews here, then we argue ideology with them.

    YA-I am sorry but the claim that it is good to have Jews in America because they will write letters to their Congressman trying to persuade him to support Israel just doesn't hold water. Zionism began in the US as a political force as early as the 1830's, long before Jews had any significant electoral and political power. The US supports Israel for its own reasons, because it views it as being (at least for the moment) as being in their national interest. Jews are less than 3% of the population and that number is fast declining. Anti-Israel groups are growing rapidly in the US, just as they have been doing in Europe and this will inevitably affect American support for Israel, regardless of how many Jews are living in the US.
    The fact is that the US is in terminal social, economic moral and spiritual decline which can not be stopped. It will drag the Jews remaining there down with them. There is no long-term future for American Jewry which is fast evaporating. The supposedly "strong" Orthodox community also shows many signs of the American sickness so they are not immune.
    I find it amusing that European Jewry has suddenly realized that there is no future for them there, either. You mean it wasn't obvious 70 years ago when the entire continent decided to vomit its Jews out? People really thought they could rebuild a Jewish community on the ruins?

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  22. For now America does not show signs of the disaster you predict and I hope you wrong. As for Europe having Jews there is helpful for Israel still nevertheless Europe is no place for a Jew.

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