Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Miracle Right In Front Of Us

When you point out to people that you can't actually prove anything from Chazal's account of the length of the lunar month, or from the Torah's list of animals that have one kosher sign, or from Rav Chaim Kanievsky having a grasshopper arrive in his house, they often get upset. As one kiruv worker put it to me: "So what else am I supposed to talk about, if I want to inspire people?!"

It's a pity - and a lack of broad historical perspective - that it's not sufficient for them that we have one of the greatest miracles in history right in front of our eyes. I can't put it any better than Rav Lord Sacks, ztz"l, in a moving description of how he felt once on Yom Yerushalayim in Jerusalem:

"Standing on the streets of the city, I watched youngsters from around the world, waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing with a joy that was overwhelming. As I watched the celebrations, I was overcome with emotion because suddenly I had a vision of the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Shoah not because of anything they had done, not because of anything their parents had done, but because their grandparents happened to be Jews.

"I remembered how 26 centuries ago, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the Jewish people reduced to a valley of dry bones. G-d asked shall these bones live, and Ezekiel saw them come together, take on flesh, and begin to breathe and live again. G-d promised Ezekiel he would open his peoples’ graves and bring them back to the land.

"I remembered the first reference to Israel outside the Bible on the Merneptah Stele, a block of granite engraved by Merneptah IV, successor to Ramses II, thought by many to have been the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. It was an obituary, ‘Israel is laid waste, her seed is no more.’

"I thought how some of the greatest empires the world has ever known – Egypt of the Pharaohs, Assyria, Babylon, the Alexandrian Empire, the Roman Empire, the medieval empires of Christianity and Islam all the way to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union – were the superpowers of their day that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus, seemingly invulnerable in their time. And yet each tried to write the obituary of the Jewish people, and whilst they have been consigned to history, our people can still stand and sing Am Yisrael Chai. That was my second epiphany: The knowledge that what I was seeing on that day in Jerusalem was techiyat hamaytim, a collective people being brought back from death to life."

Of course, this isn't a miracle in the popular mystical supernatural sense of the term. Historians can chart every step of the way; God did not break the laws of nature for this to happen. Nevertheless, the end result - which was promised thousands of years ago, and which looked absurd for much of history - is nothing less than a miracle.

*  *  *

Unfortunately I now have to mention a negative aspect of Yom Yerushalayim - one that relates to my very own dati-leumi community. And let nobody say that I only criticize the faults of charedim. As I have written previously, the closer you are sociologically to people who cause problems, the greater your responsibility to condemn their actions.

There's a march that takes place every year on Yom Yerushalayim. It's great to celebrate this special day, and it's tragic that there are religious Jews who are so isolated from national history that they refuse to acknowledge it. But the presence of many of the more right-wing dati-leumi youth singing militant chants insulting Islam and about "death to the Arabs," and the decision to route the march through the Muslim Quarter, is wrong. 

First, it's just plain dangerous (though it can simultaneously be argued that by now it's even more dangerous to cancel this foolish mistake, as it would reward those who made threats as a result). Second, it's obnoxious and foolish. We won - we have Israel and Jerusalem. There's no need to be triumphalist and immaturely rub our victory in the faces of all those who lost as a result. Not every Arab is our enemy - but singing chants like this will certainly (and understandably) push them in this direction, quite aside from how it makes us look in the eyes of the world. 

Significant portions of the dati-leumi community have been heading in an alarming direction these past few years. Those of us who object to it have a responsibility to speak out.

*  *  *

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach! And stay tuned for a forthcoming post about a wild animal being used as a new weapon against Israel, that is simultaneously entertaining, fascinating, shocking and disturbing. If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.

49 comments:

  1. Amen to both halves of this post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rav Schachter often points out that Jewish history is above the natural laws of history. I hope that continues, else I fear the William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold; the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

    Yom Yerushalayim Sameach


    ReplyDelete
  3. I reflect at times on how we've been given instances such as these to strengthen our emunah, while so many challenges to our emunah have arisen in the past 150 years or so (Bible criticism, evolution, comparative religion, studies of other Near East religions that make it seem as if Judaism isn't "anything special", etc.).

    How did Rashi, the Rambam, and other Rishonim derive strength for their emunah, when the world around them did seem to offer any such miracles?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For years, I have wondered the same thing!

      Delete
    2. Their challenges were not the same as ours.

      Delete
  4. From today's (28 Iyar's) tehillim:

    שֶׁהִכָּה גּוֹיִם רַבִּים וְהָרַג מְלָכִים עֲצוּמִים: {יא} לְסִיחוֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי וּלְעוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן וּלְכֹל מַמְלְכוֹת כְּנָעַן: {יב} וְנָתַן אַרְצָם נַחֲלָה נַחֲלָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ: {יג} יְהוָה שִׁמְךָ לְעוֹלָם יְהוָה זִכְרְךָ לְדֹר וָדֹר: {יד} כִּי יָדִין יְהוָה עַמּוֹ וְעַל עֲבָדָיו יִתְנֶחָם: {טו} עֲצַבֵּי הַגּוֹיִם כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי אָדָם: {טז} פֶּה לָהֶם וְלֹא יְדַבֵּרוּ עֵינַיִם לָהֶם וְלֹא יִרְאוּ: {יז} אָזְנַיִם לָהֶם וְלֹא יַאֲזִינוּ אַף אֵין יֶשׁ רוּחַ בְּפִיהֶם:

    The author is triumphalist, obnoxious, and foolish - why, he rubs the faces of Israel's enemies in their defeat, and even insults their religion! We need to speak out against this alarming direction within the religious community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why don't you show us the sincerity of your convictions: sneak into Mecca, climb onto the Kaaba with a megaphone and call out the תהילים you just cited.

      Better yet, maybe study all of נ"ך such as " וַאֲנִי מְתֵי מִסְפָּר וְנֶאֶסְפוּ עָלַי וְהִכּוּנִי וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּי אֲנִי וּבֵיתִי". Sometimes it's better to be right quietly.

      "he rubs the faces of Israel's enemies in their defeat"
      Except here, they haven't exactly been defeated- completely. Some are uncomfortable saying נחם given that the text seems at odds with the glorious attainments of יום ירושלים and the decades that followed. A stroll through Silwan and הר הבית should sober them up.

      Delete
    2. בנפול אויביך אל תשמח
      As they say.
      Giving thanks for a victory is one thing. Being a jerk about it is another.

      Delete
    3. Because, in the immortal words of the movie Red Dawn, we live here. We don't live in Mecca.

      Delete
  5. שמח לשמוע קול יהודי ציוני חכם ושפוי.

    ReplyDelete
  6. On the issue of right-wing dati leumi, one disheartening thing is the dearth of figures making non-essentialist arguments that the PA is not a peace partner. What we encounter is either essentialist arguments, such as Arab culture is fundamentally treacherous or Islam prohibits such peace agreements, or insistence that the PA is a partner. Nothing in between. The former leads to opponents of the peace process being labeled racist and the latter leads to legitimizing the PA's efforts to get the international community to hand it Israel's head on a silver platter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many dati-leumi people applauding the Abraham Accords. The hope is that, as more Arab and Muslim-majority nations join and everyone sees the benefits of cooperating with Israel, the Palestinians will soften their demands as well.

      Instead of trying to tackle the hardest problem first head-on (a final status agreement with the Palestinians), and then having all of the other Arab nations join, maybe this indirect approach will end up working better.

      Delete
    2. Support for the Abraham Accords in the dati leumi community is definitely positive. Fully agree about pausing efforts to reach a final status agreement with the PA. However, the call to do so must be done in a way that will minimize how many would dismiss that call out of hand.

      The diehard peace processors will dismiss any such call out of hand, so there is nothing which can be done to change them. A separate category would be the anti-racist. They will dismiss essentialist arguments out of hand, thus they would dismiss calls be pause final status because of some essential attribute of the PA as either Muslims or Arabs.

      In order to have a chance to convince an anti-racist of the misguidedness of pursuing final status negotiations, ot is necessary to call attention to behavior from the PA that is inconsistent with good faith while emphasizing that such bad faith is not an essential attribute of the PA and that a change in behavior would lead to a change in assessment. Some anti-racist will remaon steadfast in their peace processor ideology, but others will avail themselves of the permission slip to examine the evidence and conclude that final status negotiations, or even any further interim concession, to the PA would just strengthen the PA's position for war.

      Delete
  7. If I understand correctly, you feel that the whole parade is flaunting victory in the face of the Arabs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well you should have said that.... don't see how you can defend the practice?

      Delete
    2. It's a parade. Don't be a clown, anonymous. If we go by your criteria and cancel all things that the Arabs claim hurts their feelings or makes them upset, then we'd be doing a mass emigration and handing them the country too. That isn't a reasonable criteria to make decisions based on. A parade to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim is a good thing. (I'm sure you love a good pride parade tho, am I right?)

      Delete
  8. Some people have the impression that everybody in Europe was an observant Jew and therefore there’s the argument, “That’s what happens to observant Jews?”

    it’s important to defend the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and explain to people that in Europe it was much worse than America. Of-course there was less observance in America.  But in Europe, the people were throwing away the Torah more rapidly than any other place.  They had just two generations ago kept everything and now they had revolted against the Torah violently! 

    Not like American ignorami who went to public school and never learned anything, and they became goyim because of the environment.  The Jews in Europe learned to hate Judaism!  Not all of them, but there were so many of them that it became a wave of revolt against the Torah.

    Reb Elchonon Wasserman zichrono livracha said, “The Jews in Europe declared war on Hashem.” And he said, “And now He has declared war on them.  And that’s why He’s sending His armies against them.”

    So don't make it like the real reason was anti-semitism. The real reason FOR the anti-semitism is like we read in Bichukosai. It's part of the Torah from Hashem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What ignorant, childish rubbish.

      Delete
    2. Which is why it was davka Polish Jewry that got it so hard , rather than reform German Jewry? Or why the Jews of gush Katif were evicted? Or why bnei brak is punished with poverty while secular tel aviv prospers?
      #Don't_be_a_muppet.

      Delete
    3. Eastern Europe wasn't the paradise some claim it to be, but German Jewry wasn't the wasteland some claim it was.

      Delete
    4. B’cause the Jews sinned, Hashem used the Nazis as a tool to torture And burn ALL Jews (except some sections such as parts of Mid East and North America). And for good measure he threw in WWII with millions of others tortured, burned and blown up. So WWII and holocaust was b’cause Jews sinned. It is interesting certain influential German Jews were heavily into promoting a sexual revolution (in particular sexual perversions) in Germany quite similar to what many influential WOKE American Jews promote.

      Delete
    5. Sure, kiven she-netein reshut and all that. It's just very odd that "only" about half of German Jews were killed- and most of the intellectuals you mentioned got out- while much, much higher percentages of Polish and Lithuanian Jews were. Much more assimilated Hungary? About a half. Well-on-the-way-to-assimilation America? Zero. "Evil" Zionist Israel? Zero.

      I mean, at least the malach in Egypt managed to kill the Egyptians. Here you're suggesting that Hashem couldn't even (afra l'puma) take care of the ones he supposedly intended.

      Delete
    6. Although I am not sure, I would suggest that Polish Jewry were more guilty than German. The Germans did not know better, they were lost for generations.
      But the Polish and Russian communities saw what happened to Germany and they did not care, allowing the Haskala to ruin them. The younger generation thought they were smarter than the older one, and they tried to undermine everything they could. They then moved off to America or the dustbin of history, and the children of the survivors did the same thing again. When I read about the inter-war period, I cannot help but shake my head. Did they not see what happened to the generation before World War 1? Did they not see how all of the 'intellectuals' that turned their backs on traditional Torah found themselves assimilated? Why did they think that they would be different?

      I don't know why the Holocaust came, I do know that the results of the Holocaust was a total reset of Judaism, that found itself on the ascent. What the future holds nobody knows. But there is a large community of people who know that Torah is our only lodestone and source of morality and service of Hashem, and that can save the world, as long as we stick to it.

      Delete
    7. @Nachum, I don't go with Yaakov's claim that "it’s important to defend the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and explain to people that in Europe it was much worse ...." One renowned Rav held that all alone. Most Gedolim didn't find it important to spend time on.

      Having said that, once you are quoting "kiven she-netein reshut and all that" you should indeed quote the whole passage

      https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Kamma.60a.17?ven=William_Davidson_Edition_-_English&vhe=Wikisource_Talmud_Bavli&lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

      תאני רב יוסף מאי דכתיב (שמות יב, כב) ואתם לא תצאו איש מפתח ביתו עד בקר כיון שניתן רשות למשחית אינו מבחין בין צדיקים לרשעים ולא עוד אלא שמתחיל מן הצדיקים תחלה שנאמר (יחזקאל כא, ח) והכרתי ממך צדיק ורשע

      Rav Yosef taught a baraita: What is the meaning of that which is written with regard to the plague of the firstborn: “And none of you shall go out of the opening of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:22)? If the plague was not decreed upon the Jewish people, why were they not permitted to leave their homes? Once permission is granted to the destroyer to kill, it does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. And not only that, but it begins with the righteous first, as it is stated in the verse: “And will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked” (Ezekiel 21:8), where mention of the righteous precedes the wicked.

      It sounds from your comment that during WWII the more righteous the more massacred. So that is consistent with this passage.

      But again, I don't follow Yaakov's presentation.

      Delete
    8. Which is of course a response also to part of #Don't_be_a_muppet's comment.

      Delete
    9. It may be consistent with the passage, but if your god punishes the righteous because of the wicked, then he's quite the b*stard, no? Why would you worship that?
      #you_are_being_a_muppet

      Delete
    10. As in the Telzer Rav's last words while being killed, "Ehr is dain Gut och." You're quite the ignoramus, unaware of some of the basics of theodicity, no?

      Delete
    11. Theodicity = orthodox Jews making up all sorts of poorly thought out stupidity to help them get over the fact that evil happens and somehow G-d turns a blind eye.
      Believe it if it helps you sleep at night. But you really really don't know what G-d's logic is. So don't bother making it up.

      Delete
  9. So it's ok that 1.5 million children were tortured and murdered because Hashem was angry at their parents?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course the traditional rationale for the murder of those 1.5 million blameless children is that once Hashem lets The Satan, Malach Hamovess or other Deviltry loose, he can no longer be blamed for the horrors visited on the innocent by his malevolent agents.

      Delete
    2. @Uriah's Wife
      Did you actually hear this argument being made, or do you just enjoy fabricating straw men?

      The traditional answer is that God rules the world and not us, and his reasons are hidden from us, but we can try to understand some of it. If innocent children were never killed we could not appreciate the fact that our children live in relative security.

      Delete
  10. Rabbi Slifkin - I agree with you about not chanting anti-Arab and anti-Islam slogans, but very, very strongly disagree with you on the route of the parade - in fact, I wish it were possible to route the parade through multiple gates of the Old City, including the Lions' Gate and Herod's Gate, to all then meet up and go to the Hotel (not the Har HaBayit only because participants are unlikely to have properly prepared themselves). This is not unnecessary triumphalism, bit highly necessary triumphalism - we NEED to show both the local residents and the world that we give up not one iota of our claim to each and every part of Jerusalem, lest we be seen as only temporary holders of the holiest site in Judaism. Yes, it will upset the locals - but that doesn't make it any less necessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear that argument, IF there was a guarantee that none of the participants would misbehave.

      Delete
    2. You want a "guarantee" that *none* of the participants will misbehave? That's not very rationalist of you. In any crowd of 100,000 people, you're always going to have a *few* miscreants. What do you want?

      And it is a very, very few, far too few for all the agonized columns written about it, like this one- come on, that's what our enemies do. Sometimes I wonder if people writing them have ever even been to the parade. (Just today one of them confirmed to me that he has not.)

      I was on the Har HaBayit this morning. Those who ascend are from exactly that part of the "settlers" you so unfairly deplore. We were surrounded by hysterical Arab women screaming at us. I heard not one word from my compatriots in response. We sang Hallel.

      Really, it's about time these type of "ours are bad too" pieces stop. You don't have to bend over backwards and deny facts to prove how "moderate" and even-handed you are.

      Ger, meanwhile, are beating each other up all over the world.

      Delete
    3. I, too, wish there were a way to prevent such misbehaviour - perhaps pre-selecting those who get to march through the Old City is a way to do so. The importance of the symbolism of the march, though, should not be understated. It is absolutely necessary.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, it's pretty clear you've never seen the parade or know anything of its route or participation, or you wouldn't say something like "pre-select those who get to march through the Old City." Well over 99.9% of the participants are completely peaceful and non-provoking. Who among them would you, ahem, "select"?

      Delete
    5. Nachum - perhaps pre-screen would be a better term than pre-select - but the idea is to prevent troublemakers from participating. This year, they only had 7,000 boys and 7,000 girls actually pass through the Sha'ar Shechem - the remaining march participants did not - so it would be possible to pre-screen or pre-select the 14,000 marchers.

      And yes, I am familiar with who participates - my children have participated both in the past and this year.

      Delete
  11. I don't get this post at all.

    "I thought how some of the greatest empires the world has ever known – Egypt of the Pharaohs, Assyria, Babylon, the Alexandrian Empire, the Roman Empire....And yet each tried to write the obituary of the Jewish people, and whilst they have been consigned to history, our people can still stand and sing Am Yisrael Chai".
    Ya, and emphasis on them being the great powers of their time, leaving a footprint on human history, while we were and have pretty much always been completely irrelevant. Turtles have survived the dinosaurs! Mamesh nes

    "Of course, this isn't a miracle in the popular mystical supernatural sense of the term. Historians can chart every step of the way; God did not break the laws of nature for this to happen. Nevertheless, the end result - which was promised thousands of years ago, and which looked absurd for much of history - is nothing less than a miracle."

    How on earth is that a miracle? In retrospect any particular historical event is a "miracle" (=improbable). The founding of Romania is probably also a miracle by that standard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a miracle because it was promised and it came true. Not that it came true.

      Delete
    2. The founding of Romania, or any other historical fact, is unlikely in the grand scheme of things because in the grand scheme of things, there are rather a lot of things that COULD happen.

      That is not statistics. Nor is it a miracle.

      Imagine you have a rodent infestation in your house, and you hire a pest control company to exterminate them. Sure, there may always be a rat or two hiding out, but it would be considerably weird if after 2000 years of rat poison, the rats actually go ahead and build a house next door to you, and they end up having better wifi than you do. It's improbable because of the odds against it.

      And also the prophecy angle, as zd said, highlighting this.

      Delete
    3. Nu, as the post mentioned, historians can chart every step of the way, and no laws of nature were broken. If historians can chart and explain every step of this rat house building, where on earth is the "miracle?"
      Not remotely clear who wrote these prophecies, nor what they are referring to. Probably not the modern, very secular (at least at its founding) state of Israel.

      Delete
    4. Were there also empires and World Powers attempting to exterminate Romanians and then attempting to block the founding of Romania? And are they also mentioned in Tanach that they would create their country one day after losing it? (Did they lose it first?). I didn't realize we had so much in common with Romanians. They sound nice.

      Delete
  12. Maybe some of you are daf yomi learners and remember that last week we learnt the story of King David and the Givonites.
    The hard fact is that today, people are far from sayin of our relationship with those under our rule:
    "אֵין לְךָ אוּמָּה שֶׁרְאוּיָה לְהִדָּבֵק בָּהּ כָּזוֹ"
    And that's because those extremist nationalists are far from לשם שמים. In fact they are the opposite, they use the Torah for their foolish agenda. And therefore there is not a chance for them to understand that:
    "מוּטָב שֶׁתֵּעָקֵר אוֹת אַחַת מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְאַל יִתְחַלֵּל שֵׁם שָׁמַיִם בְּפַרְהֶסְיָא"

    The Talmud is against fundamentalism, the religion of the Sicarii is not ours.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Like Tony Soprano (pbuh) said: "The Romans, you're looking at them." What is Rome, if not a vision. Their empire, it is us - for now, at least. And the Greeks, Sumerians, et al. A thousand dad yomi cycles won't produce you a single watt of electricity.
    And when the mullahs drop a nuke on Tel Aviv, chareidi theology will espouse: "Nya nya I told you so" and the moderates and secular will fade the way of Philo of Alexandria. And the world will keep turning: The sun will rise, and the sun will set. Yom yom.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Excellent first half. He second half is absolutely true also, although the route is debatable, the actions of the extremists is wrong (if notworse). The media nonetheless should be reporting accurate info. Some outlets wrote hundreds were screaming this hateful speech. Was it really that large, I would like accurate numbers. Leaders must discourage this behavior but if there is a minority that is loud it is hard to get rid of them. The media in Israel should be held responsible, just like you hold the BBC responsible, as the headline in Times of Israel focused on the hundreds and not the other 70k

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hysterical. He makes one little tepid half-hearted mild critique of the Mizrachi crowd, and he thinks he can now say, "let nobody say that I only criticize the faults of charedim." That's the kind of "both sides" moral equivalency garbage we expect from the striped pants girls in left wing state departments.

    GP

    ReplyDelete
  16. Very edifying read, although I think the point made in the first half could have been made without the derision of thousands of educators around the world who attempt to bring Judaism and Torah to the masses.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Why is “provide evidence that the claims made by Orthodox Judaism are true” so hard to do? That’s how you establish the correctness of your claims, with facts. The continued inability for kiruv professionals to do this says something about the supposed truth of Judaism.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

The Disaster That Wasn't

In the last municipal elections in Beit Shemesh, the charedi political movement warned that if the non-charedi candidate was elected, it wou...