Seeking Peace, Or Immunity?
(I really hope that this will be the last post relating to Orthodox societal problems - at least for a while! I have a post about Ghostbusters and rationalism/ mysticism that I hope to present very soon.)
In the aftermath of the elections, tensions between charedim and non-charedim here in Bet Shemesh are at an all-time high. People have left their shuls, people have been kicked out of their shuls, people have asked their rabbis to leave their shuls. There has been a huge protest against the improprieties involved in the election. Mr. Y. posted the following message to a local email list:
I do request from those that are protesting and from the general public to stay focused on the issue being protested and not to allow the process to degenerate into an insult slinging contest.
Some of the language that was being used by protesters on Thursday night was really inappropriate and contained delegitimization and dehumanization of certain residents of Rama Aleph and Bet. Terms that reflect a very frightening perspective on the polarization of our community.
I am concerned that if the community allows the situation to deteriorate we may face a disaster... let's keep in mind that at the end of the day we are one nation.
Doesn't that sound great? He's campaigning against delegitimization and dehumanization and slinging insults. Boruch Hashem!
The problem is, this same Mr. Y. is rather notorious for making a public statement that there are two categories of people: those who want to increase Torah learning and Jewish families, such as Moshe Rabbeinu and Rambam, and those who want to do the opposite, such as Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler, and Dov Lipman. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I wrote to him to ask how his description of Rabbi Lipman is to be reconciled with his campaigning against delegitimization and dehumanization and slinging insults. He answered that he believes that Rabbi Lipman is a rasha, and so it doesn't apply to him; it's a mitzvah to denounce a rasha.
Now, ordinarily I wouldn't bother commenting on the actions of one person, but this is part of a larger phenomenon. Consider this: a charedi resident of my neighborhood sent out a public letter calling on people to practice ahavat chinam (baseless love) rather than sinat chinam (baseless hate). Sounds wonderful, right?
The problem is the examples that he gave of people failing at ahavat chinam and succeeding at sinat chinam. His example of the former was the dati-leumi community failing to simply give their school, Orot, to the extremists who violently protested their using it. He wrote about how they should have understood the sensitivity of those who can't abide to see women dressed immodestly by their standards, and even though it was their school, they should have been mevater and given it to that community. Hashem is prolonging the exile because they did not do this.
But as a friend of mine pointed out, surely it's presumptuous to demand ahavat chinam on someone else's behalf. Why would he expect the dati-leumi community to shoulder all the burden of sensitivity, before asking their attackers to be minimally civil?
The second example that this person gave was of people talking about the eight charedim arrested for having 200 identity cards that were to be used for electoral fraud. He said that it's sinat chinam to make this charge; one should assume that they were collecting the identity cards so that people in their community would not vote in the Zionist elections.
Of course, it's not sinat chinam to believe that it was electoral fraud; the facts clearly point to it. All of the identity cards belonged to people who are living abroad and who are barred from voting in the municipal elections. (Not to mention that they were found together with a large number of head coverings, indicating that there were plans for disguises.) But the broader point to notice here is that both examples given by this person were of alleged shortcomings in the non-charedi community, and included an attempt to stifle criticism of charedim.
One final example. As posted here, one local doctor issued some criticisms of the charedi "Four Doctors" electoral campaign. One of the four doctors responded, criticizing him for fomenting divisiveness, and asked, Why can't you be tolerant of different people? He quoted Moshe Gafni, speaking at the Rav Steinman rally in Bet Shemesh, about how machlokes is bad. Doesn't that sound like the words of a peacemaker, who is interested in coexistence with all types of people?
But in fact it was nothing of the sort! I read a transcript of Gafni's speech, and he was NOT saying that machlokes is bad and that therefore we have to love each other despite our differences. He was saying that machlokes is bad and that therefore everyone has to vote for the same charedi party!
I could give other examples, but I think that the point is clear. There are some people who talk about ahavat chinam and tolerance and the importance of speaking positively and the evils of lashon hara, and who are clearly bothered by such things across the board, and that's great. But there are others who talk about these things, and one is forced to ask, is this really what bothers them? After all, they don't seem to be bothered about applying this to how people in their own community treat people outside of their community. It seems that what actually bothers them are criticisms of the charedi world. All the speeches about ahavat chinam and tolerance and the importance of speaking positively and the evils of lashon hara are merely an attempt to gain immunity from such criticism. (There are doubtless also examples of this occurring the other way around, with people from the non-charedi community. But I don't think that there is the same degree of inconsistency.)
Still, one could ask as follows: Whatever their motivations, isn't it good that they are asking for these things? But the answer is no. Since they obviously do not issue such protests about charedi behavior, the only effect of these protests is to make everyone else resent them all the more. You don't attain peace by attempting to whitewash or stifle criticisms of the wrongdoing in your own camp.
I want to finish on a positive note, so here's a link to a story about a wonderful initiative to bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews by having joint Shabbat meals. An amazing six thousand families took part! There's hope for us yet!