Selflessness and Sacrifice?
With the electoral victories of Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Naftali Bennet (Bayit Yehudi), and the resultant plans to reduce financial aid to people in kollel, draft most charedim into the army, and withhold various financial benefits from those who refuse to serve, the charedi world is in turmoil. Representatives of the charedi world have made statements that are astonishing.
When I was in yeshivah, I was always taught that parnassah is strictly in the hands of the Ribbono shel olam. Only Hashem decides how much money you get. If you get less money than expected, it's not because of someone else's choice; it's because Hashem decreed such for you, based on your spiritual merits and so on. It has nothing to do with worldly endeavor, and certainly nothing to do with other people. (Of course, since then, I've adopted a perspective more in line with the Rishonim.)
But the charedi world doesn't seem to really believe that, considering all the screaming about the evils of Lapid and Bennet. For the most part, instead of wondering how their new fate results from their own actions - whether spiritual or worldly - they are focusing on how it is the result of the elections. Apparently, parnassah is not in the hands of Ribbono shel olam, but rather in the hands of Lapid and Bennet.
The editorial in the UK edition of HaModia, sent to me by a reader, makes this point, noting that the charedi community should be focused upon its own obligations rather than upon others. Unfortunately, these obligations apparently do not include the obligations dictated by Chazal and the kesubah, for a husband to work for a living and support his family. Still, at least they are talking about their own obligations. The editorial states that:
"The question now is what should our role as chareidi Jews be at this junction? ...It is clear that the order of the day for Am Yisrael is to increase our chessed in all areas:"
Great! Does this mean contributing towards the country, with military duty or national service, as non-charedim do? Unfortunately, apparently not:
"To judge one another favorably, to daven that sins - not sinners - be eliminated, to spread Torah and Judaism and, above all, to use use our resources to make our institutions of Torah and chessed independent or those who would seek to uproot Torah from Yisrael."
Okay, apparently increasing chessed doesn't mean actually doing anything tangible for the rest of the country, or starting to express hakaras hatov for what the country does for them. And they wonder why there is ill-will towards them!
But perhaps the last part of that quote is referring to becoming a financially self-sustaining community, and not requiring government assistance? Apparently not. The editorial continues to note that charedim are actually obligated, from a spiritual perspective, to demand funding from the rest of the country:
"Our Hashkofoh obligates us to demand state support for Torah and chessed mosdos, not out of concern that they won't be able to continue to provide vital services to the weaker sectors, but to provide a merit for the government, which is so in need of Heavenly mercy. Even if the government doesn't appreciate and understand the workings of midoh keneged midoh, its support for such institutions will serve its interests."
Ah, so all the talk about money is not motivated by an actual desperate desire for money and/or a belief that it is in the hands of others, but rather in order to help the non-charedim! It's all about a selfless concern for the spiritual and material wellbeing of others! How did I miss that?
Aside from money, the other big issue is military service, and the concept of sharing the burden. Another reader sent me a paragraph from HaModia written in response to these accusations, by Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, former Executive Vice-President of Agudath Yisrael in the U.S. and now at Ohr Somayach. (I have only seen this paragraph - if there is other relevant material in the article, please let me know.) He makes the following remarkable comments:
"Living as a Jew is much harder than dying as a Jew. Mesirus nefesh is a one-time giving up of one's life, and even people who weren't so great in their lifetime were willing to be burned at the stake for Hakadosh Baruch Hu, but to live one's whole life as a Jew is very, very difficult. The bnei Torah who are sitting in kollel and learning Torah are living their whole lives for the Ribbono shel Olam, and that's a much greater sacrifice than dying al kiddush Hashem."
I don't know whether this paragraph is just too mind-numbingly foolish to be classified as offensive.
Yes, it can take more effort to live as a Jew than to be killed as a Jew. But that has nothing to do with which is the greater sacrifice! It also takes more effort to drive a car than to be hit by a car, but that doesn't make it a greater sacrifice!
(Furthermore, it's not as though the only sacrifice made by soldiers is that made by those who are killed. There is also the fear of being captured or killed, the immense physical and psychological hardships often endured by soldiers during their service, and the annual reserve duty that takes them away from their families. I have seen too many charedi spokesmen and apologists who are apparently utterly unaware of the mesiras nefesh that the IDF soldiers and their families engage in on their behalf.)
Finally, there is the issue of who you actually sacrificing for - who you are actually helping with the way that you live or die. It's all very well to do something for your own spiritual growth, but what are you doing for the rest of Klal Yisrael? Not everyone is expected to place their life on the line, but everyone is expected to contribute towards the rest of Israel. However, I will leave that discussion for another post (and please withhold your comments on that topic until I write that post).