Last week was one of the most amazing weeks of my life. My son was born, bringing home this idea I’ve pounded myself with for months: get better. i have to be better for him. I have to teach things that I would otherwise dismiss as mundane. I have to point out the obvious. I have to review everything the previous 27 years taught me, because now the student has become the master. So clearly I would hope that our greatest sages would help me in that mission with their wise words and their modest acts.
You can imagine my disappointment.
Rav Ovadia Yosef’s and Rav Yona Metzger’s actions exemplify one of the most embarrassing weeks in recent memory for Orthodox Judaism. Besides the fact Shas MK Ariel Atias thought to humiliate Rav David Stav by boycotting his dance circle at a wedding (of all things), Rav Ovadia’s words directly led to the man’s assault. Rav Metzger’s charges, whether they pan out to constitute something criminal or not, associate petty crime with one of Judaism’s and Israel’s greatest religious offices.
It leaves us to ask what on Earth they could have possibly been thinking saying what they said or doing what they did. But what we should focus on is how we handle it from here. What do we expect of the people older and wiser than us? Essentially, what would we expect of ourselves were we to find ourselves in their shoes?
I’d expect them to provide us with ideals to strive for while keeping above the madness of politics or rhetoric. I’d expect they’d easily assuage their anger and ignore words of hatred, particularly during times of high tension. We know where it leads otherwise:
You younger Rabbis should take note. Even if corruption and irresponsibility aren’t as prevalent as these incidents would lead us to believe, your job is to act as if they are. Do everything within your own personal strength to avoid the errors these men of power just made.
So my advice to my son would be to not give into senseless hatred. For everyone else, don’t boycott Haredim and their institutions, as tempting as it might be. Even if they refuse to eat your Modern Orthodox food or dance in your Dati Leumi wedding circles, don’t avoid the restaurants of Me’ah Shearim or the chupah of a Shas’nik. Don’t let ignorance make you indignant in return.
Hold the line and refuse to give into hatred. Be better than those who have come before you.
Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook put it in terms of poetic justice: if the 2nd Temple was destroyed on the grounds of baseless hate, then the 3rd Temple will rise on the heels of unconditional love. You decide which Rabbinical example will define you on the 17th of Tammuz.