While recently visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) and trying to gather a Minyan of ten men for Ma’ariv, the evening prayer, one of the people I invited to join told me “no thanks, I’m here to just talk with Him”, with his finger pointing upward.
So simple, yet so eloquent; and timeless.
We are surrounded by strife, internally and externally, today. There has always been strife, but does there always need to be? To this degree?
While the man smiled at me and seemingly had nothing against formal prayer, he came with the goal of having a one-on-one conversation with the “Man upstairs”. While I smiled in response and told him to enjoy and have a great night, my mind was elsewhere. This simple response had evoked two different important thoughts in me. The first related directly to prayer and the ability to use it as a medium for a structured conversation with God. The second was the interpersonal issue of the ability or inability for some to “just talk”.
My personal belief system includes the thought that while the prayer services are very structured and have been practiced for over a thousand years in their same form, they are not concrete. They are flexible in that while they are solid, many say that they are only supposed to serve as the springboard or key which leads a person to higher and deeper conversations with God. They provide a structure to remind us of all the good that we have and all the good that we often do not deserve yet receive regardless from the Almighty. In doing so, they open our minds to thinking above our own minute beings. Each of the words and blessings we recite can be delved into and expounded upon for days, weeks and years, much less the few minutes some of us choose to spend “reciting” them as part of a routine.
The second point is relevant to all people and all times. The idea of a simple dialogue is one that many take for granted. Only when one expresses their feelings, opinions or ideas can someone else give the deserved and accurate response hoped for. People often express themselves in code. That code can include words and hints, or actions as small as a smile or grunt and as large as protests and wars. Many times the uncomfortable and even detrimental situations that result could easily be prevented by dialogue. This holds true for relationships as quantitatively small as marriages and as large as whole nations.
Today we are aware of the strife between the two nations of Russia and Ukraine which some refer to as the fuse which may ignite a world war (if the Western powers get involved militarily). Crimea has been conquered and re-conquered multiple times. To potentially lose thousands of lives and billions of dollars without an attempt at serious negotiations to me just seems futile and infantile. It reeks of schoolyard bullying.
Also boiling and closer to home at the moment is the prolonged argument over Haredi participation in some form of national service for a period of two years. The Capital city of Jerusalem will be completely jammed while the main artery connecting it to Tel Aviv and the Center, Highway 1, will have a large tourniquet tightened on it for at least half of the day as a direct result of the Haredi protest. They hope for a million, but will most likely reach “only” 400,000-500,000 according to some estimates.
The proposal of many MK’s in Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) and other parties along with Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, is rather than arrest Haredi boys and men who refuse to serve, to hold a dialogue. Forcing a new way of life, whether I agree with it or not, upon a very large minority, simply won’t work. Whether it be the simple refusal backed by the force of numbers, or the inability to actually detain all of the future refuseniks. The sheer resentment that will inevitably ensue in my opinion will only cause further strife in our tiny Homeland, for which we do not have any more room.
Economic sanctions such as the inability to receive government funded and discounted loans along with the discontinuation of tax breaks and other government run benefits which are not considered contradictions to human rights are a good place to start. However, much more important than the technicality of the sanctions is the ability and requirement for both sides to sit down and talk. Many Haredi men have started serving in the national service and the army, some in my own unit. Their shoulders were just as broad and their weapons provided the same protection as mine.
As someone who served in the IDF, I am not looking to exact revenge on any of the people who define themselves as one of my own, rather to work side by side with them. Economic sanctions is just one of the many ideas that does not bleed hatred, rather logic.
I hope that the huge demonstration today, which will unquestionably cause the disruption of learning Torah, lost business deals, blocked paths for ambulances and emergency vehicles, an inability to enjoy the life for which we have fought and died, and an overall annoyance for countless people will not simply be in vain. I hope that the people of this country and of the world at large, on ALL sides, wake up to realize that the answer lies not in battle within, but dialogue and cooperation to find agreeable solutions that will strengthen our people and our walls. May the impossible happen, and may God bring only good things out of this gloomy day.
Remember, “just talk”.