Chareidim and Leftists: Three Little Words

Maimonides in his classic work, Mishna Torah, describes how one fulfills the commandment of repentance. He says that one repents by confessing his sin with three little words that many find difficult to say- “I was wrong.” If one can do this, it shows remorse and a resolve to learn from one’s mistakes.

The greatness of King David was in the manner that he accepted guilt when confronted by the Prophet Nathan regarding his sin with Bat Sheva. David did not make excuses or put the blame on someone else but immediately responded with, “I have sinned” which is the same as “I was wrong.” This showed his greatness and humility at the same time.

As history has been unfolding, the Jewish people have been confronted with issues that did not exist since the time of the second Temple. Millions of Jews have returned to Israel and we have a Jewish homeland. We also have to figure out the best way to keep its citizens safe and manage to live peacefully with our neighbors. We analyze the events unfolding and try to adopt political and religious views that we believe are morally and spiritually correct.

Our integrity should not make us proud and if actual events contradict what we believed to be true, in the name of honesty, we might need to rethink what our opinions were and be humble enough to utter those three little words: “I was wrong.” There are two cases in point.

The Ultra Orthodox Jews, known today as Chareidim, had a very difficult time dealing with the Zionist movement of Theodore Herzl right from its inception. Their devout worship of the Torah and Judaism would not allow them to entertain the idea that anything good could come from secular Zionists who did not care about the holy Sabbath or the laws of keeping Kosher. Therefore, it was understandable that they strongly opposed the Zionists. Unfortunately, this opposition still exists today with a refusal to send their children to the army or acknowledge Israel’s Independence Day. Sadly, in most Chareidi synagogues, they won’t even say a prayer for the welfare of our brave soldiers in the IDF.

The Chareidi community needs to finally take a step back and admit that their fears regarding these secular Zionists were unfounded. It certainly looks like it was G-d’s plan that Jews of all backgrounds feel that they have a part in the Jewish State. Initially, they had good intentions in defending the honor of the Torah, but clearly the State has proven to be a very good thing. They need to say, “We were wrong” and more actively support the State.

The liberal well meaning Jews that are referred to as Leftists also need to do some soul searching. Their opinion that if we reach out to our Arab neighbors, it will be the prescription for peace. Even the esteemed former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, of blessed memory, issued a ruling that land theoretically could be returned if it would increase our security. So they tried “land for peace” and Oslo, and it was done with the best of intentions, but these efforts failed miserably.

Recent terrorist activities have proven that it isn’t our victory in 1967 and our liberating Judea and Samaria, that is bothering the Arabs. Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded the world that the hatred of the Jews began well before there was a State. Certain assumptions or remedies that were thought to be solutions were not.

Just like the Chareidim need to do, and just like “the sweet singer of Israel”, King David demonstrated that it can be done, the Leftists also need to let go of their former views and also say, “We were wrong.” History has shown that when there is Jewish unity, no force in the world can touch us. If the Chareidim and Leftists were able to get over these hurdles, Israel and the Jewish people would be as we were at Mount Sinai, “Like one man. Like one heart.”

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for nearly twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the past twelve years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.