Jews are a contentious people.
The old joke is told of a lone Jewish castaway on a deserted island who is found after a number of years. His rescuers are puzzled to find that he has built two synagogues for himself. In explanation, he tells them that one is the synagogue he prays in, and the other is the one he doesn’t pray in.
In Israel, where religion and politics are intertwined, then battles are even more escalated. Politicians who one day excoriate each other in the harshest terms, are the next day best friends in a coalition, and those who are both Torah observant, but have different philosophies, can declare each other as heretics and destroyers of the faith.
I define myself as Chardal, an amalgam of both the Charedi (strictly observant) and Dati Leumi (national religious) camps. I find gratification in the renewal of a Jewish state in Israel after almost 2000 years of exile, with its in-gathering of persecuted Jews from all ends of the Earth, and its wondrous achievements in the past 71 years in the fields of technology, science and health, among others. And I admire the staunchness of those who show such dedication in their Torah study, punctiliousness in their Mitzva observance and vibrancy in their Chesed performance for all members of Israeli society in such organizations as Hatzalah, Zakah, Yad Sarah, and so many more.
As one living on the fault line between the seismic philosophical camps in the Torah observant world in Israel, I get complaints from friends on both sides. How can I be proud of a State of Israel, whose founders and leaders have always shown antipathy to those who dedicate their lives to Torah study? And from others on the other side, how can I identify with those who show a lack of respect and often disdain for the State they live in and don’t evince gratitude to those who protect them and provide all the needed services that they utilize in their daily lives?
And while I find merit on both sides of the argument, I particularly find it objectionable when philosophical argument is replaced by physical destruction.
For example, last year I proudly flew two Israeli flags on my car in honor of the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, and they (and the replacements that I had prudently bought in anticipation of what would occur) were ripped off my car within one week, as I parked daily in the Charedi neighborhoods of Sanhedria Murchevet and Ramat Eshkol.
And secondly, I brought a festive blue and white party hat to my Charedi yeshiva on a previous Yom Haatzmaut. My fellow yeshiva mates, and a number of the Rabbi teachers there, got a good laugh when I placed it on the students’ hat rack among the traditional black hats that always are there. I took a picture of the scene and titled it ”I brought my hat to yeshiva today and it fit right in.”
I sent the picture to my friends, most of whom replied that they got a good chuckle on seeing it. My wife called it “whimsically irresistible,” and my good friend, Richard Corman, suggested I send in to the Jerusalem Post for their weekly magazine section of readers’ photos. The Jerusalem Post responded that picture was “cool,” and published it as the lead picture in the photo section the next Friday, with the caption “Happy Independence Day.”
I posted the picture from the newspaper in the yeshiva’s coffee room with a prescient note attached, “Before you deface the photo or tear it down, please speak to me – R’ SDR.” As I suspected would happen, by the next morning it had been ripped down, but sadly no one took credit(?) for that action. When I posted a backup copy of the picture (I am well prepared) with a note “Would the person who destroyed my previous picture please speak to me – R’SDR,” sadly, it too was gone by the next morning. I had a number of offers by my fellow yeshiva students who wished to tell me who the culprit was, but I declined to listen to the Lashon Hara (derogatory speech), and just said that I wished the offender would come and talk to me about his issues, but he never came forward.
In another month or so we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. When the Jewish nation camped at the bottom of Mount Sinai, the Torah states “He Camped,” and Rashi explains, “as one person with one heart.” The Talmud at the end of of Tractate Taanit states “In the future Hashem will make a circle of all the righteous people and will sit in the middle of the circle, and all will point toward Him saying ‘Behold, this is our Hashem’.” The commentaries explain that even though all the righteous people come from different points of the spectrum of our great nation, they will all share in the joyous revelation of Hashem’s deliverance,
If we hope to attain Hashem’s final redemption with the coming of Mashiach, it behooves us all to put aside our philosophical differences, and show respect for all our brothers and sisters, regardless of whether we differ 180 degrees in the circle in how we express our ideologies. Only then we we merit to see Hashem’s final salvation for our wonderful people who are comprised of many disparate types.