Judaism and Sensitivity

When a great man passes away, it should be a time for reflection. The passing of Rav Gershon Edelstein, of blessed memory, is one such example. The eulogies of this great rabbi, did not only speak of his great scholarship, but it also spoke of his very human side. He showed great admiration for the soldiers of the IDF, that risk their lives protecting Am Yisrael.

Rav Edelstein was also sensitive to those children that had difficulty staying in the fold, in terms of their waning religious observance. He urged parents to be patient with such children. They needed to be shown great love, despite their present choices. The door needed to be left open, should they realize that they made a mistake in throwing off the yoke of the Mitzvot.

There are numerous other examples of great rabbis, who are remembered for their very human side. Their love for every Jew shined more brightly than even their great knowledge of our holy books. I do not recall any situation where someone was praised for being extreme, and following every stringency in Jewish Law. Somehow, there is a feeling today that one gets more points in Heaven by being more extreme.
Sadly, the zeal to follow every aspect of the law, comes with a price. Obviously, it is praiseworthy to follow all of the precepts of the Torah. But this is not the case when it comes with alienating and harming others. The sensitivity that we must always have, takes priority in many instances.

This is why we have a concept in Halacha of כבוד הבריות, showing respect for creations. Clearly, if there is a situation where a rabbinic law will be violated in order to prevent causing anguish to another Jew, כבוד הבריות takes priority.
Rav Edelstein’s passing is a wake up call for all of us to be kind to one another. We must never lose this sensitivity no matter how “Frume” (religious) we think we are!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at