In recent news, local politicians have announced their intention to approve that public state-run trains operate on Shabbat, a blatant violation of the religious and legal obligations of Shabbat to be a day of rest for the Jewish nation.
Firstly, I want to say how proud I am of this country that there are people who are emotionally connected enough to themselves and their country, to be as affected as they are by this news. Secondly, there is much to be understood between the lines from both sides of the equation.
Mutual respect of others, while at the exact same time completely disagreeing with their thought premise, goes a long way towards not ripping people even further apart. Per verifiable polling, the majority of the Israeli population want public transportation on Shabbat. Also, via verifiable polling, the vast majority of the Israeli Charedi population do not want public transportation on Shabbat.
To better understand the context of this disagreement; this is about the pain, hurt and resentment going back too many years on both sides, that will not be resolved by one single law and one single person. Furthermore, people waging battles, while speaking the language of themselves and not the language of those they are trying to convince, isn’t doing much to change people’s perception. For example, non-civil disobedience, such as blocking roads, throwing objects at cars, name calling and rioting has worked for other issues. But this method has not worked for this issue, because the message about the beauty of Shabbat doesn’t get across, an emotional feeling about this holy day.
Additionally, people often are using talking points passed down from generation to generation, without fully understanding the reality of the other side.
And lastly, is this black and white? Or is it meant to be taken within the context of the bigger picture? And if it is to be taken in context, where and who draws the line as to what is okay and what is not? Take for example the issue of inviting people for a shabbat meal who you know will be driving to your house (for context on the halachic implications, please refer to the rulings of R’ Feinstein, R’ Shternboch & R’ Auerbach here https://en.idi.org.il/articles/14015). My wife told me of a family who has told her, that had they not driven to their first shabbat meal and experienced that one Shabbat, they would never be the religious family that they are today. So, even though they keep Shabbat now (which is amazing), as an isolated incident, was it a good or bad thing that they drove that one time, and should that have been allowed? And if this is to be allowed, how is this any different than a train running on Shabbat?
Do I know the solution to these ongoing pressing issues between religion and state? No, because if I did, I wouldn’t be sitting on a couch writing this article, but instead would be in Oslo accepting my Nobel Peace prize award. Do I dream of the day where pork is banned, the country shuts down on Shabbat and religion gets the respect it deserves in this country? Absolutely. Do we live in a religious state where these kinds of laws are possible or enforceable? Currently, no. The Messiah has not come yet.
Time will tell if there will actually be trains running on Shabbat. But if they are, every single one of us who cares enough, should be standing outside the train station on Shabbat morning with a hug, a hot bowl of cholent with a huge slice of kishka and a kind word, to invite those who don’t keep Shabbat into our homes to experience firsthand the special beauty of this unique and holy day.