Did you cry? II

(This isn’t my usual style or topic for this blog. But as it approaches the deadline, sitting here on Tish’ah beAv afternoon, it would be inhuman not to feel a need to share my thoughts on the subject.)The haftorah for Devarim also must awaken thoughts of current events. “Your country is laid waste, your cities are burned by fire, your land — strangers devour it in your presence, and it is laid waste, as overturned to strangers.” (Yeshaiah 1:7)Perhaps then we should look further at the haftorah, take to heart the message the navi find the navi relays.

In pasuq 10, Hashem calls the Jewish people followers of the inhospitable and cruel people of Sodom and Amora. He then continues (11-17) by rejecting our service of Him when we ignore the basics of interpersonal mitzvos. “What purpose do your offerings have to Me? … So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My ‘Eyes’ from you. Yes, even while you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” One is reminded of the mafioso, who assauges his conscience by giving major donations to the church from his ill-gotten money.

The Jewish People experienced something unique last week. Hundreds of thousands of Jews overflowed the Kotel Plaza and much of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, the area outside the Ashpah Gate… Quite likely the largest gathering at the maqom hamiqdash since the destruction of the Beis haMiqdash. A wide variety of people, all stripes of the observant community, davening together.

And yet, is this the best we can do? Can we celebrate the unity of some small fraction of our people? I didn’t merit being anywhere near the Kotel that night. I was at the far end of an internet broadcast. But the descriptions I get from those who were consistently contain one distressing element.

Kelal Yisrael wasn’t at the kotel. It wasn’t Jews of all stripes, it was all stripes of observant Jews. One person emailed me about the rainbow of people present. But in truth, it was only Orange, maybe some “yellow” and “red”, if I can extend the rainbow metaphor. (Ironically, I mean the people who understand techeiles, not the Blues.) The majority of Kelal Yisrael thinks a prayer rally at the kotel is quaint and pointless, even in these troubled and troubling times.

We need to remember that. We’re one people. Yes, we should celebrate that the glass is “half full”. But not let ourselves get so carried away with it that we speak as though we’re unaware that it’s half empty.

Achdus: Not just a good idea, the only way out of this eimeq habakhah (valley of tears).

We aren’t at a moment of particular unity. In fact, the divide between the Blues and the Oranges (and the yellows and reds, who also showed at the Kotel) is one of the deepest splits in our history. Talk of civil war arises occasionally.

It scares me. The health of a relationship is sometimes tested by times of stress and tragedy. If a couple, G-d forbid, loses a child, it usually pushes them closer together. Surviving a struggle together; relying on each other. However, if the marriage is less healthy, it can push them apart in a cycle of blame and increasing anger. What does it say about us if that is the dynamic we’re following?

But both sides are pursuing what they believe to be noble. Both sides are concerned for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. One must be wrong, but that doesn’t make him evil. And yet, demonization and personal attacks are the tools of both sides.

Sin’as chiham — when we take a disagreement of ideas and make it personal.

I am really concerned about the focus on looking for who is guilty. I think I noticed because I am not as certain as the “theoreticians” that Sharon is an idiot or willing to sell out so many of his people for personal gain. But every single mail I’ve gotten from Israel has had some mention of which Jews are at fault for getting us to this point.

So let me clear that up, just as I did on another forum about a month ago.

It’s my fault. Mine, and every other allegedly committed Jew who didn’t settle Israel, who didn’t make retaining Gush Katif as much of a no brainer as retaining Maale Adumim. It’s that simple. I’m the bad guy; the one who isn’t living up to even his own definition of “right”. So make peace with that secularist in your office building, invite him for a Shabbos meal — and I invite the two of you to vilify me over some chulent. At least then there would be peace in the land!

Don’t take it out on Haaretz, Meretz or the rest of the Blues. They are at least trying their best to live up to their ideals and do what they think is best for their people and land. I can not say the same. Why are we demonizing each other? Why must Haaretz be a collection of dishonest reporters who only count who was there before the rally really began? Why must we assume that Ariel Sharon’s only interest is in keeping his scandals out of the paper? (Was that also Bibi’s excuse?) And why must we assume that when one of “our” r”l emotionally disturbed goes on a shooting spree, it must be some conspiracy and really “their” fault? Everything doesn’t have to get reduced to the question of which Jews one should get angry at.

People are disagreeing over ideas, and somehow it has to be turned into “they are evil”, “they are wronging us”. A discussion of davening at the Kotel has to turn into vilifying the IDF. They are wrong, not wronging. They are assimilated products of the west, not Nazis.

Can’t you see, the reason why Blue and Orange are at loggerheads is not because they’re different, but because of their similarities? Israelis are a passionate people. No one else would move there, and therefore few else will raise children there. The Blues are our misguided children who inherited our kashyus oref, our stubbornness.

Ironically, Hashem sends us a poignant and blatant “knife in the heart”. One needn’t be a prophet to hear the message of His destroying Jewish homes on the very day He let them destroy His. We haven’t learned the lessons of the 9 days — and we use his reminder as an excuse to increase the sin’as chinam?! Rachmanah litzlan, are we really that stupid? How much power do we rob from our tefillos by missing Yeshaiah’s message, by not first addressing our feelings toward our fellow Jews?

Yes, they’re wrong. And yes, we must not cater to moral relativism. Democracy isn’t a higher value than Judaism. Period. So cry for souls that are striving for aliyah, but are mislead by a map pointing in the wrong direction. They aren’t the bad guys. None of the kinos mention the Zealots burning the grain stores in an attempt to force their fellow Jews to fight a rebellion against Roman occupation. Instead, the kinos consistently focus on what we did wrong to warrant a lack of His protection.

Perhaps this is exactly why the rashei yeshiva and rabbis who supported the tefillah rally in Yerushalayim did not similarly back other rallies. Which should people be saying during the 3 weeks and 9 days: “We won’t let Sharon do this to us, he has no mandate!” Or: “We have no one on whom to rely, but our Father in heaven!”

And your thoughts...?