Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Damage Control

Tel Aviv - Photo credit: Uri Ovadia
I realize I am a bit late in writing this. It seems like it should be old news, after all. The truth is, sadly, I fear it is just the beginning. Like a snowball full of dirt and hard stones, this whole episode has become quite an unpleasant and dangerous game. I am referring to the recent occurrences of intolerance and distasteful (to put it mildly) actions within our own people. 

The list of intramural hatred in Israel is endless and I know it won't go down well with many when I say that we should all be held accountable. The frightening thought is that if we don't do something to rectify it soon, the consequences may be devastating. G-d promised to protect our land and our people if we obey His laws but did we forget that also includes Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)? With thousands of missiles aimed at our heads, we must ask ourselves the ultimate question; Do we deserve HaShem's Divine protection?

The Talmud (Tractate Yoma) tells us that Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred destroyed the Second Temple. According to the Gemora, Tractate Yevamos (62b) it was also the cause of the loss of Rabbi Akiva's talmidim (students), twenty four THOUSAND, to be exact. Their fatal failure was the lack of respect towards one another. This is no small matter.

The media is the worst culprit of all as it feeds the evil inclination's need for gossip and the cultivation of distortion and lies. We are subjected to so much misinformation; truth is ne'er to be found. 

The facts are shameful and embarrassing to write. Men who call themselves G-d fearing, who outwardly reflect the look of righteous individuals, physically and emotionally attack young girls and soldiers, all in the name of TorahTheir actions are counterproductive and reek of hypocrisy with a misplaced belief that what they are doing is 'l'shem shamayim' (for the sake of Heaven). I don't know of any Jewish Holy writings that condone this type of behavior. For a youngster in the formative stage of life, it is not a nurturing message to send. We are not livestock that can be kept in line with the sting of a whip or a cattle prod. Those who have no understanding of the sanctity of religious life will only be pushed farther away. Plus, it creates a whole slew of further sins including loshon hora (slander), taking revenge and holding a grudge, to name a few. Just yesterday I read about a secular man who spit on an ultra-orthodox girl. Other accounts say he allegedly kicked her. Tit for tat? What is going on here? I think it's time to tell people to grow up! This is not child's play.

It hurts. It really hurts to see the dissension and the name-calling. I can only imagine how our Father in Heaven feels watching His beloved children at each other's throats like vultures over their prey. Do we really want to end up as the satan's lunch?

What is even more painful is when I hear about our brothers and sisters being brutally dragged out of their homes by our own 'protective' armed forces, our own sons. What happened to the pride of developing our land, when being a settler was something we longed for, not something to detest? It is bad enough that it is against G-d's Will to remove anyone from their dwellings in this Land, but to do so in the middle of the night without warning and with such venom? It happened in Gush Katif and now it is happening at other outposts. Where is our humanity? Where is our sense of compassion, if nothing else? We treat our enemies with more respect. We have totally lost our perspective.

We each have to take responsibility for the improper actions of the few because we are all one. It is not 'him' or 'her' or 'them', it is US! Since everything that happens is for a reason, we must look within ourselves and find something to change, something to improve. Like a spoken word, the damage caused by hurtful conduct is next to impossible to repair, but we have to try. A smile, a kind comment, a helpful deed - there are so many redeeming ways to erase the darkness.

We must stop this cycle of madness. If our enemies choose to act like barbarians they will simply self-destruct. Do we want to be on that level? They would probably like nothing better than to witness a civil war within Israel. But that is not the endgame of the Jewish People. Our purpose is to be a source of G-dliness, a Light unto the Nations. Through love and unity we can surely accomplish that goal. Once we master that tenuous and challenging task, HaShem will gladly be our strength and our shield, as He has been always.

As we say in our morning prayers, “Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name….may we exult and rejoice in Your salvation”.  Please, may it be soon. Amen.