With Common Effort

Last week’s Guest Editorial by Dayan Chaim Kohn prompted a significant amount of feedback from our readers. As a result of this reaction, and in light of the developments of the last few days, Hamodia’s editorial board asked Dayan Kohn to elaborate on last week’s article, and we are grateful that he agreed.

Across the spectrum of Torah Jewry there is an indisputable consensus that the current situation in Israel is, for numerous reasons, intolerable.

The draconian cuts that are being proposed will cause devastating financial hardship on significant portions of general Israeli society and, in particular, on those who spend their days studying Torah. These are families that have long accustomed themselves with making do with an absolute minimum, but under the new budget plan they will be left without the means to feed and clothe their children.

Even more disturbing is the relentless campaign of incitement against shomrei Torah umitzvos that is being waged on numerous fronts, including — as has extensively been reported in these pages — the efforts to end the exemption for yeshivah students. After simmering for decades under the surface, the genie has been released from the bottle. What began as anti-chareidi sentiment is now a full fledged sinas achim, a hatred against all segments of the Torah-observant community. Like a runaway train barreling down a steep hill, the situation is rapidly worsening.

All agree that every effort must be expended to influence the government to shift course, and explain to our secular brethren, both within the political leadership and their supporters, that the path they have taken is dangerous and disastrous, not only for the Torah community but for general society as well.

What we all also agree on is that, in contrast to the reckless efforts of those behind this incitement, it is our obligation and duty to act in a responsible and productive manner.

In regard to the precise approach that the Torah community should be taking, there are differing views.

When our ancestors traveled in the midbar, as well after settling Eretz Yisrael, each shevet of the bnei Yisrael had its own beis din.

As separate entities, they didn’t necessarily issue the same ruling on an identical question. But since their intentions were solely l’sheim Shamayim, and the rulings were reached through the proper process, they eventually produced the required results.

Today we are witnessing the same phenomenon, as different Torah leaders have drawn different conclusions in regard to the best approach to be taken in response to what is currently transpiring in Eretz Yisrael.

There are those who firmly believe that the most fitting approach is public protests to proclaim our anguish to the world, both to those who willing to listen as well as to those who have shut their hearts to reason. They feel that the requisite hishtadlus calls for a public gathering to cry out our pain to Shamayim, even when it is unclear what it will accomplish in the temporal world.

Then there are other Torah leaders who feel that the most appropriate path is one of quiet shtadlanus, coupled with a comprehensive effort to educate the public. Through the writing of articles and explaining our position in a reasonable and persuasive manner, the goal is to set the record straight for those who are at least willing to listen to a voice of reason. Elsewhere in this edition, the facts on the ground are presented in detail.

Though distinctively different, these two approaches, as long as they are driven by the right motivations and executed properly, do not negate each other. Both have ample historical precedent, both are grounded in Torah hashkafah, and both can be very effective.

In a previous article, I quoted the words of the Toldos Yaakov Yosef which he writes in his sefer Tzafnas Pane’ach. When a Jew stumbles with regard to lashon hara, the Divine consequence is that he creates enemies for himself. To this end, the warranted remedy is to improve the middah of chessed on all fronts, for this conduct will arouse, reciprocally, middah k’negged middah in Shamayim.

As we are faced with a relentless barrage of sinas chinam, we must respond with a most potent weapon — ahavas chinam. The foremost order of the day for Am Yisrael is to increase our chessed in all areas: To judge one another favorably, to daven that sins — but not sinners — be eliminated, to spread Torah and Judaism all over.

We must make certain that differences of opinion and choice of approaches do not lead to internal divisions among Torah Jewry. It is crucial that we view each other with the attribute of ayin tovah, and that there can be numerous viewpoints within the parameters of   daas Torah. We must exhibit genuine respect to all those who act l’sheim Shamayim, even when their path, in accordance to their spiritual leadership, is different from our own. Such an approach will certainly bring about the reciprocal Divine response.