During the first week of the month of Av I was taking a tour in Jerusalem and I stopped at a beautiful vista of the Old City. Har HaBayit was brilliantly illuminated by the sun. I wanted to feel closer. Placed along the promenade were a number of horseshoe-shaped devices on stands, which permitted the viewer to see great distances close-up. If you have ever been to the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty you may have seen and used these devices and can remember the benefit of reducing the distance to increase the immediacy of the experience.
This machine was great for the issue of space but what of the issue of time? There was the site of the Beit HaMikdash devoid of our Great Temple. Hashem experiences everything in the same moment without a distinction of past, present, or future. It made me wonder, “What if there were an invention that could traverse and collapse time like the ‘horseshoe’ did with space?”
I looked again through the “horseshoe” and tried imagining it was a portal to the past. Since it was the week of Tishah B’Av, I tried conjuring up an image from 1,943 years ago, before the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. What I saw was a Jerusalem under siege, but the Holy Temple and the Temple Mount intact and unscathed. It was then that I realized the strength and limitation of this imaginary device: I could see history, but could I affect it from a distance of time and space?
This stirring two-dimensional image was, as the expression goes, “a picture worth a thousand words.” But its limitation was that no words followed the “thousandth.” The image lacked the critical extra words which would address issues of bein adam lachaveiro, teshuvah or ahavat chinam that could have saved Jerusalem and preserved the Beit HaMikdash, and ultimately brought Moshiach.
This fantasy device, like any abstraction, pales in comparison to reality. Could it proclaim the thunder of the Leviim playing their instruments or singing Tehillim? Can a picture convey the cacophonous bleating of the korbanot? Could it announce “AMEN!” in response to a brachah?
It seems a picture is worth a thousand words and not a single more.
Tishah B’Av has come and gone; Shabbos Nachamu has just passed. Though we are in the midst of the seven weeks of consolation, is enduring solace upon us? No third Beit HaMikdash has taken its rightful place; the EU is branding anything beyond the 1967 borders as “outside of Israel,” chareidi Jewish soldiers are concerned for their position within their community, and the chareidi world is in mourning because of a Knesset bill passing its first reading, which would greatly increase IDF enlistment among chareidim. And of course it is fair to assume that with Rosh Chodesh Elul, the zenith of time for loving our fellow Jews, there will be some level of confrontation at the Kotel when the Women of the Wall return.
What can be done? Perhaps it is too much to expect that as a nation the Jewish people can instantaneously generate ahavat chinam. But what about attempting to respect the “other” within the family of Klal Yisrael?
The layered and sensitive issue of enlistment amongst the chareidi sector would be an ideal place to start. Is it not the right of a young man in the chareidi community to choose to enlist in a chareidi unit of the Israel Defense Force? By definition he still wishes to remain a committed Jew, or he would have enlisted in a non-chareidi unit. Individuals who confront them physically or verbally, or visually assault them by hanging posters utilizing Nazi-era imagery, referring to these men as “Hardakim” (a compounding of 2 words roughly translated to “chareidi cockroaches”), should be condemned with the same strong and unequivocal voice used to denounce expanding the draft to include chareidim. This type of behavior is the antithesis of respect and is thoroughly unacceptable.
On a more general note: Israel is roughly ten times larger than the formation of the State in 1948 and the chareidi population far greater than ten times larger than in 1948. In the case of conscription for chareidim, how can it be that the number of exemptions discussed is less than four times the original number in 1948? Recognition of the demographic reality of the chareidi world would demand a far greater number of exemptions for young men to learn Torah; it would be appropriate and a statement of respect by the government for chareidim and Torah.
Recently, Jews wearing kippot srugot (knitted kippot) were slandered in unacceptable language. Though the words were later qualified to mean only the “political leadership,” both in the original statement and the wholly disappointing qualification, I find myself dumbfounded by these words and sentiments, which do not demonstrate the necessary respect which, in time, with G-d’s help, will lead to ahavat chinam. These knitted-kippot Jews are my neighbors. They are caring, committed Jews daily demonstrating their respect for all Jews and Torah by protecting and defending all Jews and citizens of Israel by serving in the Israel Defense Force, and, despite exhaustion, drag themselves to minyan and to shiur, personally participating in the reason for our existence: Torah.
Finally, I would like to pay my last respects to the Women of the Wall and fervently pray that they will join in a joyful, personally meaningful, and traditional davening this coming Rosh Chodesh Elul and in the future. If they need any examples to emulate they can go any hour of day or night to see the real women of the wall, the true guardians of tradition and holiness.
Israel is intended to be Am Echad/Lev Echad. Achieving this requires a commitment to mutual respect. The path will be long and challenging but through my horseshoe-shaped rosy-colored lenses I can see it there off on the horizon, getting closer both in distance and time.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com