Looking at the Jewish year, it is clear that certain days are portentous of great events. Tishah B’Av sadly jumps to mind but there are others, for example, the 7th of Adar. It was this day that Haman, versed in Jewish knowledge, knowing it was the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, picked to initiate his plan to destroy the Jewish people. Fortunately, Haman’s grasp of Jewish history did not go back exactly 120 years to the day, or the evil Haman would have known the 7th of Adar was also the birthday of Moshe. I wonder which is the cause and which is the effect; does the date influence the event or does the event leave its impression on the date?
This question played out this Adar as two historic events occurred in the world’s centers of Judaism: Jerusalem and New York. The rallies were convened to decry the fateful decree of the Israeli government requiring yeshivah students to serve in the army and threatening criminal punishment for those who do not. The rally in Jerusalem was attended by more than 600,000 Jews, the requisite number of Jews for making the brachah declaring Hashem the “Knower of Secrets,” which was made to conclude the event. This past Sunday, the 7th of Adar, another 100,000 rallied in lower Manhattan. Though the prime minister and ministers in his government have said unequivocally that no Torah student will go to jail, nonetheless the threat of criminalization is an affront to the true pillars of Judaism and the Jewish State.
On Rosh Chodesh Adar, hundreds of thousands of Jews gathered to daven for relief from the decree. The rally was a remarkable achievement by any measure; there was an incalculable collection of Torah knowledge assembled; the participants were reverent, focused, passionate, and transformed the pain of indignation into the prayer of the pious. Despite the great show of strength-in-numbers the rally was not a joyous event. It was appropriately serious, sober and solemn; an event born of pain. It seemed the heavens agreed, for the skies of Jerusalem turned a mournful gray during the rally. Even though a kiddush Hashem was made on a scale rare in Jewish history, I could not help but wonder if the gray also conveyed Hashem’s sadness that the rally was also an expression of a schism within His people.
The second rally was held last Sunday in NYC on the 7th of Adar, Moshe Rabbeinu’s birthday/ yahrtzeit. Jews traveled from distances as far from NYC as Boston and Baltimore, a stretch of the Eastern seaboard greater than the length of the state of Israel, to demonstrate achdut with the Torah community. I was not privileged to attend, but relying upon reports from my colleagues at Hamodia, the rally was a tremendous kiddush Hashem in all aspects, from the greatness of the Torah leaders in attendance to the decorum and neatness of the participants. This last fact was not lost on numerous veterans of NYC’s various civil services who marveled at this unique accomplishment.
Fittingly, the assembled looked to the Gedolim who led them in tefillot, Tehillim, and testimony of Hashem’s 13 Attributes. The image of Jews turning to their Gedolim to lead them in prayer conjures up on this, his yahrzeit, the image of Moshe Rabbeinu raising his arms towards the heavens to spur Bnei Yisrael on to victory against Amalek, whose descendant, Haman, celebrated Moshe’s yahrtzeit by trying to liquidate the Jews of Persia. I am absolutely not comparing the Jews in support of yeshivah student conscription to Amalek; I am saying that leaders of the Jewish people must focus our attention on Heaven in order for us as a nation to prevail. It was only through cooperation that Bnei Yisrael won the battle against Amalek: Moshe atop the mountain with arms raised leading the nation in prayer and Joshua, his talmid and his general, leading the soldiers in battle below.
I look forward to the day when there is no need for Jews to protest against the position of other Jews. Instead, rallies in the future will include the spectacle of Jews united and not divided by a cause.
As this future rally comes to its conclusion and the Rabbanim presiding prepare to deliver the blessing recognizing the magnitude of the great gathering of Jews, this assembly of holy Jews, remembering we are all one people sharing and dedicated to the Torah, will, with full hearts and strong voices, recite as one the words “Yitgadal v’yitkadash Shmei rabbah!”
Moshiach will be there to answer, “Amen!”
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.