Principles Before Politics

We have received numerous inquiries in recent days from readers asking why Hamodia has chosen not to cover certain developments in Israel. They wonder why, unlike so many other media outlets that cater to our community, we have declined to report on a well-publicized dispute within the chareidi political arena.

The questioners are correct to assume that this omission is deliberate. From our very first issue, in accordance with our mission and under the careful guidance of Gedolim, our editorial policy is to respect our reader’s right not to know.

We don’t seek to sweep relevant issues under the carpet. We report the news in an unbiased, detailed fashion. What we don’t write about — and we are proud that we don’t — are issues that would involve violating the complex halachos of proper speech.

We live in a world that in many ways has gone berserk. In their haste to sell copies, secular outlets increasingly resort to sensationalism, and unfortunately this tendency has infiltrated our community as well. In the process, concepts such as lashon hara, motzi sheim ra and rechilus have fallen to the wayside.

The role of a responsible media outlet should be to do all it possibly can to avoid adding fuel to the raging, destructive fire of machlokes. The fact that conflict is shattering hearts in Eretz Yisrael is tragic in itself; the actions of those who are, in effect, importing it here to United States, are more than irresponsible — they are unforgivable.

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The mesirus nefesh of the Ponevezher Rav, zt”l, to build Torah institutions was legendary. He once expressed his distress to the Chazon Ish, zt”l, over the difficulties he had in fundraising for Torah mosdos. He contrasted this with a certain university that was built in Eretz Yisrael, for which donors — mostly Americans — gave huge sums of money, allowing it to be built quickly and easily.

The Chazon Ish replied by contrasting two mitzvos in the Torah. One is the arei miklat. Part of the mitzvah included placing signs directing individuals to the nearest city of refuge.

The second mitzvah is to be oleh regel, to ascend to Yerushalayim three times a year. Unlike the cities of refuge, no signs were erected to Yerushalayim; rather, the Yidden were told to enter every town and village along the way and ask, “Which way to Yerushalayim?”

The Chazon Ish explained that in regard to the unintentional murderer, if the individual would have had to start making inquiries about how to get to their closest ir miklat, it would have been cause for much discussion. About such matters the Torah demonstrates that the less said, the better.

On the other hand, in the matter of traveling to Yerushalayim to be oleh regel, the Torah clearly prefers that this be a topic of discussion. Each time the question “Which way to Yerushalayim?” is posed, it will inspire and remind the Jews along the way that it is time for them to begin their own journey.

The Chazon Ish told the Ponevezher Rav that the same applied in regard to his efforts. About a university, it is preferable that the less said about it, the better. In regard to yeshivos, the more effort that is put into fund-raising, the more discussion will ensue, and talking about such matters is in itself a positive development.

The question we must ask ourselves at every juncture in our lives is: What does Hashem want us to be talking about? Even if some heter would hypothetically be found to write about certain elements of a conflict, is this what we should be writing and reading about?

We also have to ask ourselves: What message do we want to give the next generation about responsibility and self-discipline? How can we possibly educate our children about the dangers of machlokes and the importance of adhering to the halachos of proper speech unless we practice it ourselves?

To those who read Hamodia precisely because we seek the high ground and try our utmost to keep these pages free of lashon hara and machlokes: Rest assured, we will not be influenced by those who have fallen off the ethical cliff. No matter the pressure we sense to change course, we will, b’ezras Hashem, do our utmost to continue to remain true to our mission and put principles before politics and morals before material gain.