The Primary Hishtadlus

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with an elderly Yid and, in the course of our conversation, he told me about the wartime experiences of his wife — a Holocaust survivor .

After the outbreak of WWII in September of 1939, she — along with members of her immediate family — fled her hometown for the much larger city of Lvov, known to the Jews as Lemberg, where they stayed with a wealthy uncle.  The Germans and Soviets had divided a vanquished Poland among themselves, and Lemberg was under Soviet rule.

Months later, the Soviets informed the refugee part of the family that they were being forcibly relocated to Siberia. When they tearfully informed their uncle of the devastating decree, he replied, “We don’t know for whom it will be good.”

“He was a very wise Yid,” my elderly host told me. “No one knows for sure what is really good. My wife survived the war in Siberia and later came to America. Her uncle, who was allowed to stay behind in Lemberg, was later killed by the Nazis.”

As some in our community are urging efforts to influence senators to vote to scuttle the deal reached with Iran, it is important for us to bear in mind that we really don’t know what is good for us.

While the deal itself certainly appears to be something we would want blocked, the ways of Hashem are often hidden and even mysterious. It is entirely possible that, contrary to our assumptions, we will be pleasantly surprised and discover that this deal is actually a very positive development.

Nonetheless, as a general rule, our obligation to undertake the requisite hishtadlus can only take into account what seems to us to be clear-cut and obvious. In this case however, there is a reasonable chance that the goal of the suggested hishtadlus — getting Congress to override the veto — may actually put the residents of Eretz Yisrael in an even greater danger.

Within the Israeli security establishment, there are numerous calls from various retired military and nuclear experts — some of whom presumably know just as much as the current Israeli Prime Minister does — saying that, at this point, pressuring Congress into opposing the deal would be very counterproductive.  While it can be persuasively argued that many of these experts may be allowing political considerations to color their judgment, the same can certainly be said in regard to the Prime Minister himself.

We don’t know what will happen if enough members of Congress would vote to override the presidential veto of the bill disapproving the deal. Will this — as many are hoping — pave the way to a better deal, or — as many others are warning — will it simply mean that Iran will see international sanctions lifted without any obligations or restrictions?

Ultimately this is a question for daas Torah, and each individual should consult his own spiritual mentor as to whether seeking to pressure members of Congress on this matter is indeed appropriate.

What is however certainly a most appropriate response to the Iran deal is to focus on being mispalel for acheinu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and doing all we can to bolster the study of Torah  in Eretz Yisrael  and in the Diaspora.  As the debate over the Iran deal continues to rage, it is vital that we take concrete steps to strengthen our emunah and bitachon.

As I pointed out in a previous article, the expressions  of kochi v’otzem yadi that are being espoused by the leaders of the Israeli government represent a danger far greater than any posed by the most fearsome physical enemy.  Contrary to the blustering claims emanating from the Prime Minister’s office and the Knesset, mere mortals — the IDF included — are powerless to defend themselves.  The fates of all the residents of Eretz Yisrael are solely in the Hands of the Ribbono shel Olam.

We must remember that it is only when our people suffered from spiritual weakness that our physical enemies were able to harm us. Furthermore, any harm done to the physical part of a mortal being pales in comparison to the damage done to the eternal Jewish soul.

At a time when there is much talk about a nuclear Iran being an existential threat to the Jews of Eretz Yisrael, it is important for us to recognize — without downplaying in any way the danger being posed by Tehran — that there are far more certain and immediate existential threats facing much of our nation. Here in the United States, intermarriage and assimilation have already claimed millions of Jewish victims, and more Jews are being lost every day. In Eretz Yisrael, the government of Israel is overseeing a secular school system that is willfully raising generations of Israelis with an education that is steeped in kefirah and is the anti-thesis of a Torah chinuch.

We must focus energies and resources into fighting the spiritual Holocaust that is happening in front of our eyes. Let us redouble our efforts to help the kiruv movements on both sides of the ocean, and do all we possibly can to battle the tidal wave of ignorance and assimilation that is decimating so much of Klal Yisrael.

As that wise Yid in Lemberg, Hy”d, said, when it comes to temporal matters, we don’t know what is truly good for us. When it comes, however, to areas of ruchniyus, we can be certain that our efforts will reap eternal benefits.