Tuesday, November 27, 2012

J.Post November 27: Words Better Said

Sir, – I begin this letter with a great deal of trepidation. It is essentially being written in reaction to statements made by two men, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, both saintly Torah giants for whom I have the utmost esteem and reverence.

I feel compelled to respectfully differ with their joint response when asked during Operation Pillar of Defense whether people from the South who were under bombardment should leave their homes. Both answered in the affirmative, saying these people should go to Bnei Brak, where they themselves reside. In a place where Torah is studied, they said, damage cannot be inflicted (“Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: May our enemies fall by the sword before our soldiers,” November 16).

Unfortunately, their explicit promise of safety cannot find support in the historical record – the martyrdom of Rabbi Akiva and the plague that decimated thousands of his pupils; the annihilation of entire Torah communities by the Crusaders; and the Holocaust’s extermination of Europe’s greatest Torah centers together with six million of our brethren.

I am troubled as well by the obvious impracticality of the suggestion.

Is the city of Bnei Brak in fact able or willing to accommodate an influx of a large group of outsiders? Most troubling, however, is the negative and divisive implications in the worthy rabbis’ advice (perhaps unintentional) that separated those who might choose to make the move and the many left to their fate.

Would it not be far more appropriate for the rabbis to have issued a declaration that all of Israel is worthy of the Almighty’s favorable countenance, without distinction of location? Should they not have been among the first to acknowledge with pride that in fact there is more Torah learning by more Torah learners in the State of Israel today than in any other period of Jewish history? Finally, should rabbinical leadership not be offering a message of encouragement and solace to the myriad of people whose lives and well-being have been shattered by years of constant terrorist violence? Should they not be the leaders who joyfully point to the daily miracles that we witness in our relatively few casualties, and the miracles being performed through the Iron Dome defense system? Should they not be involved with urging and beseeching the general populace to listen to and obey the safety instructions of the Homefront Command? And should they not be praying for and thanking the Creator for his care for all those who participate in the defense of our beleaguered country, and joyfully and publicly proclaim that the “Guardian of Israel neither slumbers or sleeps?” 

Petah Tikva