Wednesday, June 11, 2014

J.Post Magazine June 20: Do Israel's rabbis care about real problems?

Sir, - In his article "Where the rabbis went wrong" Avraham Avi-Hai manages to attribute almost all of Israel's ills and shortcomings to the (orthodox) Rabbinate whom he accuses of emphasizing the "shall nots" above social concerns and compassion. 

He begins his article with a description of a scene at the airport where a bearded gentleman called out to him, "Come put on tefillin", and he snapped back with the challenge, "Did you ask anyone if he cheated someone today?"

While his obvious point is that he feels that concerns about peoples' honesty are far more important than putting on tefillin, his rejoinder was totally absurd. Can our imaginations really suffer a scenario in which a bearded, black-garbed gentleman approached a stranger in the airport and asked if he cheated someone that day? The most natural response would be "Who the hell do you think you are? What gives you the right to question my honesty?" Neither the time nor the place are appropriate for such questions.

rabbis tefillin chabad israel jerusalem
What Avi-Hai fails to appreciate is the fact that he was approached by a member of Chabad whose operational raison d'etre is respect for the infinite worth of every individual, and asking him to put on tefillin was a magnificent expression of that respect for his merit within the larger Jewish framework no matter how far he may have strayed. 

The above is indeed a powerful message, and if extensively adopted would go a long way toward mending many of the rents in the fabric of our society that Avi-Hai finds so troubling. 

Petach Tikvah

[Image credit: Daniel Maleck Lewy]