March 19, 2008
Following the massacre a few weeks ago at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, an interesting poster was plastered throughout the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem. Signed by the Council for European Jewry, it was a call to several of the leading rabbinic figures of our day to come together and to provide leadership for our troubled nation. The real interesting part of the poster was that it was an appeal to various rabbinic figures across-the-board (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Hassidic, etc) and not just an appeal to one faction. Although I doubt, unfortunately, that such a meeting will actually take place, the poster has nonetheless left me with many thoughts, the most pressing of which is the question of when will our rabbinic leaders wake up? Or more precisely, when will they rise above their various sectarian issues and ideological differences and join forces for the larger cause? How can it be that they apparently fail to understand that if the whole country goes up in flames, it will affect EVERYONE (be it in Jerusalem, in Bnei Brak, in Shilo, in Efrat, in Beersheva, in Tiberias, etc, etc)?
The danger to this country, from within and without, is growing everyday. Although there are many reasons for this, one of the primary reasons is the current leadership, which for the most part is totally guided by and imbued with non-Jewish ideas and values. As a result of this, most of the country feels that they have been abandoned by an elitist, corrupt and self-centered shilton (regime). Whether it is the inability to provide defense for citizens in Sderot, or telling citizens in Ashkelon to get used to rocket threats, or sending ill-equipped soldiers to fight and die in Lebanon, or neglecting their responsibility to properly help citizens who were ejected from their homes in Gush Katif a few summers ago, or failing to address the rising percentage of poverty amongst many of its citizens, or failing to doing anything against Arab violence and thefts in the Negev and Galilee, etc, etc, etc, this feeling of abandonment is manifest throughout the country.
In such a situation, it is inconceivable that the rabbinic leaders fail to wake up, join forces, and provide leadership. Throughout our long and often turbulent history, there have always been rabbinic figures to provide leadership. While it’s true that some generations produced great leaders while other generations provided leaders of a lesser stature, nonetheless there were always rabbinic leaders. Thus, it is difficult to fathom that our generation has no rabbinic leaders, regardless of their greatness or mediocrity.
True, my words are a bit harsh and unjust because the truth is there are some rabbinic leaders, but these, for the most part, are dealing with the issues of their own particular constituency. What I am looking for, however, is for all the various leaders to come together for the larger national cause. In other words, they need to stop dealing with the micro and start dealing with the macro.
It is so clear to me that as long as they fail to do this, than any effort of one rabbi or even a couple of good-intentioned rabbis, can easily be diffused by the shilton with any one of the all too familiar charges of ‘incitement’ or ‘religious coercion’ or ‘extremism’ or ‘anti-democracy’, etc, etc. However, it is also just as clear to me that if the rabbis were to come together, then they could easily sway the larger nation and the shilton would be hard-pressed to do anything. Of course the shilton would probably try (especially through financial cutbacks, budget cuts, and other various financial threats), but the truth is their efforts would be in vain as long as the rabbis stayed together. Moreover, not only is this painfully obvious to me, I am nearly certain that this is just as obvious to the shilton as well, and is in fact probably one of their biggest fears. For the moment that their divide-and-conquer tactic stops working, they will quickly start losing their control of the assorted power bases in this country.
Of course anarchy is not the goal of the Jewish people and this is certainly not what I am advocating here. What I am trying to push forward is the goal of the Jewish people, namely to establish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, but not for the sake of sovereignty itself, but rather in order to build a full-fledged country according to the ideals and morality of the Torah, and this in turn to fulfill our destiny of being a ‘light unto the nations’. However, in the transitional period until real Jewish leadership emerges, it is incumbent upon the various rabbinic leaders to overcome their well-entrenched ideological differences and start joining forces in order to provide some leadership for a very troubled country.