Bracing For the Battle

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Let it be a matter of record. Responsible leadership took steps to prevent violence and chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name) associated with the protests of Thursday’s scheduled Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem. Degel HaTorah told yeshiva students not to take part in the protests. Their contribution should be through prayer and Torah study in the beis medrash. One can only wish that this attitude were adopted by all sectors of the community.

If the Supreme Court does not intervene on Wednesday, the eyes of much of the world will be riveted on the city holy to three monotheistic faiths. The organizers of the parade have long made it clear why they want a parade specifically in Jerusalem. Their march is a declaration that they have triumphed over the old strictures and an archaic morality. The values of personal autonomy and choice, the celebration of alternative sexualities and alternative lifestyles have supplanted outmoded thinking based on myth and superstition. This can be countered only by reminding the world of the dignity and humanity of the world of religion, not by a show of force. The antidote to the preachers of a new morality is to bolster the old. The voice of tradition must be associated with people who are seen as deeper, wiser, and more attractive role models than their competitors.

A display of unfettered anger and violence by religious protesters will make the day of those who hope to insinuate their agenda into the minds of the masses. They wish to convince the world that only small-mindedness and myopia stand in the way of their happiness. Visuals of hordes of over-dressed bearded folks torching garbage dumpsters and smashing street lights will be an added gift to their efforts. A contrasting scene that could do much good would remind people around the globe that the world of religion shares values that not only are foundational to our civilization, but can be used as forces of peace and moderation. In it, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders would march together, with thousands of peaceful followers in tow, suspending for a few hours the hostilities that divide them, and holding aloft banners affirming that some truths are eternal, and that G-d knows what He is doing.

It is not hard to understand the feelings and anger of those who are preparing to witness a direct assault on the holiness of Jerusalem. We Jews, however, are supposed to be a people committed to following our minds rather than our hearts when the two clash in irreconcilable differences.

All of Israel crowns the head as king over them, meaning they elevate the power of Reason (which discerns His existence in absolute Oneness) over all that is merely sensed and felt…This they merited from the time they descended into the Sea, and were prepared to sacrifice their lives to uphold their belief in Him…Through the episode at the Sea, they ruled over all their emotions and feelings. (Meshech Chochmah, Parshas Bo)

The stakes here are not limited to the pollution of the spirit of Jerusalem for a few hours, but the way millions of people regard the relevance of religion to teach matters of morality.

The stakes are too high to allow the heart to prevail over the mind.

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28 Responses

  1. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The stakes here are not limited to the pollution of the spirit of Jerusalem for a few hours, but the way millions of people regard the relevance of religion to teach matters of morality.”

    I had forgotten all the discussion of last week’s Gay Pride Parade and counter- demonstrations, and thought that the issue was finished. However, two things reminded me that the issue, unfortunately, still impacts on our lives.

    On Fifth Avenue, today, I passed what apparently was the “Heritage of Pride” parade. Fortunately, at that time, the only participants were uniformed New York City gay police officers on motorcycles and other VIP’s , but the cheering of the crowd could be heard from a block away. I would not want such a parade, whose sights go beyond what I saw at the time, taking place in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh.

    Additionally, the New York State Assembly voted this past week to legalize “gay marriage”, and is perhaps the first or the second state in the United States to have the legislature approve the concept(while it not expected to pass the current Republican-dominated State Senate, according to Assemblyman Dov Hikind on his radio program last night, NYS is very close to having the bill become law). Assemblyman Hikind read before the legislature a statement signed by four Orthodox Jewish groups opposing the move, and invoked the wrath of some with a suggestion that , “maybe we should include incest in the bill and sort of deal with the whole package at one time”.

    This was a sanctification of Hashem, as unfortunately, some Jewish assembly members, as well as the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, view the redefining of marriage as a human-rights issue. Nevertheless, opposition in Jerusalem and elsewhere must be done with “sechel”(wisdom), because in their own way, the “self-styled” zealots might cause as much damage to the image of the Torah, as do the parade-participants who flaunt their lifestyle.

  2. cvmay says:

    Passivity in action (meaning no action except tefillah) has been the overall mantra of Jewish life in Europe pre WW2, then imported to the shores of America. The march of the Rabbis in October 1943, initiated by Peter Bergson (eke Hillel Kook, a nephew of Rav Avrohom Yitzchak Hakohen Kook zt”l)and attended by the majority of Gedolim of the time was the first ACTIVE DEMONSTRATION for a Jewish issue. The Torah world has protested issues since then, peacefully, but it is still not the normal reaction. Violence as burning dumpsters, stones hurled at the police, and stabbing parade participants will never bring kedushas hatorah to the masses. How to protest, and for what issues—has been an on-going dilemma?

  3. One Christian's perspective says:

    I am not so sure that moral outrage would shame those who are blinded by following their own path. OTOH – while reading Genesis 18:20-21, one is reminded that the Lord attends to the cries of wrong doing. Prayer is a more powerful weapon than protests but if we chose to take matters in our own hands, G-d may just let us have our own way.

  4. L Oberstein says:

    “OTOH, the fact that you consider a proud display of Canaanite behavior b’davka exhibited in the holiest place of Klal Israel merely a “different view” shows a complete lack of balance.”
    You are really off the mark. The other side here is Rav Elyashiv, who was against demonstrations for this cause at this time.

  5. HILLEL says:

    Reb Yitzchok:

    I stand corrected–it was the Syrin-Greeks.

    Now that he Gay desecration parade is over, I can say that we showed the world that Am Yisroel is overwhelmingly oppsed to immorality–a true Kiddush Hashem.

    It took 8,000 Police to force this abomination on an unwilling public in Jerusalem, at a Government cost of 13,000,000 Shekel.

  6. Loberstein says:

    “You know nothing about me ”
    In my opinion, an anonymous blogger who uses rediculous phony names is ashamed to take responsibility for his opinions. The whole anonimity of the blogoshpere makes it a place where loshon horah and false charges can be bandied about without the accuser having to answer. It is wrong.
    That is why I never hide my identity. I may be wrong, but I am not a coward.

  7. Loberstein says:

    It is a cause for joy that the overwhelming majority of chareidi Jews heeded the call of the gedolim and did not make a violent protest. There were 4 policemen for every Gay parader. It cost a fortune and maybe this will disincentivise the police from allowing it next year.

  8. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Duvy-

    I don’t believe in the tooth fairy. I’m a skeptic. I don’t even believe in the Bible Codes. I mentioned the somewhat fantastical image only because in other parts of the world it is not a dream but a reality. Outside of the more charged atmosphere of Israel, there actually are communities where such shows of support are possible – even as people are very mindful of not not blurring the boundaries that necessarily separate us.

    Assorted –
    For the record, I was not arguing that people should have ignored the parade and stayed home. Those learning should indeed have stayed in the beis medrash. Everyone else, IMHO, should have been out there protesting. My argument concerned the kind of message that the protest should try to communicate to the eyes and ears of a watching world.

  9. Mark says:

    L. Oberstein,
    “Whenever Rav Elchonon Wasserman’s name is bandied about, I remember that he was here in the USA and could have been saved from the Holocaust if he had correctly understood what was happening.
    He did not realize and later wanted very much to get our of Nazi Europe but was trapped.”

    A close relative of mine actually spoke to Rav Elchonen on the days prior to his departure and he shared with us that Rav Elchonen knew very well that in all likelihood he going to his death. He did not believe he could do much from the states to save them and felt that he could do more for them if he was on the scene.

  10. Aryeh says:

    1. “Whenever Rav Elchonon Wasserman’s name is bandied about, I remember that he was here in the USA and could have been saved from the Holocaust if he had correctly understood what was happening.
    He did not realize and later wanted very much to get our of Nazi Europe but was trapped. He did not want to go to his certain death, he did not realize that his students would have been better off had he been here trying to save them ( like Rabbi kalmanovitz )instead of dying as a martyr.”

    LOberstein, what are you saying here? that since R’ Elchanan’s judgement was wrong (in your opinion) on that issue, therefore we can discard whatever else he said? (you might as well disregard all of R’ Akiva’s statements in Agaddta since he was wrong about Bar Kochva). If that’s what you mean come out and say it openly.

    2. “is a springboard for others to fight the Holy War that they are always armed and ready to fight against fellow Jews with different views.”
    Please don’t put up straw men. You know nothing about me (you might know something about HILLEL, I don’t know about that, but I’m sure on my account) and how I treat people with different views etc, so don’t make us out to be the Jewish version of Taliban.
    3. OTOH, the fact that you consider a proud display of Canaanite behavior b’davka exhibited in the holiest place of Klal Israel merely a “different view” shows a complete lack of balance. This has nothing to do with fighting people with “different views.” Different views are views espoused by you and R’ Adlerstein. The Jewish Communists mentioned by Chafetz Chaim and the various movements mentioned by R’ Elchanan are not “different views.” They’re as much of “different views” as the Communists had “different views” on development of Western Civilizaion (namely its destruction).
    Nor is this a question of “views.” The organizers of this event are not those who merely adhere to a different “lifestyle.” There was no lack of venues for them to celebrate their sinking to the level of animals (Tel Aviv, Haifa), but they had to do it b’davka in Yerushalaim.

  11. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Hillel –

    I think you meant Syrian-Greeks. The Romans didn’t get involved until Milchemes HaAchim.

    I’ve lost track of the thread, and don’t recall where Chanukah got involved. But to be a Litvak, I will disagree anyway :-)

    Many see the real war as against Jewish Hellinizers, rather than the occupation army of the northern Syrian kingdom.

  12. Duvy says:

    “In it, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders would march together, with thousands of peaceful followers in tow, suspending for a few hours the hostilities that divide them, and holding aloft banners affirming that some truths are eternal, and that G-d knows what He is doing.”

    And I’ll bet you believe in the tooth fairy

  13. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Only part of it was cancelled. Again, information for people who can read Modern Hebrew.

    BTW, what are the Halachic borders of Jerusalem? Would this have been less of an issue to you had it been in Abu Gosh? Gedera? Ashdod? Tel Aviv?

  14. L Oberstein says:

    I guess it’s called Cross-Currents because we have participants who see things from opposite directions. What Rabbi Adlerstein correctly sees as an opportunity for kiddush Hashem – following the Gedilim who are against violence and showing our tzelem elokimn as nichbodim- is a springboard for others to fight the Holy War that they are always armed and ready to fight against fellow Jews with different views.
    I don’t know whose sins caused the Holocaust or any other tragedy. Whenever Rav Elchonon Wasserman’s name is bandied about, I remember that he was here in the USA and could have been saved from the Holocaust if he had correctly understood what was happening.
    He did not realize and later wanted very much to get our of Nazi Europe but was trapped. He did not want to go to his certain death, he did not realize that his students would have been better off had he been here trying to save them ( like Rabbi kalmanovitz )instead of dying as a martyr.
    I once got in the mail a screed against YU by someone who quoted a letter from Rav Elchonon Wasserman which said that it is better to stay in Europe than to go to the US on a student visa from YU, because a physical death is better than loosing your soul at YU. Do you honestly think he still held that view as he was being led to the slaughter?

  15. HILLEL says:

    Reb Yitzchok:

    May I offer a humble correction to your comments. MatisYaHu Kohen Gadol and his five sons–the maccabbees–were not fighting Jews. They were fighting Roman-Greeks.

    Aryeh:
    Thank you for saving me much research time to find my source for Reb Elchonon’s statement on the Chofetz Chaim.

    Here is what I consider the best commentery yet on this issue:
    http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/2007/06/cruel_to_the_ki.html

  16. gab says:

    Even if the episode with the CC is accurate as related, I don’t see how we can compare the CC’s situation to today’s. The CC was faced with what can legitimately be called a sha’as hashmad. Today no one is forcing any other person’s behavior or even attempting to convert people. This is a protest against disgracing yerushalayim, not a protest against those turning Jews away from mitzvos.

  17. Moshe Hillson says:

    There was one major difference between the current situation and what R. Elchonon Wasserman was up against. There (the Soviet Union) it was a sh’at ha’shmad (forced apostasy situation) literally.
    Here, it’s not all the way there.

  18. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The whole thing might be cancelled due to fire department strike. See here if you can read Modern Hebrew.

  19. Joe Socher says:

    The last time around I heard a great quote from R. Eliashiv:
    He was asked “shouldn’t the yeshivaleit protest?”
    He responded, “of course they should protest; each one should turn to his havrusa and say ‘I protest’ and then get back to learning.”

  20. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Hillel –

    In both of your examples, the people who had to be reached were other Jews, particularly those who sat on the fence and, when all else failed, might be influenced by a demonstration of mesiras nefesh and how deep a wound was caused by chilul Shabbos. Alternatively, there may have been no target at all, but demonstrations called for because of the halachic requirement to protest wrongdoing even when no one will listen.

    The situation today is very different. The battle is hardly lost. It has scarcely begun. And there is a very real “target” group for our protests. They number in the hundreds of millions, who will either observe a kiddush Hashem or a chilul Hashem in the handling of this issue. The battle is not about homosexual behavior, but about the relevance and authority of traditional, G-d given values. We should not be so myopic as to see this as only about a public display of toevah, although that is certainly significant in its own right

    My favorite story about the Chofetz Chaim and protest is very different. I believe that Rabbi Wein included it in one of his books. The short version is that when the Chofetz Chaim heard about a young man who was seen smoking on Shabbos, he summoned him. The young man came, prepared for a tongue-lashing. The Chofetz Chaim took his hand, grasped it between his own, looked him straight in the eye, and repeated one word, over and over. “Shabbos. Shabbos. Shabbos.” Nothing more, except the tears that flowed while he uttered them. The young man, who showed up decades later in Rabbi Wein’s shul in Miami, was completely shaken and moved, and in fact gave up his chilul Shabbos.

    Reb Yehoshua, Shlit”a –

    Good to hear from you. Don’t you have better things to do than read blogs?

    I did not forget Pinchas at all.

    1) I do recall that in the extensive parshanus surrounding Pinchas, the majority find ways to relegate kanaus to special occassions, and to special people. Think of how many have pointed to Pinchas’ action as the reason why he could not become the successor to Moshe. (OK, the Minchas Elozer disagreed.)
    2) Pinchas acted the way he did because there was a halacha of kanaim pogim. There is no clear-cut halacha about the best way to respond to gay parades in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh.
    3) Most importantly, Pinchas according to the medrash did what he did because he had a goal, not just to give voice to protest. His goal was to stop the magefah that was consuming thousands of people. In the upcoming parade we, too, have a goal. It is to make the eternal Dvar Hashem seem reasonable and attractive. To accomplish that takes wisdom, not adrenalin.

  21. Aryeh says:

    Jacob, R’ Elchanan Wassermans ztk’l words are printed in the back of Kovetz Hearos, under “dugmaos l’biure agados al derech hapshat,” siman 10, paragraph 9.
    In addition, in paragraph 7 he speaks out even in stronger terms again the attiude of “min hashomaim yirachamu.” He quotes in the name of R’ Chaim Volozhiner that the last statement of the famous mishan in Sota “v’anu ein lanu l’hishoen elo al avinu sh’b’shomaim” (which R’ Adlerstein will no doubt construe as support for his attitude of complete dismissal of physical protests) is in fact a curse and “v’hi noraah mikol haklalos shelfoneha, ki yirei hashdm sheyihiyu bayomim hahem isyaishu v’irfu yadehem m’lilchom michemes hashem, v’hi taus gdolah.” (and it is the worst of all the curses before, for those who fear G-d, who will be around in those days will give up and will refrain from fighting the war of G-d).
    One who reads the maamar above will see that he’s not only referring to the persecution of the Communists in Russia but to the situation in Poland in his day as well.
    He concludes there (for practical reasons, such as absence of military ldeadership) that physically fighting the Zionists and Bundists is not the way to go, and he would most likely not advocate a coup in Eretz Israel, but certainly what comes across very clearly that the attitude of not taking physical action is a big b’dieved, not a l’chatchila as R’ Adlerstein would have us believe.
    I don’t know all the cheshbonos behind Degel haTorah’s decision, but I would kindly request R’ Adlerstein that he would grant those who disagree with it at the least a legitimacy of “yesh al mi lismoch.”
    Two years ago there was a gay parade in Yerushalayim and the exile from Gush Katif happened right around the same time. A year ago, there was supposed to be one and no one did anything and there was a war.
    What will happen now? I hope nothing will, but ….if it does, will R’ Adlestein right a retraction, based on 3 times being a chazakah?

  22. michoel halberstam says:

    Is there a relationship between those who always seem to know exactly why European Jewry was destroyed and those who know exactly where to find aveiros in the other fellow’s backyard? It sure seems that way.

    The issue I think is clearly whether at the end of the day, given the realities of life in the world, we can achieve real respect for traditinonal Jewish values. If we can, there seems no point is wasting our energy on empty protest. EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT THE TORAH SAYS ABOUT MISHKAV ZACHAR, THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ARE NOT INTERESTED, AND THOSE WHO DO, DON”T HAVE TO BE TOLD

  23. Jacob Haller says:

    Hillel,

    Can you please provide the source of Rav Elchanan’s zt’l hy’d comments regarding taking the secularists to the streets? Not out of any suspicion on my part, just curious. The curiosity emanates from the practical aspects. Did Rav Elchanan’s rebbe the Chofetz Chaim poskin that the bochurim should take time away from the Beis Medrash to learn how to use clubs and knives or whatever form of warfare?

    One can’t make an accurate comparison until all the facts in. It would not be the first time that balebatim and bachurim were given different orders regarding how to deal with events and in this case Degel HaTorah made the issur for the bochurim learning full time.

    “The Chofetz Chaim felt that Jews would be punished for this lack of self-sacrifice for the honor of G-D and His Torah—We all know what subsequently happened during World War II.”

    Also, please provide a source for Chofetz Chaim’s t’shuva, above.

  24. Yehoshua Leiman says:

    Both Yitzchok and Hillel forgot Pinchos in this week’s second sidrah.
    Yehoshua

  25. Ori Pomerantz says:

    HILLEL: Rav Elchanan Wasserman, ZT”L, stated that his rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim lamented that Orthodox Jews missed an important opportunity when they failed to battle the Jewish secular revolutionaries in the streets. (the emphasis is mine)

    Ori: Hillel, please don’t take this the wrong way, but it seems that if we were neighbors, there’d be only three ways we could live in peace, and only one we’d both be happy with.

    Overwhelming Charedi majority, which would force me to follow Halacha until I fled.
    Overwhelming Chiloni majority, which would make it impossible for you to try and battle Chilonim in the street. Given your level of Nesirat haNefesh (= being willing to do what Halacha says, even if it kills you), that majority would have to be overwhelming indeed.
    Overwhelming gentile majority, which would stop us if we fought. This is the only way we’d both be reasonably happy with.

  26. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Gershon Josephs: Actually, this can be countered only by showing the world that this archaic morality is not based on myth and superstition. Unfortunately I don’t see anyone doing that.

    Ori: I suspect nobody’s doing that because G-d doesn’t want us to. If G-d wanted our generation to have clear unambigious proof of His existence and the moral code He has given us, we would have it. A copy of the Torah and Talmud could have been waiting for the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon, or angles could shout it out from the rooftops in the major universities. Whatever reason G-d had to avoid those clear miracles, given that it’s G-d we can be sure it’s a good one.

    That being the case, you can’t prove to non-believers that your moral code is G-d given. What you can do is show that people who live by that code have better lives, and therefore they should follow it for reasons of haOlam haZe reasons they can see.

  27. HILLEL says:

    TO YITZCHOK:

    There are two precedents that argue against your position.

    Rav Elchanan Wasserman, ZT”L, stated that his rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim lamented that Orthodox Jews missed an important opportunity when they failed to battle the Jewish secular revolutionaries in the streets. He said that when there is an attack on G-D and his Torah, we are obligated to respond physically, like the Maccabbees in the time of the Hellenizers.

    The Chofetz Chaim felt that Jews would be punished for this lack of self-sacrifice for the honor of G-D and His Torah–We all know what subsequently happened during World War II.

    More recently, Rabbi Lazerson of Agudas Yisroel testified (in a Mishpacha article and to me, personally) that the Gerer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha, ZT”L, told him to protest the Jerusalem desecrations by leading the Gerer Hassidim into the steets and defying the Police openly. Rabbi Lazerson chickened-out when confronted by the helmeted Police Chief, who told him that if his people so much as stepped off the sidewalk, “blood will flow (Nazi-style Police).

    When Rabbi Lazerson reported back to the Lev Simcha, he was severely criticised for not ignoring the Police threat and going forward with Mesiras Nefesh.

    What has now changed–why are open street protests suddenly verboten?

  28. Gershon Josephs says:

    “Their march is a declaration that they have triumphed over the old strictures and an archaic morality. The values of personal autonomy and choice, the celebration of alternative sexualities and alternative lifestyles have supplanted outmoded thinking based on myth and superstition. This can be countered only by reminding the world of the dignity and humanity of the world of religion, not by a show of force.”

    Actually, this can be countered only by showing the world that this archaic morality is not based on myth and superstition. Unfortunately I don’t see anyone doing that.