Op-Ed: The Churban of Our Generation

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Tisha B’Av night at the Kosel is a uniquely emotional experience, but at the close of my first trip to Eretz Yisrael, it wasn’t the churban that caused my tears. I wasn’t mourning the past, the millennia of relentless persecution of our people, and our six million brethren who perished in the Holocaust. Nor was I mourning the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash, and the millions of our ancestors we lost along with them. No, I wasn’t crying over what was lost in the two thousand years of our exile. I was crying about our destruction in the age of today.

Today the Jewish nation is rooted and no longer needs to run. We have established Torah communities flourishing across the United States, with myriads of Jews living the words v’higisa bo yomam v’layla to its fullest potential for the first time in hundreds, if not thousands of years. Financially, our standard of living in this 21st century stands above the mightiest kings in the world’s history, and those of us who are lacking have near limitless charities and government programs on which to rely. And for the first time in modern history, our Jewish brethren have control over the Land of Israel, as a safe space in which Jews can live without fear of our relentless foes. Never has there been a time like today for the Torah world to thrive. So who, pray tell, do we have to form against us, except for ourselves?

On this first visit to Eretz Yisrael, I accompanied a yeshiva on their memorable Summer Zman Program. We spent five weeks learning inside Meah Shearim, an epicenter of religious life, joining those who represent Judaism at its finest. I spent a summer in a place where immorality did not exist, where distractions and physical delights were rare to chance upon, where all I saw was people living a Torah lifestyle. I had never seen anything comparable in my life. People who live and breathe Torah to the spectacular level where they would endure anything, fight through any hardship, and stand up to anyone or anything that dared challenge what they love most. But delving deeper, it seemed merely gilded with gold.

Blissfully unaware of the event unfolding around me, as I rounded the corner to descend Rechov Zonnenfeld, all I heard was a kol melchama bamachane. One hundred and fifty people standing around, sidewalk, street, and balcony, yelling religious slurs at their target. A chayal, I was told, and he was religious too. A man who would give his life in a heartbeat for his brothers, one who puts himself in the line of fire on a near-daily basis, disrespected by the ungrateful individuals he would willingly die for. And it wasn’t a mere ego-bruising, either. The police were summoned to rescue him, before G-d-knows-what could have happened. Returning to the yeshiva after it was reported I had been exchanging heavy words with the locals, I received fitting and incredulous reactions. “Oh my G-d, you’re here, thank G-d you’re OK!” Yet in case I thought that was enough, the next day’s happening hurt even more.

Trapped in a seforim store on the famed Rechov Meah Shearim, attempting an escape from the mob, was an NCSY kiruv camp. Committing the horrific crime of an annual trip through the area as a mixed gender camp, was a group of unaffiliated, impressionable teenage children. Kids who were coming closer, discovering the true light, and eventually themselves, who were on a journey to witness the people who did it best. A kiruv camp that came to show the beauty of a Torah lifestyle done right, by the best of the best, to those who were open to learning. A group of impacted Jews who may now never be religious. The spiritual destruction of untold worlds.

Tisha B’Av at the Kosel it finally hit me. On the day we lost the Bayis Sheini, for the rampant baseless hatred amid our nation, the men’s section of the Kosel broke out in massive arguments over a minor halachic disagreement. Yelling, screaming, baseless hatred. Did we not learn our lesson? Have we failed to progress as a nation in the past two thousand years? Have millions upon millions of our own been mercilessly butchered for the sake of Heaven, for us to stagnate and stall, and fail to learn a most basic lesson? Can we ever expect the Final Redemption in the state we are in today? I’d never cried tears like that in my life.

Yet the violence continues. I see it reported near-daily now; we even have our own Chareidi ‘Day of Rage’ to be proud of. This is not to say that the blatantly anti-religious actions of certain secularists within the Israeli government are within the realm of moral acceptability, but one thing is certain. A tremendous disgrace of G-d’s name is oft-reported across secular and Jewish news, to people who do not understand the political subtleties of various Chareidi factions. To readers, who only see the labels ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ which many, or all of us, are included in. An established psychological principle demonstrates that people tend to judge a group by its most radical members, and Bnei Yisrael as a nation is judged today by the actions of a radical fringe that has been unfortunately accepted into the mainstream, and given status and recognition. For how much longer can we allow this to go on? Were six million martyrs not enough for us to internalize the lesson of the Second Temple’s destruction?

It’s time to come together as a nation. As we settle down en masse for the first time, we begin to take ourselves for granted. And unbelievably, without persecution for the first time, we have lost our direction, and our identity itself. It has come time to unite under one front, to collectively end the hate of those who would die so we all may live in peace. It is our obligation to work together to create a peaceful solution to our problems, and resolve our differences with conversation and respect, replacing protests of rage. To not profane G-d’s holy name. Am Yisrael may still live, but we are fractured. And as long as we continue in our present state, we cannot expect the final redemption (sefer Chafetz Chaim, hakdama).

We need our community leaders and Rabbanim, whom we look towards for guidance in troubled times to speak out and discuss the current controversies, and provide a moral framework for our perspectives within the proper daas Torah. It is simply too easy to find our own path and stumble amongst the treasury of information available online, and it is even easier when the controversial issues within our borders are virtually undiscussed by the leaders we admire. The Jewish People cannot be led from behind, like sheep without a shepherd; halacha is not a direct democracy.

To be l’rosh v’lo l’zanav, we must bridge the canyon between the Rabbanim and their people. It is not enough that the Rabbinate’s position exists, it must also be publicized in order to be followed. When speaking with residents of Meah Shearim, many quoted a prominent gadol as providing the daas Torah for their actions. But would he truly condone such actions? Finding out is the job of our press. It is for them to establish professional relationships with the Gedolim, and bring their message directly to us, the people. We have no way of knowing the truth, if the media is not in sync and actively communicating with our Rabbanim.

Much of American Jewry, myself included, fails to understand the complexities of Israeli religious politics. It is therefore incumbent upon our Jewish media outlets to do a thorough investigation of both the general matter and the specific issues to provide an all-encompassing coverage, which clearly delineates who believes what and why, and what the Rabbinate’s position on the matter is. For sensitive issues, this can be accomplished through paper media, and although non-Jews see what we post online, they rarely purchase printed Jewish publications. But it cannot be done if the Jewish media is not in regular contact with our Gedolim and Rabbanim. This is the important job which falls to the leaders of our generation to accomplish.

Our Sages tell us that every generation that does not build the Bayis Shlishi is held accountable from Above for the Second’s destruction. That is why I cried on Tisha B’Av. Not for the Roman destruction of Bayis Sheini, but for the Churban of our generation. As I return to the Holy Land this upcoming summer, I look forward to spending Tisha B’Av in joy, with the arrival of the Mashiach, b’meheirah b’yameinu amen.

-Dovid

The author can be reached at teenagechinuch@gmail.com, all comments and responses are welcome. The words presented reflect the viewpoint of the author, which would be much improved by public discussion. Mentions of Gedolei Torah are intended with the utmost respect for the great leaders of our generation, and are in no way meant to imply a fault chas v’shalom, on their behalf. The viewpoints and opinions expressed within this article are that of the author alone, and do not reflect the position of Yeshiva World News.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. while I agree about harassing frum soldiers is wrong, this doesn’t make the IDF right, the IDF shmad is to make everyone frei and we can never cooperate with Zionists.

  2. I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to the people uttering the slurs at the “chayal” to be “ungrateful”, it’s their halachic perspective that he is committing a form of heresy; referring to them as such is not only missing the cause of their actions, undermining the very principles they are representing (i.e that Hashem is our true protector etc.).

  3. I’m sorry to say but it was pretty dumb to bring a mixed ncsy group into meah Shearim and expect people to be happy about it. There are radicals there unfortunately and I have a hard time believing that the group leader didn’t know that it was a risk.

    If anyone pretty much ensured that these kids will never want to be Frum, it starts with the one who led them in altogether. Even if the locals hadn’t protested in such a disgusting manner, by bringing in a mixed group, the leader was basically telling the campers “these people have a rule that they like to keep for religious reasons but it’s totally arbitrary so we are now going to tell them in their face that the rule is unnecessary”.

  4. Fully agree with the writer. These venomous, violent and and hate-filled actions do not reflect the Torah Ha’kedosha in any way or form. It is completely misguided Kanaus. I remember R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz giving a shmuez about rock-throwing protesters at the Ramot Road that had traffic on Shabbos. He described them as “Choshvim she’osim ma’ase Pinchas, avol osim ma’ase Zimri.” They believe they’re doing the kanaus of the righteous Pinchas, but are in actuality, committing a grievous sin like Zimri. I too wish that our leaders would forcefully and unequivocally express – in the most public of forums possible – that these actions are reprehensible violations of the Torah…much worse than the sins being committed by those they feel they have the right to abuse.

  5. Disagree with previous comment. We should demonstrate against the anti-Torah derech of the IDF ideology , but showing outward sinah to individual frum soldiers is very wrong and reflects a level of kofui Tova . They are still on the constant watch over the EsJewish state and these neturei Kissed kartoniks should realize that their ability to function as a group in meah shearing could be threatened at any moment if g-d forbid the enem

  6. Disagree with previous comment. We should demonstrate against the anti-Torah derech of the IDF ideology , but showing outward sinah to individual frum soldiers is very wrong and reflects a level of kofui Tova . They are still on the constant watch over the EsJewish state and these neturei Kissed kartoniks should realize that their ability to function as a group in meah shearing could be threatened at any moment if g-d forbid the enemies of the Jewish state have the freedom to invade. Yes ,as the Torah states in parshas eikev, Hashem watches over e”y , but ein somchin al haneis and the little hishtadlus is done by the soldiers – and they are needed as is the Torah of the yeshivos. It is no wonder why it’s taking so long for the geula shleima. May they realize their flaws and realize that their actions are a chilul Hashem !!?

  7. I worked for 5 years in the IDF and traveled to many many bases and spoke with many soldiers in my work. There is NO official policy in the IDF to screw charadi soldiers, although there are individual officers who actually do such things.

    Some bases are actually very good to charadim while others are mamash trief, both in food and in the actions of the female soldiers. But remember it varies from base to base.

    In regard to the animals in Meah Shariim, I also have spent much time in that area, I taught in a Yeshiva in that area. Most people are pretty good and decent but there are enough nutcases who think being very very frum is very very good. They lack the ability to think and they can act in a very crude manner. The kids in Meah Shariim eat it up and like to join in the ‘action’ since there exists NO entertainment in that area….

  8. heyfg3433
    If what you say is true why weren’t the Nazi machine guns killing religious Jews stopped by the higher power? Why did it take Russian, British and American heretics to stop them? Why do cities like Beitar, Kiryat Sefer etc full of pious Jews learning day and night have armed patrols of heretics if all protection comes from above?

  9. > fg3433
    “their halachic perspective”
    What “halachic perspective”? Some of the greatest of our nation were in the military, all the way from the Bible through our exile to today. But perhaps more to the point, the Talmud is crystal clear that relying on miracles (“Hashem is our true protector” as you out) is forbidden.

  10. Guys, the mixed NCSY groups they are talking about are public school kids. They just experienced their first shabbosos, and were taken to a sefarim store. This same sefarim store has been targeting for the crime of selling English sefarim.

    I know the power of these trips, of exposing these teens to the beauty of Torah. They have every right to be in Meah Sharim, it’s a public space. This program has been going on for nearly 15 years without issue, and the locals welcome them with open arms.

    If we don’t make a macha’ah now, we will be judged for our silence.

  11. It’s not right to scream at chayolim and be violent. On the other hand they oppose the IDF and they have valid points too. Though the screaming and violence is not a good thing in any case, I am afraid one day there will someone getting seriously just by the protestors.

    The letterwriter is totally wrong regarding critisizing the locals of Meah Shearim protesting againt NCSY youth group. Recently, for the sake of “kiruv” (which oftentimes also includes non-Jews and people of questionable halachik status) there are continuous breaches of tznius and kedusha all for the sake of “maybe they will become frum”… Excuse me! You should care more about the feelings of frum people than frei! You should care more about the respect of those who live in the area than tourists who are selfish and don’t consider the feelings of the residents! The NCSY group could have been split in two between the men and women, they could have gone on separate tours. Instead of bashing the tour organizers you bash the residents whose feelings were disrespected.

  12. “A safe space where we can live without fear…” It’s quite obvious the writer doesn’t live in Yerushalayim. He doesn’t remember how not long ago, people were walking the streets looking over their shoulders, with pepper spray in their pockets, maybe a screwdriver or two. When we were scared of being stabbed during the “knife intifada.” He doesn’t have little kids who are scared of Arabs. No, the writer is living in some Zionist dream where we are now “rooted” and have “our Jewish brethren” in control of the Holy Land.
    Those same “Jewish brethren in control” are the ones trying to draft yeshiva bochurim and now frum girls too. The ones who slashed child benefits to large Jewish families. Who daily flout the laws of the Torah in a brazen manner. This is something to rejoice about?

  13. If the author knew a bit more about the way things work here, he wouldn’t be so shocked at the treatment of the “chareidi soldier” in Meah Shearim. Here, it’s common knowledge that the “chareidi” soldiers who mysteriously appear in Meah Shearim are sent there as provocateurs. The police have freely admitted this. And they aren’t usually even chareidi – they are just regular soldiers with a black kippah.
    Speaking of sinas chinam – before you dismiss and deride an entire community, at least get your facts straight. How many chareidim from Meah Shearim did you speak to before writing this article?

  14. I is very sad to see a long article written, that is so shallow it barely touches the surface of the question.
    to start with, to portray the the torah observant world as if it is in full bloom factually and historically is false without defining if open orthodoxy is in or out. the percentage of torah observance among jews is less than 1/3 the intermarriage rate among children educated in orthodox schools 1 out of 4 (President Clinton’s son-in-law). What about the drug problem and alcohol. are all these people ” v’higisa bo yomam v’layla to its fullest potential “. To claim Israel is a safe place to live in is just stupid. there are have been more hate stabbings with the 20 min radius of my home in Y-m in the last year than in new york, and yes I live in the western part of the city. about a 15 min walk from Mir yeshivah and meah shearim. last but not least to think that we should rely on media even jewish media to be the arbitrators or the outlet and they should “investigate” is just naive. Their coverage is so subjective, maybe the writer hasn’t read the new york times in recent years.

  15. Dovid,, I feel your pain, as do many, many, many and many more Yidden, despite the lame , stale and smelly excuses you see here.
    This past summer, I walked into Neah Shearim with a male relative and immediately noticed a group of boys, little and big screaming ” Hitler ” at a group walking on the other side of the street. This was a group of mostly men,kippa srugot, all dressed for Shabbos and did nothing at all except window shop. They didn’t respond and these bums who were laughing and cursing. It’s not about the IDF, nor “modestl/immodestly” dressed. It’s about pure hatred for the Medinah.
    They also follow a shita of harassment, violence, foul-mouthed curses that originated mostly in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn , many years ago.
    I must also confess that I took Alka-Selter after reading some of these nauseating excuses and in some cases lies
    and semi-lies. The tragedy is that this sewage is if not openly supported, than in many cases quietly embraced with wink, winks.

  16. Just to clarify.
    Yes, people should be respectfully dressed when entering Meah Shearim and everybody knows it. This was never a problem for decades. Suddenly, it’s a major problem, along with religious IDF soldiers.
    There are always individuals who are anti-religious and who might agitate , but these are are far and few between.
    There are rabbis who have spoken out against these hoodlums and there are those who’re afraid to speak out. In that case, resign, and punch a clock like many of us and find other work.
    You’re warned ” Lo Soguru” in the Torah. You are are leaders and now go and lead. By your silence, and by the sympathies from the others, you’re helping feeding a fire which is out of control.
    This is not my Torah….. Is it yours??

  17. JDB -“They have every right to be in Meah Sharim, it’s a public space. This program has been going on for nearly 15 years without issue, and the locals welcome them with open arms.”

    Wrong! Yerushalyim is very holy, not for not dressed properly kids. Take them to Binay Beraq for Kiruv.

  18. …. And finally, you who are believers, you who consider yourselves shomrei Torah and Mitzvot…. Did anybody notice that these streetwalkers were making a churban even while terrorists were shooting a Jew and stabbing another one?
    Where was your pain at the death of a murdered Jew and his surviving family.
    Instead of burning garbage and rioting, why weren’t you saying Tehillim?
    Why do I, an average Joe have to ask this question? Where are the leaders to shout this from rooftops?
    You blame the ills of EY on the secular, lack of shmiras Shabbas, lack of Mitzvos, etc..
    At least for many , one can be melamed zchus that they’te tinokim shenishbah…
    But what excuses for Chillul Hashem and destroying property do YOU have?
    For throwing out a Jew from a shul, cursing him, shaming him, stopping him from going to daven….. What limud zchus is there for you?

    Maybe the terrorism is happening because of your indifference to Jewish pain…. maybe when young sons are laying their lives on the line to protect you, you should show some hakoras hatov? Whatsah matter, you never learned that??
    Shame on you…. Yes, you could be causing the stress, the hatred of the Arabs, the stabbings …..( splitting in 2) midah keneged middah…..
    Did you ever think about that?
    Nah….. ! It’s the secular…
    Do tshuvah… it’s before Purim.

  19. One thing is pretty clear from the article and some of the commentator’s analyses: The author doesn’t exactly know what he’s talking about in terms of the objective truths of the actions and their motivations.

    But that’s exactly his point. He’s saying that we simply don’t know the reasons for these seemingly horrific behavior patterns. And for lack of better judgment, it’s a pure Chillul Hashem. So how will we know if these riots are truly rabbinically sanctioned by the Rabbanim, or if they are acts of zealots, fueled by hatred, if not for the media? Is IDF approving antagonistic actions against the Chareidi community, or is that an excuse used to justify retaliatory strikes? We need the Jewish media to investigate, and tell us the reality on the ground, laying it clearly for all to see, and removing the doubt from our minds as to whether or not we are turning a collective blind eye to a public Chillul Hashem chas v’shalom.

  20. These Rioting Animals are NOT Sitting and Learning, but they’re also LIARS, Because Tens of Thousands of guys and girls are Not Serving in Army, because They FILED EXEMPTIONS, and Are exempt. These Liars Are Rioting and Burning in Streets to Not have to file Exemption.

  21. They are Burning and Rioting all day and Night in Streets like Ghetto Bums – they are NOT IN BAIS MEDRASH LEARNING. They say that filing Exemptions would “Take them Away from Learning” for an Hour, but Rioting takes them away from Learning Far More! So stop the Lies

  22. FuturePotus, there’s no clear answer. The Chareidim who protest peacefully, no violence and no blocking traffic have a right to do so (provided they have a valid reason for the protest). But unfortunately, many engage in violence. On the other side, whether individuals or in groups, IDF soldiers can also ignite the flames by instigating the violence. I have seen this with my own eyes.

    And tourists and individuals need to respect the residents’ wishes. The people living in Meah Shearim don’t want their streets to look like Tzfas where half dressed tourists contaminate the holy streets ( although they could learn from the Tzfas residents how to keep their streets clean.)

  23. @cowdoc
    I wasn’t giving my opinion, merely my understanding of what the protesters seem to believe. As far as bitachon/histadlus, perhaps look into Nefesh HaChaim and the writings of Rav Dessler?

    @georgeg
    I don’t think they consider their desire to avoid joining a heretical and to prefer other means of assuring their survival as “relying on a miracle”