The other day I was watching a documentary about the chareidi (religious) Jews in Israel and the controversy with the secular Jews. As usual it portrayed the religious Jews in a negative light, focusing more on the so called “enlightened” views of the secular society. A totally non Jewish perspective, as usual. And it made me sad to see how the non Jews choose to view the religious Jews, not really coming to understand the Torah viewpoints or lifestyle. Because they are looking for ways to denigrate Jews and to put down the religious Jews. They are not seeking truth.
The documentary also highlighted the issue of the women of the wall: women who have decided to read the Torah and conduct their own prayer services trying to mimic the men at the Kotel. It was absolutely disgusting to watch. Why? Because these women somehow feel they are less than men and the only way they can feel worthy is to try to copy the men. But they fail to understand that they are fighting against Torah. It is almost comical. They fight to read the Torah at the western wall….but why are they considering the western wall holy? Only because of Torah. Torah defines holiness. And why are they fighting to wear a tallis or read the Torah? Because that is how the Torah says a man must pray. But the same Torah defines the role of a woman, the concept of modesty, and how a woman must not publicly read from the Torah or wear a tallis or conduct herself like a man! But that part they choose to ignore. It is similar to so called “reform” Judaism (I say so called because in reality there is no such thing as reform Judaism: you cannot reform religion. There is only Torah Judaism and there are those who are more observant and those who are less observant, but there is no such thing as reforming the Torah that is given by G-d Almighty). Reform Judaism picks and chooses what they want to observe or follow, rejecting those things that do not conform with their own wishes or understanding. The women of the wall also try to change Judaism and yet they pretend to respect Torah. But the underlying issue is that they do not respect Torah. They actually end up disrespecting Torah and it is a humiliation for the Torah itself! It is very sad to see how low they feel about themselves that they only feel worthy if they copy the men. They do not understand that their true self worth and happiness comes from fulfilling what they are created to do; what the Torah says the role of a Jewish woman should be.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe once spoke about “women’s liberation” and he said these women are very misguided, somehow believing their liberation and happiness comes from trying to copy the men! But that is because they lack understanding of their role and purpose in creation and of how valuable their role as a wife and mother is, and just being a Jewish woman upholding Torah and tradition. If the women would understand how important their role is and how they are actually on a higher level than men, they no longer will feel their self worth has to come through copying or imitating men. They will find fulfillment in their destiny and in what G-d has given them to accomplish and do. And that is truly honor for Torah.
And I feel that this is at the core of the chareid/secular conflict: it is not about the religious Jews doing things to upset the secular Jews. It is about a lack of respect for Torah. Because if there truly is a respect for Torah and for everything the Torah considers holy, there would be no conflict. If a person does not want to live a very religious lifestyle, okay, it is their business. But if they want to impose their secular views on Israel, which is a holy land, and try to do things that insult the Torah or the religious Jews, then it is a problem. If they are unable to respect a religious Jew or the Torah, that is what creates conflict.
In the documentary, a secular Jew was saying that the conflict is all because of the chareidi Jews, all because of religion. That is exactly the opposite of truth. The conflict is all because of a lack of respect for religion.
Chabad was not featured in that documentary but Chabad has a good and proper attitude towards all Jews: a respect and love for everyone, yet at the same time upholding Torah values and truth. A Chabad shaliach will not attack a secular Jew who is not keeping Shabbat (nevertheless, if a chareidi Jew gets to that point, it is probably because they feel threatened and disrespected by the secular Jews who often do provocative things to bother the chareidim and then they wish to turn things around and blame them). But a Chabad shaliach will keep Shabbat strictly and try to give that experience to others so they too can see the beauty of Shabbat. But there is a difference between religious vs secular Jews in Israel and outside Israel. Because Israel itself is holy, is the land G-d Himself gave to the Jewish people and it requires us to keep G-d’s Torah and respect the holiness of the land. Those secular Jews who wish to turn Israel into a secular society without Torah are hypocrites. Israel is not just a land like others. It is a holy land. If a person cannot respect that and cannot understand that, it is shameful to try to create a secular society in a holy land! And this is the main conflict in Israel between the chareidim and the secular Jews.
I once heard a story from a few years ago. There was a group of yeshivah students who were bringing a sefer Torah to their yeshivah in one of the settlements and a general in the Israeli army gave the order to stop them. So the army tried to stop them from continuing on. It escalated to the point that the general himself caused the Torah to be forcibly removed and thrown to the ground in anger. That same general was killed in a helicopter crash a few days later. Because you cannot simply disrespect the holiness of Torah or the land of Israel. Israel cannot become a secular state. It is not a state, per se. It is a holy land and it deserves respect and following a Torah lifestyle. Anyone who does not wish to do so, should reconsider living in such a holy land.
So we pray that the divisions and conflicts between Jews should be abolished: all Jews should return to their source and learn to respect one another, love one another and work together to bring the world to a state of perfection with the coming of Moshiach. To reach a level of true unity means respecting and caring for one another and it means respecting G-d and Torah. Instead of feeling threatened by each other, we need to respect each other.
Rabbi Akiva’s students were all great Torah scholars, religious men, but they were punished with a plague that wiped out 24,000 students because they were unable to respect one another. They all thought only their opinion was right and they could not respect another person’s ideas or path in life. So the key to ending this conflict is respect. Of course, the secular Jews need to understand that a religious Jew has certain red lines that cannot be crossed and they need to uphold the dignity and respect of Shabbat, Torah and the land of Israel. The secular Jew is not being coerced to be religious. They are simply being asked to have respect and not put down Torah or try to fight against what is holy and true. Many newspapers and journalists try to make the secular Jews argument look right, as if they are victims, and to make the religious Jews look negative. But this is not true. Why is the argument of secular Jews more valid than the position of the religious Jews? Why does the media not show the true story behind the conflict? Why only portray religious Jews negatively while making the secular Jews look righteous and as if they are being treated unfairly? Why does the media pick up on a few isolated situations that may not look good instead of showing the friendship and care that also goes on between chareidi Jews and secular Jews? Because the media is made up mostly of leftists who want to push their agenda in life and they are not interested in truth.
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh writes: “our ability to return to, guard and hold on to our physical borders (to the land of Israel) depends upon our success in returning to and guarding our spiritual borders.” There are certain things we cannot compromise on. For example, we cannot give back land that G-d Almighty gave us. And that is not something negotiable. Who is a Jew (meaning who is born to a Jewish mother or converts properly according to Jewish law) is another matter that we cannot compromise on. It is not important what a secular Jew believes. These are matters that Torah defines and for a Jew it needs to be respected. So once the secular Jews understand that the religious Jews are not expressing their own opinions or ideas: they are simply giving over what Torah says, there is nothing to argue about. How can one argue with G-d and the Bible?
Shabbat will be the yahrtzeit of Rachel Imenu (Yacov’s wife). She prays constantly that her children, the Jewish people, will return to the land and that Moshiach will come. She is the true Jewish mother. May her merit protect us all and may we all return to the land of Israel with the coming of Moshiach now.