Palestinians riot in Shuafat, an Arab suburb in northeastern Jerusalem, July 2, following the discovery of the body of a missing Palestinian youth suspected to have been killed by Israelis avenging the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Here in Israel, we live with the constant knowledge that we have enemies who would prefer to see the entire Middle East free of Jews, free of democracy and under the sway of Muslim law, whether moderate or zealous. Our youth grow up forced to hear about murders, attacks, kidnapping and the like – all of which we condemn in public and in private. We all feel powerless to resolve these issues, and vent our frustrations to our spouses, our families and our friends.
Yes, we would all prefer to enjoy to live in the Holy Land in peace, without internal or external strife.
With great restraint and with a common goal, we prayed for 18 days to the Almighty that He provide the means to extricate ourselves from a terrible situation.
All of Israel connected with the yearning that our three sons would emerge alive and free from their ordeal. Tragically this was not ordained to be the case.
Now, sadly, we must reflect on the reverse situation, where our own children, in a vicious, murderous fashion, took the life of one who is family to those who yearn to see us disappear. We must ask ourselves how we allowed ourselves and our children to arrive at this state of affairs.
Even if these youth of ours are wayward youth, who did not find their place in the study halls of Torah, this does not excuse us from responsibility for their actions. Ever since Sinai, we Jews are not just one people but also one entity, made up of millions of parts, each of which impacts on the spiritual and material needs of the entire nation. Therefore, we cannot shirk the collective responsibility for the action, even of minors, who not only contemplate but implement the destruction of another human being, subsequently destroying that young person’s family and increasing the hatred of our enemies toward us.
We elect leaders who we hope and pray will only instruct our men in uniform to wage war when all other avenues have failed. Even as rockets are raining down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we are the only nation in the world that practices restraint and sends the message of live and let live.
Our obligation after such an atrocious act is to instruct and influence our families and our youth that just as a Jew is obligated to pray daily and study daily, he must trust in Hashem, even when personal instincts cause him to contemplate actions which headstrong youth mistakenly believe must be implemented. The survival of 7 million or even 15 million Jews in a world of 7 billion people is not a rational realism. This can only be the desire of Heaven. We have taken an oath since the time of the destruction of the Temple that we would never use force to conquer others, even those residing in our Land of Israel. The use of force is justified only when Jewish survival is at stake.
In this week’s Torah portion we shall read about the zealousness of Pinhas, which is lauded because it was an instructional act, within the Jewish community, to ensure the continuity of the Jewish nation. Yet it is in this same parsha, that we find Moshe Rabbeinu asking Hashem to appoint a future leader for the people of Israel.
Here Moshe had a natural leader in Pinhas; why seek out someone else? Hassidic thought explains that while zealousness is beneficial, it is not a path for the multitudes.
Day to day life requires contemplation and restraint. This is why Pinhas was not to lead.
With hurt in my heart and hope in the future, I ask, nay beg, that parents clarify even in the most heated of moments, that although in the moment of anger we would prefer to lash out at those who kill and injure us again and again, mimicking such heinous actions will not bring us the lasting peace we aspire to. May Hashem have mercy on us and give us the peace and security we yearn for.
The writer is the Bostoner Rebbe of Jerusalem.