Protests in the Torah’s Perspective

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Torah passages are full of important messages which are relevant to, and enhance our daily lives. Rabbi Shay Tahan, Rosh Kollel Sha'are Ezra and head of Bet Horaah Arzei HaLebanon, opens the gates for us to understand those messages, from their source, in a clear manner. This week: parashat vayakhel

In today’s days, it seems like every place we turn, every newspaper or news site opened seems to report of another protest. Everybody is protesting about something. Worse yet, it seems like those protests are getting wilder, brutal and more aggressive.

These protests are common amongst the more religious (known as Charedim) as well. Upon further examination however, one will find an interesting difference between their protests and everyone else’s protest.

We all know what a regular protest looks like: large crowds chanting and screaming, big colorful signs with provocative words, closure of main roads and streets, garbage cans go on fire. Add to that, in some circles, looting, beating and fighting with police.

The Charedi protests, on the other hand are an anomaly, the people gather with their hats and jackets and come peacefully and respectfully to listen to Rabbis’ speeches—almost as if it was a Chizuk gathering before Yom Kippur! Afterwards, they recite a few chapters of Tehilim, pray Mincha and leave home. What is the reason for this very strange difference between the two crowds?

Those of us who learn Chumash know that protests are nothing new, as we find in the Chumash many places where the nation has been gathered for various reasons, with a common theme occurring by all the gatherings of the nation for the right reasons, and a common theme occurring by the gatherings for the wrong reasons. Whenever the nation gathers for the right reason, they don’t come to talk, but rather to listen; but when they gather for the wrong reason, they come to scream and shout and let out frustrations.

Our Parasha opens with this Pasuk:

״ויקהל משה את כל עדת בני ישראל ויאמר אלהם: אלה הדברים אשר צוה ה’ לעשות אותם״

Moshe Rabenu gathers the entire nation to tell them Hashem’s words. This type of assembling was common; whenever Moshe needed the nation to gather, a trumpet would blow as a sign to come (במדבר י,א). After the nation gathers, Moshe would teach them the laws of the Torah.

But there were other assemblies as well using the same term ויקהל, but those were of the people’s protests. For example, in last week Parasha it says: ״ויקהל העם על אהרן, ויאמרו אליו קום עשה לנו אלהים אשר ילכו לפנינו״. The nation gathered around Aharon to protest and called out to him: Rise up and make for us gods that will go before us.

In those verses we find that their gathering was not to hear or learn anything from Aharon, not even to get advice from that holy man, but rather to command Aharon to do as they say.

Here are few more examples of this phenomena which repeats itself throughout the pesukim:

When Korach and his men started rebelling against Moshe Rabenu the Pasuk says:

״ויקהלו על משה ועל אהרן ויאמרו אלהם, רב לכם כי כל העידה כולם קדושים״ (במדבר טז,ג)

The people gathered against Moshe and Aaron and said to them: “It is too much for you! For the entire assembly are holy.”

Again, the people who are protesting gather not to listen or learn, but to speak out against Moshe Rabenu.

Another similar gathering was after the Meraglim come back from spying the land of Israel. They gave a negative report and warned of what they believed was a bad land. On that night the nation gathered against Moshe and spoke out:

(במדבר יד,ב) ״וילונו על משה ועל אהרן כל בני ישראל, ויאמרו אליהם כל העידה לו מתנו בארץ מצרים או במדבר הזה, לו מתנו״

All the nation complained against Moshe and Aharon and said to them: if only we had died in the land of Egypt or in the wilderness.

To explain the reason that religious people gather in a peaceful way while others don’t, one needs to realize the different mindsets between the two groups.

When faithful God-fearing Jews gather, they aren’t really protesting, because they truly believe that whatever is happening comes from Above, and their gathering, therefore, is not to fight against anyone but to change and improve themselves, so that Hashem will change the bad decree (along with doing some Hishtadlut, effort, as required). When one comes to improve himself, he comes to listen, not to talk. But when everyone else comes to protest, they are coming to change others and therefore they use loud and offensive language, provocative signs and, if needed, violence.

These two very different approaches are not expressed only at protests, but they are very different world views which lead a believing Jew throughout his life. Whenever things don’t go the way he likes, he turns to himself for a change and recites few chapters of Tehilim for Hahsem’s help.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel