Think Again: A plague on both your houses

My greatest wrath is saved for those who have done inestimable damage to the image of Torah.

jonathanrosenblum88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Last week's scheduled Gay Pride parade provoked in me, at least, the response, "A plague on all your houses." Why, I wonder, did the homosexuals find it so important to flaunt their sexual practices in public, and especially in Judaism's holy city? No one is interfering with the pursuit of their private pleasures or threatening their public gathering spots. Twice in the past 18 months, an international bacchanal scheduled for Jerusalem had to be canceled - the first time because of the trauma of the Gaza withdrawal and most recently because of the war in Lebanon. And last week's scheduled parade was downgraded to a rally, at least in part because the tragic artillery hit on civilians in Beit Hanun required the redeployment of security forces around the country. Yet after each cancellation, the sponsors are immediately back planning the next parade, thereby raising suspicions that it is more recruitment drive than civil rights march. That may explain why so much of the opposition to the march has been led by mothers concerned with protecting teenage sons whose sexual identity is still in flux. The Supreme Court also had its share in the violence that preceded the scheduled march. For years, the court has encouraged the resort to violence as a means of getting one's way. For those Jews who believe that it is permissible go up to the Temple Mount (of whom I am not one) the right to pray at Judaism's holiest site is no less dear than that of homosexuals to parade around Jerusalem. Yet the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the threat of Muslim violence makes it impossible to allow Jews to so much as move their lips or look in a prayer book on the Temple Mount. When the issue of the right of the Women of the Wall (WoW) to conduct prayer services at the Western Wall according to their rite first came before the Supreme Court, the court should have banned their services on the basis of the statute governing conduct at holy places, which restricts worship to the established "custom of the place." Instead the court in effectively rewrote the statute and ruled that the "the place" refers to the whole wide world. But after police representations that allowing WoW to conduct their services at the wall might provoke riots, the court agreed to rehear the case, and ultimately offered WoW Robinson's Arch for their prayers. Rather than giving the governing statute its simplest reading, the court reached the same result by perpetuating a stereotype of wild and crazy haredim. And last week, haredi rioters showed that they had learned well the lesson that sometimes it pays to be seen as wild and crazy. I AM neither a homosexual nor a Supreme Court justice. I am, however, identified as a member of the haredi community. And as such, my greatest wrath is saved for those whose garb identifies them as members of the same broad community as I do, and who have done inestimable damage to the image of Torah and Torah-observant Jews. Among Israel's leading Torah authorities there were two distinct approaches to the parade. That of the Gerrer Rebbe was to ignore it entirely, lest a protest provoke too many questions from children about the exact nature of the "abomination" being protested. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, however, felt that it was essential that the parade not pass without protest, lest it appear that the holiness of Jerusalem and of the Jewish people are matters of indifference to the haredi community. But one thing both approaches shared in common: They left no room for violence or rioting. The overarching goal of a Jew's life is to enthrone his Divine reason as master of his emotions and desires. Using one's reasons involves balancing ends and means, and recognizing that improper means can vitiate even the best of causes, as well as make attainment of one's goals far less likely. It also means recognizing that life often involves choosing between two competing positive values, and between short-range and long-range goals. That ability to balance ends and means, and weigh competing values and interests was conspicuous last week only by its absence. Raw emotion, unmediated by thought, was deemed sufficient to justify any action. Such sympathy as there was to ban the march was squandered by the violent response of some punks, which shifted the public debate from the propriety of the march to that of the response, and placed the whole haredi world in the dock. Besides damaging their own cause, the rioters also endangered many yeshiva students and even seminary girls who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the riot-control police responded with their customary indiscriminate fury. The common element of all the leading Torah personalities about whom I have written biographies was their obsession with the image of Torah and Torah Jews, and their concern with the welfare of the collective Jewish people (Klal Yisrael). These concerns were not even on the rioters' radar screen. BY DOING such damage to the image of Torah in the world, the rioters struck a blow at all of Klal Yisrael. In the collective soul-searching that followed the failures of last summer's war in Lebanon, one theme emerged: the need for Israel to rediscover its sources of national will. But national will is not a commodity that can be ordered off the shelf or reduced to a line-item in the national budget. It must have its sources in the organic life of the people. Secular writers, like Ari Shavit, have diagnosed the disease but can offer no cure. Nothing less than an account of why it matters whether the Jewish people continue to exist - a description of our national mission, and how and why it is linked to the small sliver of land that we inhabit - is required. Absent that Israelis with the talents and wherewithal to do so will opt for a less threatening place to live. The Torah provides the answers sought. But because of the actions of last week's rioters the likelihood of secular Jews looking to the Torah, rather than an ashram in India, for the antidote to their spiritual malaise has declined sharply. And that is the greatest sin of those who appropriated the tools of Esau and went wild.