We citizens of Israel find ourselves today in basically the same position as Pharoah in Egypt. There is among us a people that breeds like bugs, and is growing more numerous by the day.
As every viewer of Hartzufim knows, they suck our blood. Figuratively, for sure; and who would find it hard to believe that in the dark of the night they gather in cabals to drink the blood of slain secular children.
There is no budgetary shortfall - whether it be for more F-15s, a new roof for our children's kindergarten, or drugs for cancer patients - that is not the direct result of monies given to the haredim. Without them, we could have whatever we want.
Clearly the time has come to act like Pharoah to our ancestors: To deal treacherously with this people and stop them before they become too numerous.
Still, sometimes one wonders whether there might be another way of looking at these strangers in our midst.
For more than 3,000 years, Jews have recited Shema as a basic proclamation of faith twice a day. Not only do we proclaim the unity of God and His absolute dominion over the entire world; we link our collective wellbeing as a people to our performance of His mitzvot: ... '[I]f you continually hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love Hashem, your God, and to serve Him with all your soul - then I will provide rain for your land in its proper time . . . . '
But if we turn from God, 'then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you... and you will be swiftly banished from the goodly land which Hashem gives you."
The Torah reiterates over and over again that we do not exist in this Land as a matter of right, but by virtue of our mitzvot. If we forget God and attribute our prosperity 'to our strength and the might of our hands,' the Torah warns, 'You will be destroyed just like the nations that God is destroying before You."
As modern men, we recognize, of course, that this is silly. We have long since learned that the belief in dieties is an atavistic holdover from primitive man who used gods to explain natural phenomena beyond his control.
BUT still, in the dark of the night, there are intimations of something more.
For one thing, there is the niggling matter of miracles. Not, to be sure, the ones recorded in ancient texts, like the splitting of the sea for our ancestors: That was just an unprecedented tidal wave at precisely the right moment. But there is the matter of Jewish survival - a survival that defies every single materialist theory of history and follows precisely the pattern described by the Torah.
'The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone.... The Jew saw them all, beat them all.... All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" asked Mark Twain.
Even in our own time, who did not pronounce it a miracle when 39 Scuds fell on Israel, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of property but taking virtually no lives. When those same Scuds fell on Iran, an average of 30 to 50 people were killed at a time.
But let us put such childish thoughts aside. Even if God put the original bang into the universe, surely He has better things to do with His time than worry about what the four million or so Jewish citizens of Israel do with their lives. Ancient laws of nomadic tribesmen, who did not know how to refrigerate pork, are worse than irrelevant today. The mighty IDF, not mitzvot, protects us.
Yet somehow the euphoric feeling of invincibility after the Six Day War has worn off. In darker moments, one suspects that our existence here in perpetuity is not guaranteed.
Neither the IDF nor the Mossad is any longer seen as capable of executing every Mission Impossible. We have embarked upon a process of giving back our Land piece by piece in exchange not for peace but for another respite from American pressure.
At every stage, we are given once again the same unfulfilled promises we were given in exchange for the last retreat. To be elected prime minister of Israel, without the Arab vote, requires approximately 60% of the Jewish vote - a landslide. Thus the vital security issues confronting us will effectively be decided by those who have little concern about the safety of Israel's Jewish citizens.
Within 40 years, at current demographic trends, the American Jewish population will bottom out at 1.25 million identified Jews, a small fraction of the projected numbers of Americans of Arab descent. What American-Jewish political power will there be then?
Those lovely little Palestinian girls, dressed in white, singing on Israeli-supported TV, 'I am a daughter of Palestine; I never soften. In my right hand - the Koran; in my left hand - a knife,' are today confident that their maps, upon which Israel does not appear, will someday be true.
Can we say with assurance that they are nuts?
What do the haredim have to do with this? Surely no one expects them to inject the armed forces with a new esprit de corps. If they have any solutions to the geopolitical threats facing us, they have been pretty quiet about it. At most, they are doing their part to ensure that Jewish voters determine the fate of Jews in Israel.
BUT what if God really exists? What if He controls and directs the world?
And what if - absurd as it may seem - He really cares about whether Jews live according to the commands set forth in the Torah?
Wouldn't it be a good idea to have God on our side? We do not have any answer for nuclear warheads aimed at us from Iraq or Iran, but He might.
And surely all will agree that if He exists, He might be a trifle displeased with his Chosen People. We haven't exactly been holding up our part of the bargain. True, the percentage of those learning Torah full-time are perhaps unprecedented in Jewish history. But there is a much bigger anomaly in terms of Jewish history: Never before has such a large percentage of Jews lived lives far removed from mitzva observance.
If God exists and cares about what we do, then those who devote themselves to Torah learning and mitzvot are bearing a disproportionate share of the societal burden. From that perspective, the $169 per month government kollel stipend might be our best investment. Rather than viewing haredim as parasites and a drag on the economy, perhaps we should view them as heroes.
True, they fail to appreciate that you only go around once in life and the winner is the one who collects the most toys. Their most revered leaders live in simple apartments, with a few rickety chairs at the table, bare light bulbs, and their precious seforim on shelves made out of the packing crates with which they came to the country decades ago.
As poor as they are, haredim still manage to give four to seven times as much charity as the average Israeli. Even the non-religious destitute come to haredi neighborhoods, not Savyon, to beg. Haredim have created medical organizations like Yad Sarah and Ezer M'Tzion that benefit the entire Israeli population.
Okay, so they don't get it; they are hopelessly naive. But why should the rest of us complain if they are willing to sacrifice so much for all of us?
And in their minds it is for all of us. 'Do not serve as one who serves the King in order to receive a prize,' counsels Pirkei Avot. That means, writes Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, founder of the first modern yeshiva, that we should not seek any personal reward for our mitzvot, but at the same time, we must always seek to open up the pipelines of blessing to the whole world.
After the lightning victory of '67, one of that victory's architects, Moshe Dayan, said that it could not have been achieved without the prayer and merit of yeshiva students. Heaven knows, we could use a few more such miracles today.
Related Topics: Jewish Ethics
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