As I Watch From Afar

How does one cope with the pain, sitting here in New York, while at this moment, thousands of miles away, our beautifully pure, and purely beautiful, Yerushalayim is being traumatized?

Yerushalayim, whose streets and alleyways — including Rechov HaMelech Dovid — have known the footsteps of prophets, kings, high priests, countless millions of spiritual heroes, known and unknown.

Yerushalayim, within whose embrace sits ge’on uzeinu, Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, shlit”a, who, at this moment, is undoubtedly sitting and singing a melody over a sefer as he has for the last eighty uninterrupted years of toil in Torah, and who tends a flock of thousands and thousands of toilers in Torah and their families.

Could it really be that within those same boundaries unfolds a spectacle in which others — Jews! — exalt into a parade, a philosophy, a movement . . . what? What is it they pay homage to thus? What great truth, what powerful ideal must lie thereunder? At root, under the layers of repackaging and posturing, only the pettiest and basest of fleeting, animalistic urges.

But then, seeking some slight comfort from the pain, I recall a wonderful article by a rebbe of mine, Rav Yechiel Perr, entitled Experiences in Emunah (Jewish Action, Fall ’92) in which he writes, inter alia:

I remember a certain young man who called from Manhattan to make an appointment to speak with both my parents, as he insisted. This young man had been only marginally interested in Yiddishkeit when he lived in our community and my parents hoped that his call signaled a new interest in Torah. But it turned out that all he wanted was to debate my parents on matters of emunah. In those days, the theory of evolution still had a dominant hold over the popular mind. Science presented itself and was indeed perceived as the infallible truth, while religion was belittled and considered the province of the superstitious and dimwitted.

As soon as it became evident that the young man had no interest in hearing anything contrary to his opinion, my father retired from the field of battle and engrossed himself in a sefer, only looking up once in awhile to see how things were faring with my mother who continued the
argument. I sat by and observed in amazement. Here was a young man utterly convinced of his apikorsus (heresy), who had taken a trip out to Queens only for the purpose of validating his apikorsus by smashing it down on the heads of an old rabbi and his wife. How powerful was the emunah deep within his own heart that required this of him. But moreover, when had my father ever lectured on the topic of science and religion, that he should be made the object of this nasty assault? My father never discussed emunah topics unless he was forced to.

The answer is that my father had an uncompromising commitment to meticulous observance of Torah and this itself spoke resoundingly of the existence of the Creator. It spoke so loudly and clearly that it was still heard years later in a distant place by a young man who had once seen it.

Why do these marchers force themselves on an unwilling Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, prepared even, amidst a firefighters strike that threatened to cancel the parade, to pay privately for firefighters to be present just so the spectacle could proceed? Why do they insist, year after year, on flaunting their “pride” here, only here?

This is my hergesh, and only that:

I believe that these people testify more eloquently than I ever could to Yerushalayim‘s beauty, a beauty so deep that an estranged Yiddishe neshoma will — must — travel from afar to tarnish it.

It’s not despite, but rather, because this city’s streets have known the footsteps of prophets, kings, high priests, countless millions of spiritual heroes, known and unknown, that the marchers are compelled to march. These marchers, they’re as Jewish as you and I, and their neshamos , too, sense and know what they might not. And under layer upon layer of alienation from kedushah, they hear Yerushalayim‘s massive Torah, Avodah and Chesed call out to them in a voice that can be neither silenced nor muffled no matter how much they strain to shout above it to assert their “pride” in that in which they are entrapped.

And I fall in love with powerful, beautiful, wise, holy Yerushalayim all over again.

You may also like...

30 Responses

  1. ben-aharon says:

    Eytan Kobre reveals a most beautiful neshama in his loving explanation of the motives for marching by those so desperate for “pride”. I wish I had as pure a heart as he. Sadly, I observe less noble yearnings in the parade attendees. On the one hand there is the child-like demand for legitimacy of a life so focused on materialism that sensuality has become their spirituality. On the other hand one sees the rebellious adolescent who defines himself by being the opposite of adult expectations. In either case there is arrested development & an inability for introspection. The need for such “pride” masks great inner pain and isolation. We all struggle with our flaws and desires. Unfortunately, some of us carry such self-loathing that enlightenment, healing, and change are renounced in favor of deeper degradation. The yetzer hara does not simply lead us astray; it convinces us we are actually on the correct path – and everyone else is wrong. Only one-to-one engagement can make a difference. Counter demonstrations merely reinforce skewed thinking.

  2. ariel says:

    obviously they’re marching in Jerusalem b/c of what it represents. They’ve marched in Rome, and now in the Jewish city. But I have my doubts on them being able to do it in Mecca.

  3. Joe Fisher says:

    Lovely writing.

    By the way, the parade surely proves the weakness of our Charedi Knesset parties. They can’t even protect the Holy City from being trampled by the world’s leading sinners.

  4. Menachem Lipkin says:

    “How does one cope with the pain, sitting here in New York,…”

    And therein lies the root of the problem. If Eytan, and the 500,000 other committed Jews in the Goldena Medina, would actualize there feelings for and fulfill their Torah obligation to Jerusalem and our holy land then there would be much less room, both physically and spiritually, for spectacles such as those we witnessed yesterday.

    “…Yerushalayim is being traumatized?”

    I am confident that “our beautifully pure, and purely beautiful” Jerusalem is much more traumatized by the ongoing and willful smack in the face by millions of her beloved who by their absence have chosen to abandon her, then by a brief tawdry display by a handful of her wayward children.

  5. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Eytan Kobre: Yerushalayim, whose streets and alleyways—including Rechov HaMelech Dovid —have known the footsteps of prophets, kings, high priests, countless millions of spiritual heroes, known and unknown.

    Ori: Yerushalayim’s streets and alleyways have also known the footsteps of false prophets, monarchs such as Athaliah and Manasseh, and priests who presided over sacrifices to the Moloch. Not to mention the “righteous” soldiers of Babylon, the Seleucids, and Rome.

    Yerushalayim is not, and never has been, pure. A pure city can’t fulfill the job that Yerushalaim is doing.

  6. jr says:

    Let’s not get carried away here. Yerushalaim is much more traumatized by the blood letting perpetrated by terrorists, than by a parade of an abused minority group who just want to say “we are alive and we are here.” (If by the way they weren’t subjected to constant scorn, rejection and abuse, there would be no need for the parade and the whole thing would be a non-issue). The charedi community sees no need to pick up a weapon and stand guard to defend fellow Jews from terrorist murderers, claiming that the study of Torah is the best protection they can offer. May I then suggest that if they feel more threatened by the gay parade than by Hamas, they should redouble their Torah study as their “defense”, and not waste time waxing poetically or taking to the streets about some silly march.

  7. HILLEL says:


    I’m afraid that you’ve missed the real point here. There are thieves and miscreants everywhere, but the authorities suppres them and arrest them.

    Here in secular/ahteist Israel, the Government itself actively encourages perversion and desecration of all our Torah values. This parade of abomination was protected from an overwhlmingly opposed population (not just hareidim) by an army of 8,000 Police and Border Guards, supported by helicopters flying overhead. The cost to the Israeli Government (strapped for cash?) was 13,000,000 Shekel.

    The radical-secular Supreme court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch manipulated the normal rotation of judges to make herself the judge who would decide the fate of the Parade when it was challenged in court.

    Here, in this article, is the true face of Israel’s government today:

    Girls: Israel’s racy new PR strategy
    Israel flirts with a racy new public-relations strategy.

    By Kevin Peraino

    April 9, 2007 issue – Jim Malucci has two tattoos, one on each bulging bicep. On the left one, the photographer for Maxim magazine has etched an image of a seductively dressed pinup; on the right, he has stenciled the words GO WITH GOD in Portuguese…

    Taking in the scene, David Saranga can’t help but grin. The Israeli consular official based in New York approached Maxim six months ago. His proposal: the government and other pro-Israeli groups would fly a camera crew across the Atlantic in an effort to remake the Jewish state’s public image. Israel’s reputation had suffered after last summer’s war with Lebanon; in a recent BBC poll taken in 27 countries, 56 percent of respondents considered Israel a “negative influence” in the world, higher than both Iran and the United States. But Israel’s real PR problem, according to Saranga, is that Americans—particularly men aged 18 to 35—either associate the country with war or holy relics, or don’t think of it at all. “We have to find the right hook,” he says. “And what’s relevant to men under 35? Good-looking women.”

  8. HILLEL says:


    Missed by most commentators is that the JOH organization, which organized the GayParade to the tune of 500,000 Shekel, is mostly financed by your charity dollars through the Jewish Federations in the United States.

    Jun. 21, 2007 0:21 | Updated Jun. 21, 2007 2:19
    US Federations finance most of J’lem Gay center

  9. Sabba Hillel says:

    Andrew Friedman, writing for Ynet last year, said he asked JOH head Noa Sattah why her organization had not routed the parade through the Muslim and Christian quarters of Jerualem. “We don’t want to offend them [the Arabs],” she explained, to which Friedman responded, “But many Jews are also offended by the march. Seems to me that means you are careful not to offend Arab residents, but feel it is your right to offend Jewish ones.” Friedman wrote that Sattah’s “silence in response was deafening.”

  10. Gershon Josephs says:

    ” What great truth, what powerful ideal must lie thereunder? At root, under the layers of repackaging and posturing, only the pettiest and basest of fleeting, animalistic urges.”

    With that kind of logic, you could say the exact same thing about heterosexual marriage. I don’t think the marchers think they are marching to promote fleeting animal urges. It’s more likely about freedom, rights, and not basing morality on 3000 year old documents of unknown provenance (according to their point of view).

    Let’s be honest here: Without the Torah, common sense would probably agree with them. With the Torah, we believe it’s wrong. It’s no suprise that people without Torah reject the Torah’s morality. However, making it out to be common sense morality is not only wrong, but it takes away from the Torah.

  11. Avi says:

    “I am confident that “our beautifully pure, and purely beautiful” Jerusalem is much more traumatized by the ongoing and willful smack in the face by millions of her beloved who by their absence have chosen to abandon her…”

    And therein lies the root of many of our problems as committed Jews: the “ONE ISSUE” enthusisasts who (in this particular case) would have the rest of us ignore our respective total pictures, i.e. ability to fulfill the mitsvos of paying our debts, supporting our families, catring for aged parents, not be an unnecessary burden on the Israeli taxpayer, keeping our kids from feeling disenfranchise(and ch”v going off the derech) in an unfamiliar culture, etc.

    I’ve unfortunately witnessed a number of people who’ve suffered severely damaging results because they listened to ONE ISSUE people instead of discussing the whole picture with their respective rabbonim.

    I’m sure that Jerusalem is much more “traumatized by the ongoing and willful smack in the face” by the many of her beloved who pervert Daas Torah in this way.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that both the author and Menachem are correct. We tend to forget that there is a basic halachic concept of Kidsha LShaata vKidhsa LAsid Lavoh. That means, no matter what happens or who tramples through the streets of Jerusalem without regard for its sanctity, Jerusalem will always remain and be a center for Kedusha. OTOH,until we realize that only Jerusalem has such a status, we will be committing “an ongoing and wilfull smack in the face” to Ir HaKodesh.

  13. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Although I felt great pain when I heard that the “parade” was going to happen again (didn’t they learn from their experience over the last few years?), I had to keep in mind:

    Menashe HaRasha put an idol in the Beis HaMikdash and filled its streets with blood from end to end, but the holiness of Yerushalayim outlasted him.

    Nevuzaradan razed its walls and the First Temple and exiled its inhabitants. Gazing upon its ruins, Yirimiyahu exclaimed his grief: “”The Lord consumned wihtout pity all the dwellings of Yaakov”. Yet the holiness of Yerushalayim outlasted the Babylonians.

    The Greeks sacrified pigs on the altar in the Second Temple and filled the city with whorehouses and circuses. But the holiness of Yerushalayim outlasted them.

    Vespasian and Titus destroyed it too and even renamed it Aelia Capitolina – but the holiness of Yerushalayim outlasted them.

    Even now, on a daily basis, there are non-kosher restaurants, women of ill-repute and criminals walking freely through its streets – but the holiness of Yerushalayim will outlast them.

    It will surely outlast a petulant group of exhibitionists who want nothing more than to aggravate and upset us.

  14. Dr. E says:

    “…Yerushalayim is being traumatized?”

    With all due respect, gimme a break. It appears that you are caught up in all of the rhetoric being spewed by someone in NY and the Israel-based Kannoim who obviously have both time on their hands and an eager reporter next to them. “Trauma” is a terror attack. This is Chillul Hashem. (as is the violence and anarchy perpetrated by the hooligans).

    Maybe the people who feel a need to shry chai v’kayam, should channel that same energy towards a blatt Gemora, much as Rav Elyashiv has done for the last unmitigated 80 years.

  15. Menachem Lipkin says:


    I’m sure it would be psychologically convenient for you to pigeonhole me into the “one issue” corner. Unfortunately for you that’s just not the case. Of course I realize that there are a myriad of legitimate reasons people can’t make Aliyah (it took me 16 years to get here). That said however, many (most) people who don’t make aliyah have no so such excuses, nor is it even on their radar ask their “daas torah” if they should.

    Set aside for a moment the non and anti-Zionist RW world who have institutionalized the idea that Aliyah is treif. A corner-stone of the Daas Torah of the rest of the orthodox world is to make Aliyah a priority.

    I certainly don’t expect that every committed Jews in the US can or would live in Israel. However, we can do a lot better than we are and that ongoing fact is much more insulting to our Holy City and Holy Land than the momentary lapse we experienced last week.

  16. SM says:

    And if they marched in the face of the absolute indifference of everyone else, would they still bother?

    This simply gives the marchers the type of reaction they seek – and a further reason to allege victimisation and hypocrisy. It’s offensive – big deal. Lots of things are offensive.

    Offensiveness is not the test. The test is how you make what you dislike go away. In this case that is so obviously by ignoring it that the motives of those who urge constant attention on the issus and (worse) damaging protest need to be carefully examined.

  17. cvmay says:

    Right on Menechem Lipkin.
    This year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Yerushayalim, the Jewish written media lamented the fact there were so many “lost opportunities” after the miraculous victory of klal yisroel. The hills of the Galilee laden with luscious fruits, the Jezreel Valley full of greenery, & the Judean Hills full of children singing were waiting and waiting and waiting and still waiting for Hashem’s children to return to their gd-given inheritance. So many of today’s religious problems could have been avoided if Torah observing residents were in larger numbers. Meragelim again and again.

  18. sima ir kodesh says:

    Avi, you sound like the neisiim (12 spies) who did not want to enter Eretz Yisroel since it will diminish their connection to hakodeshbaruchwho, by working the land and living a natural life rather than the spiritual existence of the midbar. Surely it can not be a ONE ISSUE mitzvoh, did the ramban, vilna gaon, rav isser zalman meltzer, rav bulman and others think that it was ONE ISSUE verus kol hatorah kula.
    Be honest, it just ain’t my thing? Parnossa, parents, kids at risk is my bigger worry. OK? Did hashem offer us a half-baked gift knowing it wouldn’t work for the American culture frum society? Maybe or maybe not.
    ONE ISSUE enthusiasts, passionate for that mitzvoh sort of like the daughters of Tzlafchod, and what is your passionate mitzvoh?
    Seriously, Eretz Yisroel is the destiny of klal yisroel, it may not work for you today but don’t diminish, deny or disenfranchise the greatness of those who do or desire the opportunity. See you in TZION sooner than later.

  19. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Menachem Lipkin,
    You mentioned “non and anti-Zionist RW world who have institutionalized the idea that Aliyah is treif”. So who are all these English-speaking hareidi Jews that I keep running into in Jerusalem and elsewhere in EY? Nonetheless I agree that Jews should make aliya!

  20. Avi says:

    Your (original)comment was directed at Eytan (and committed Jews like Eytan). Did you verify that Eytan has no legitimate reason for living outside of EY before you accused him publicly of perpetrating an “ongoing and willful smack in the face” of Jerusalem as a result of not making aliyah?

  21. Avi says:


    You’re aware that a significant number of Amaraim, Savaroim, and Geonim lived outside of EY (and some even moved from EY to Bavel) while there was a significant settlement in EY–in fact, that’s where Talmud Bavli comes from. Assuming you don’t see them also as Meraglim, it is obvious that there ARE legitimate reasons to live outside of EY. Since you don’t even know me, why assume that I don’t as well have legitimate reasons for living outside of EY?

  22. Avi says:

    Additional response to Sima Ir Kodesh:

    Did you mean to imply that a person who does not make aliyah because he is the sole caretaker of aged parents is similar to the Meraglim? Please clarify.

    The Bnos Tzlofchod prove my point: they didn’t try to figure out an answer based on which mitsva they were most passionate about; they went to their expert rabbi (Moshe Rabbeinu) and asked. Undoubtedly, the Bnos Tselofchod would advocate that we do the same.

    My ONE ISSUE,like yours and all other observant Jews, is (or should be) to be the best agent of Hashem that we can be. Hashem gave 613 mitsvos, of which one very important one is living in EY. But there are times when we can’t possibly do all mitsvos, and it takes a Talmid Chacham to know which mitsvos are to be set aside for the sake of other mitsvos,and under which circumstances. That’s why I think ONE ISSUE advocacy is dangerous—it totally misses this nuance. And I think that people who would call others Meraglim-like, despite the fact that our rebbeim, who know our respective complete pictures, have ruled that we should not make alityah at this time, should try to work a little harder on their Ahavas Yisroel.

  23. Menachem Lipkin says:


    It should be clear from my latter response to you that it’s certainly not for me to judge any individual as to their legitimate reasons for not living in Israel. However, it’s quite clear that as a Clal we are woefully lacking in this area.

    You have, I assume inadvertently, misrepresented my comment. In the first paragraph I was using Eytan as a generic representative for the Clal, since he acted in that roll in writing this article.

    The second paragraph referring to the “smack in the face” was quite clearly third person, i.e. not referring to Eytan or anyone in particular.

    That I said, I do challenge you, Eytan, and the “Clal” to do a true, ongoing cheshbon Hanefesh on this vital issue.

  24. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Avi,

    “…it takes a Talmid Chacham to know which mitsvos are to be set aside for the sake of other mitsvos,and under which circumstances.”

    “And I think that people who would call others Meraglim-like, despite the fact that our rebbeim, who know our respective complete pictures, have ruled that we should not make alityah at this time,…”

    While certainly not definitive on the issue, it’s important to keep in mind the following brought by Rabbi Teichtel, in his “Eim Habinim Semeichah” in the name of the Zohar and Shelah when finding a posek to ask about living in Eretz Yisroel:

    “Even the greatest gadol in Torah and righteousness should not trust himself when he opposes the movement to build the Land. He should not think that his intentions are fully for the sake of Heaven, for he is certainly no greater in Torah and righteousness than the princes whom Moshe sent.”

    Like you, I’m also very into Ahavas Yisroel, that’s why I want everyone here with me. 🙂

  25. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Yehoshua,

    “So who are all these English-speaking hareidi Jews that I keep running into in Jerusalem and elsewhere in EY?”

    I haven’t finished my complete survey of all English-speaking Chareidi Jews living in Israel yet. 🙂 However, one observation is that there are quite a number of bochrim and couples who are here temporarily while learning. (Not a bad thing of course.) And while some percentage do end up staying, most go back when they are ready to start their “real” lives.

    However, there is still an overriding negative attitude toward making Aliyah in the RW camp in the US. The responses I received from many RW friends when I told them I was making Aliyah ranged from a lukewarm “good luck” to “why on Earth would you do that”. RW friends of mine who have made Aliyah have similar or worse experiences. Ironically, on an individual level, when these people having gone to their poskim, they have received encouragement. (Obviously a skewed sampling since they are already here.) But there does seem to be disconnect on the communal level.

  26. Shalhevet says:

    Menachem- it would be interesting to count the number of English speaking families in Kiryat Sefer, Beitar, Ramat Bet Shemesh, Har Nof, N’vei Yaakov…. All mostly or totally Charedi areas where residents are pretty much there to stay.
    One thing I am sure about is that there is whole lot of English in the streets and the parks in these places!
    That said, it is true that Aliyah is not so stressed in the charedi/yeshivish communities. I think this is the reason that so many of these families are living here for the ideals of Torah and the protected, Jewish environment, rather than abstract idealistic reasons.

  27. Avi says:


    I believed you when, in your second comment, you clarified: “Of course I realize that there are a myriad of legitimate reasons people can’t make Aliyah (it took me 16 years to get here)”

    But I believe I was justified in thinking that your first comment was charactistic of a ONE ISSUE mentality: it reads like a sweeping generalization of “Eytan, and the 500,000 other committed Jews in the Goldena Medina” without reference to any possible legitimacy in not making Aliyah.

    The readers will have to decide for themselves.

  28. Moshe Weiss says:

    I’m moving to EY in less than a month, so I can’t be suspected of being biased here in favor of those staying in Chu”l, but I find the idea often heard that if all the frum Jews would move that “there would be much less room, both physically and spiritually, for spectacles such as those we witnessed yesterday”, or that they might expect significant change in a country whose very cornerstone of existence is supplanting Torah as the identity of the Jew, often bandied about as a rationale for making Aliyah, offensive.

    After the importing of hundreds of thousands of Russian non-Jews by the Israeli government, and no reason to believe they wouldn’t do something like that again to maintain ‘demographic equilibrium’ lest the religious overtake the secular; to go along with the institutional and media bias against religious in general, and Charedim in particular; not to mention the highly problematic idea of service in an IDF which pulls settlers out of their homes, opposed by great Rabbanim like R’ Avraham Shapira; I find such pitches as offensive as ‘kiruv’ pitches with promises of quality Shidduchim, and the like, which often fail to pan out, leaving the person who heard these promises feeling betrayed and lied to.

    Menachem, you were there already, along with hundreds of thousands of frum Jews. What did you do to stop the parade?

    If a person is making Aliyah, wonderful. It is a great Mitzvah, and should be something that every religious Jew should at least sincerely want to do. But don’t go there thinking you will change very much in the way of gay parades, anti-Charedi media bias, and the like just by virtue of being there – you may end up very, very frustrated.

  29. cvmay says:

    Shalhevet, Would you mind explaining what “rather than abstract idealistic reasons” is alluding to? Many mitzvohs min hatorah can be portrayed as abstract & idealistic when they are not delved into, modeled, researched, taught or encouraged. Imagine telling a “newly religious individual” the intrigues of lashon hara, it sure sounds so ‘abstract & idealistic’, then try Shatnez.
    Avi, do you truly believe that those who have decided not to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv eretz yisroel have checked this out with a talmid chocham? An excellent sefer to own is “Living in the Palace”, the introduction by Rav Zev Leff is a must to read, this sefer will warm the blood with the desire to be in eretz yisroel.
    Whether a person makes aliyah or not, is a personal decision BUT to ignore this noble and all-encompassing mitzvah, in our educational system and in our day to day life is a lack of hakatoras hatov to the one above. Every Yom Kippur davening and Pesach sedar ends with “Next Year in Jerusalem”—why? why? why?

  30. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Moshe, Kol Hakavod on your coming Aliyah. May you have a Klita N’Ima.

    Not sure I was giving what you quoted as a “rationale” for making Aliyah. The reason to live in Israel is that it’s a Mitzvah. Contrary to you, I believe that an increased number of Torah Jews here does and will make a difference. Of course a big caveat to that is that we all need to work in the best interest of the Clal, including everybody, and not follow our narrow special interests. And contrary to the carping of many, this is still a democracy. A cohesive block of religious and traditional minded voters would enjoy an instant plurality. Another 500K voters could throw that into a majority. Despite whatever agendas you may ascribe to the evil Zionists and despite the corruption that is rampant in the government, much could be accomplished with such a majority. Just look what these little religious parties have accomplished with their myopic narrowness.

    I agree that if one ascribes reasons to a mitzvah, any mitzvah, and those reasons don’t pan out, the person will be frustrated. But I do believe that when one, or in this case many, fulfill a mitzvah there are many potential benefits that can accrue. I truly believe that even the relatively paltry yet wonderful Aliyah of the past few years has already benefited the country, how much more so if this trickle turns into a flood.

    Look me up in Bet Shemesh. I’ll be happy to continue this discussion with you in person.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This