Adar Blues and the Beit Shemesh Election
The last week or so has not been easy. I can’t recall another state of affairs that left a huge number of Orthodox Jews elated, while another group looked on in sheer dismay. I wondered, as did some of our commenters, whether something could be called a massive Kiddush Hashem when it so dramatically sharpened the pirud levavos between Torah observant Jews.
Had I been in Yerushalayim or New York, I would have attended. How could I not take part in a gathering of so many Torah Jews, united in their love for Torah? And tefillah is always appropriate. HKBH can sort out all of the different requests; mine would have been for a solution to the problem that allows for Torah to thrive, for people to extricate themselves from their poverty and dependence if they wish, for people not to drown financially as this is happening, and for healing the rifts between us.
I would have attended, but it would have been with a heavy heart – as if by kefias sheid. I would have shared some of the fears and pain of the crowd, but utterly rejected some of the slogans and rhetoric. It pains me to hear who are called resha’im, to see a logo of Torah in barbed wire, and to witness the selection of Tehillim 79 as the expression of the prayer of the crowd. I have no way of making peace with any of that.
And it is nothing less than depressing for this to be on our minds just days before Purim. Far too much mefuzar u-meforad, and not enough leich kenos es kol ha-Yehudim.
One of the things we can do while waiting for Moshiach to get us out of this rut is to try to listen to the voices of people outside our immediate groups when they are in pain. For months, acquaintances in Beit Shemesh have urged me to write about the conduct of the mayoral election – the one that was thrown out for fraud, and will be rerun on Tuesday. The issues in that election were not what weighed heaviest on their minds, so much as the way it was conducted, and what they felt was the deafening silence of Torah figures to the injustice around them.
I could not write about what I did not know about. I urged them to come up with presentations that could help our readers understand what was going on, and what was at stake. Today, on the eve of the election, two people submitted a perspective written by a respected rov in Ramat Beit Shemesh. It presents much that is worth reading and pondering, regardless of which candidate you favor.
May HKBH quickly repair the breaches of Yisrael.
I am not expressing my thoughts in order to let people know for whom I intend to vote. I believe that for whom one votes is a personal decision. I signed a letter in support of a specific candidate merely in order to convey that one may feel free to vote for the candidate whom one sees as being the better one. This is not my personal chiddush, but the Mesorah that I received from my father, HaRav Aharon Soloveichik, a Gadol who had the respect of the Gedolim from the previous generation.
I am dismayed by the behavior of the perceived Torah community. Let me be clear. This election campaign did not become a religious conflict as a result of the actions of non-observant Jews. A war has indeed been waged by the same people who tout the values of Torah and Shabbos. The current campaign started with signs about להקהל ולעמד על נפשם , implying that the elections in Bet Shemesh are similar to the war against Haman and his cohorts from the days of Mordechai.
We also heard slander about a plan to have buses run in Bet Shemesh on Shabbos. Besides the fact such an intention never existed, it was and is completely absurd to imagine that a company would send buses even to the older parts of Bet Shemesh on Shabbos. As an aside, on Nachal HaYarkon street all the residents suffered on Shabbos over the years, hearing construction in R.B.S. Gimmel. All complaints to city officials did not succeed in stopping the construction until someone was able to speak to the Chief Rabbi about the Shabbos construction which brought merely a temporary reprieve. This happened during the previous administration. I am mentioning this for the purpose of pointing out that those who speak arrogantly and imperiously in the name of Torah need to be more introspective and speak with greater modesty when deeming to decide for all of our fine community which candidate so clearly better serves the cause of frumkeit.
I also have heard that there are plans for music to be played in R.B.S. on Shabbos That’s right, I guess it must be reasonable to suppose that unless one particular candidate wins, then a band will be hired to play at every park in the Ramah for two hours on a Friday night, just as a payback against religious Jews. What kind of a person could believe such an accusation, and even worse, what type of person could invent such an accusation.
Why am I writing today? Because, when I was out, I saw the latest election poster: “I love G-d and therefore I won’t vote for people who hate G-d.” What can I say? If a group of Torah Jews acts in such a fashion then I can only say: תורה תורה חגרי שק. I think that some people in our community are for some reason so afraid of the outcome of the elections that they have accepted the notion that “the ends justify the means”. This means that one may do anything one wants: lie, cheat ,denigrate as long as the Torah tzibur will get what it needs. I was raised differently. My mother, Rebbetzin Ella Soloveichik, OBM, who came from forty-nine generations of Rabbonim, taught me that you cannot build Torah by destroying it first . My father, zt’l, in very strong terms, always taught that we must learn and practice Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. As the Targum Yonasan explains: one should pursue justice with justice. We should never resort to unjust ways in order to pursue justice, because the idea of the ends justifying the means is repugnant to Torah.
I hope that with Purim approaching, all the Jews of Bet Shemesh will allow the Torah to influence all of their actions, not just how they learn or keep Shabbos. May all of our other actions be sanctified as well with the spirit of the Torah and may we be zocheh to bring a true Kiddush Hashem in our community.
Rabbi Chayim Soloveichik is mara d’asra of Kehillat Ohr Sholom, and Rabbinical Director of Lem’aan Achai, a leading local community service and chessed organization in RBS.