A Beautiful Response To Some Odious Suggestions
In the pain we all share in the uncertainty over the Shvuyei Tzion, some have been moved to publish suggestions that are silly, obnoxious, and reprehensible. Unless, of course, they were made by genuine prophets. But we remember what the gemara says about the incidence of prophecy in modern times…
The following by Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim, struck me as particularly well-thought out and expressed:
In the wake of our great pain over the kidnapping of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this had happened. The desire to understand is good and upright, but – at the same time – we need the humility and intellect to realize that we do not know everything.
Some claim that this has happened because the government wants to draft Yeshiva students. Others claim that it is on account of anti-religious legislation. But what we should say is: We do not know.
We must be very careful, since it is quite possible that in assigning guilt one violates the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is suffering affliction or illness, or whose children have died, the way Iyov’s friends spoke to him: “Surely your fear was your foolishness, your hope and the sincerity of your ways” (Iyov 4:6). And we can add that the Rishonim on this Gemara write that the problem is not only causing distress to another person but also arrogance in thinking that we can know the ways of Hashem.
It is correct that we must repent over any distress which befalls us, as the Rambam writes at the beginning of Hilchot Ta’anit. But what does this mean? That each person should be awakened to repent for his sins, and each community should be awakened to repent for its sins – not that one person should search for the transgressions of another and blame him. As is known, the wording of the Vidui is: We have sinned, we have betrayed, we have stolen, and not: you have sinned, you have betrayed, you have stolen or: he has sinned, he has betrayed, he has stolen.
When we are in distress, Hashem is speaking to us, but in order to understand what He is saying we need prophecy or, at the very least, Ruach Ha-Kodesh (as in the case of the Arizal).
This reminds me of the reciprocal blame that occurred following the horrors of the Holocaust: Some said it happened on account of Zionism, others said it was because there was not Zionism. And still others blamed it on the Enlightenment. Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).
At the same time, we must not be naïve and think that the Arabs have reached the level of being filled with the knowledge of Hashem. Among them are many murderers, dregs of humanity. We must not forget that there are 350 million Arab enemies surrounding us, who are supported by a billion Muslims, another billion Christians, and another a few million Arabs in our Land. In such a situation, it is impossible – to our great distress – to be 100% protected. But we must remember that according to a report of the WHO, World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. That’s compared with 15 out of 100,000 citizens of France, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. We must thank Hashem, and his loyal agents – Tzahal, the police, the Mossad, the Shabak and the rest of the security establishment – day and night for the peace and quiet we merit in our Land. Kol Ha-Kavod to Tzahal!
And from here to another spiritual question: Can individuals with Ruach Ha-Kodesh reveal where the kidnapped teens are being held? If so, they have not revealed it to us thus far. Although one Rabbi used the “Goral Ha-Gra” (the “lottery of the Vilna Gaon”, which involves using a particular format of the Chumash and flipping the pages back and forth until eventually a particular verse is chosen, which provides answers to questions), it is known that the Goral Ha-Gra is not magic. The book “Ha-Gaon Ha-Chasid Mi-Vilna” of Rav Bezalel Landua and also “Ha-Gaon” Rav Dov Eliach stated that not every Rabbi can receive an answer by using the Goral Ha-Gra. Also in our time, when a Jew approached Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski and suggested that he use the Goral Ha-Gra, Ha-Rav Kanievski said: In order to do so one needs Ruach Ha-Kodesh, go the Rosh Yeshiva”. And when he turned to Ha-Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman, he responded: Do I possess Ruach Ha-Kodesh?! And he added: “And if so why are there Agunot? We could use the Goral Ha-Gra to find the missing husbands…”.
In sum: We need to increase prayer, we need to increase repentance i.e. each for his own transgressions and not attacking others, we need to increase Tzedakah and chesed, and we need to increase strength and courage, especially in Tzahal and the police, as Hashem said three times to Yehoshua Bin Nun: Be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous (Yeshoshua, Chapter 1).
Hat tips to Rabbi Shmuel Jablon and Prof. Moshe Shoshan
“When we are in distress, Hashem is speaking to us, but in order to understand what He is saying we need prophecy or, at the very least, Ruach Ha-Kodesh (as in the case of the Arizal).”
There is also a concept that HaShem sends individual Jews important messages they need in life. Are we supposed to ignore these until we are convinced we have Ruach HaKodesh?
[YA – To say with certainty what the message conveys does take Ruach HaKodesh. How to deal with these messages is something I think you are going to hear very different approaches from different people. The only reaction that I can think of that is beyond cavil is responding to some unhappy occurrence by soul-searching, and seeing if one’s actions fall short of what they should be. This response is mandated by Chazal.]
Words of reason and truth. Kol HaKavod.
Events like this should make us humble rather than filling us with the arrogance of thinking we know Hashem’s thinking. As pointed out each of us can increase Kedusha in the world.
With all due respect to Rav Aviner, he’s going against minhag Yisrael. The widespread accepted practice is to cast the blame for all misfortunes upon other groups of Jews, and view them as irrefutable proof to the correctness of one’s position. I don’t think Rav Aviner has the authority to go against this time-honored tradition that has been meticulously followed by virtually all segments of the Torah world.
When we as individuals have an illness of one sort of another, we go to a doctor to get a diagnosis and hopefully a cure. When we as individuals need to make a living, we look in the Want Ads of a newspaper in the short run, and study for some vocation in college for our more long-term career goals. Our first response to problems in our everyday is not to seek some self-appointed, modern-day prophet, nor should it be. A rational, down-to-Earth approach works in virtually all episodes of our lives. And so common sense tells me that when seeking out an explanation for these three kidnapped Yeshiva students, we should also seek out the simplest, most realistic answer as to why this happened. Such an answer should be so obvious that it is barely worth stating, and that is that the single most civilized nation in the world, namely us Jews, happens to have our country located right in the middle of dozens of the most savage, brutal, murderous nations that have ever existed. If there is anything supernatural going on here, it is that even more Jews have not been kidnapped and executed by those savages. It reasonably follows that the way to solve this, is through the natural means of hunting down and immediately sending to Allah, as many of the worst of those savages as possible.
As for any kind of metaphysical slant to this, we do not have the power to know this, and so my guess is as legitimate as anybody else’s. And it just seems to me that maybe G-d wants us to take a more active role in our lives, that we should follow the ways of Nachshon ben Aminadav, who did not stand there on the banks of the Reed Sea feeling sorry for himself against the approaching Egyptians, but instead courageously walked right into the sea, right up to his nose. Once he took that bold action, then G-d did the rest through the miracle of the splitting of the Reed Sea. In short, G-d helps those who help themselves.
“With all due respect to Rav Aviner, he’s going against minhag Yisrael. The widespread accepted practice is to cast the blame for all misfortunes upon other groups of Jews, and view them as irrefutable proof to the correctness of one’s position. I don’t think Rav Aviner has the authority to go against this time-honored tradition that has been meticulously followed by virtually all segments of the Torah world.”
This is not the time or place for this ugly cynicism. You are undermining the very point that Rav Aviner tried to make. You yourself by your sarcasm are doing the very thing you are criticizing everybody else for: denigrating your fellow Jews. Give it a rest.
Important sentiment, thanks for sharing. Just unfortunate that he felt it necessary to include the “everyone hates us” canard.
I am in Israel at present and the whle country is obsessed with these 3 boys. One really feels the close family connection to all of Klal Yisroel. In the Golah, many Jews who are involved in Jewish life feel the same way.
Here is the rub: HamAS SEES HOW MUCH WE CARE FOR ONE FELLOW jEW.tHIS MOTIVATES THEM TO KIDNAP OTHERS.Hamas has already stated that they will take revenge for the mass arrrests on their people.
Our strength is also our Achilles Heal. I was at Massada overnight . My granddaughters’s 6th grade end of year program was a night visit to Masada and a pre dawn climb up the mounttain. We saw a Soiund and Light show oon the wall of the mouontain and one point that I did not realize. The defenders were unwilling to throw rocks on the people buiding the ramp becaue they were fellow Jews, who were slaes of the Romans. We are very good hearted and it is wonderful but also dangerous. Please let’s take a stand in favor of Rav Aviner and demonstrate that those who make odious statements are not Daas Torah.
Menachem wrote: “Just unfortunate that he felt it necessary to include the “everyone hates us” canard”.
Sir, a canard is a lie, it is a fabrication. Are you taking issue with Rabbi Adlerstein’s irrefutable proofs to the effect that Jews are being increasingly maligned throughout the world? There are deep reasons for this, as taught us by our Chachamim, and they go back to the B’ris Bein Ha’Besorim – Avrohom Avinu was given a choice: 1) Father a great nation whose very existence would depend upon its adherence to the D’var Hashem, with the real possibility of annihilation – either by war or by assimilation – or 2) Father an ETERNAL nation, which, when deviating from the Derech Ha’emes, would be forcibly brought back – either by, Chas V’Sholem, National tragedy, or by nothing more than the irrational hatred of the nations of the world. Certainly, Achdus alone goes a long way towards our maintaining favor in the eyes of Hakodosh Baruch Hu, in the face of our myriad sins – both individual and collective.
Thank you, Rabbi. You are restoring my trust and renewing my spirit with your wise words.
Great post-RAL , in a sicha about Yom HaShoah, wrote that we should emphasize the rebuilding of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, and avoid engaging in theodicy based discussions.
Rabbi Oberstein said: Here is the rub: HamAS SEES HOW MUCH WE CARE FOR ONE FELLOW jEW.tHIS MOTIVATES THEM TO KIDNAP OTHERS.Hamas has already stated that they will take revenge for the mass arrrests on their people.
May I suggest that the solution is to show how much we care for one fellow Jew in the good times. We excel in achdus in times of crisis. How about if we can fargin another Jew, if we can see the humanity and spark and commonality in each and every one of us. I cry at the thought of having to go through another three weeks and Tisha B’Av where well-meaning and thought-out speakers will attempt to get this through our skulls into our neshamos….
Ve ha Ro’im poshu bi.The Shepherds sinned against me is the phrase that comes to mind. I see again on Kikar HaShabat that another great rabbi, blessed with great insight, knows that the kidnapping took place because Shimon Peres joined in an appearance in the outside garden of the Vatican with gentiles. I had a long conversation with someone who is a top adviser to Mayor Nir Barkat over Shabbat,she is a frum lady. She told me that the fights among the chareidim and chassidim and Sephardim are much more intense than anything they have against the mayor or the secular. Each group is lobbying for their own interests.There is not even a fig leaf of holiness about it. She also told me that she is invited to many weddings where the couple eschew the rabbinate because they view it as corrupt and meaningless. She also told me that many are using alternative kashrus agencies because they believe that the Rabbaut is not really about kashrut but about enrichment of those in control. Yet these are the same people who say that G-d is punishing us because of the actions of the others, but never of themselves. Are they obtuse? It is eye opening to see what really goes on and disheartening.
Heshy Bulman, my comment was not directed at Rabbi Adlerstein, but Rav Aviner’s statement “We must not forget that there are 350 million Arab enemies surrounding us, who are supported by a billion Muslims, another billion Christians, and another a few million Arabs in our Land.” The “canard” is that ALL Arabs, Christians, and Palestinians are of the same mind with regard to Israel. That is simply false.
“Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).”
Was wondering if Rav Aviner was refering to the Satmer Rebbe & R Avigdor Miller both of whom have clearly spoken/written about the Holocaust?
My wifes grandfather got the following advice from R Moshe Feinstien when writing a book about the Holocaust: dont claim to know why Hashem did what he did. Rather focus on the ‘possibilities’ and their lessons.
While it is unsensitive and not smart to be giving concrete reasons for a current tzara, this should not cause us not to introspect as to possible causes of past national tzaros.
May the day when we will know of no more tzar come now.