Notes From the War – November 17, 2023
May I still use the word “exhilarated,” or has a certain Cornell professor banished it from the use of decent people? Assuming it is allowed, it describes the way everyone I spoke to felt about the rally in DC a few days ago. Granted, the crowd I move in is a curious mélange of yeshivish olim, frum working Anglos, and Dati Leumi friends, but it still means something.
I was surprised by how many had made a point to tune in. Once they did, most said they were mesmerized by the event, and stayed with it the full distance.
Why was it exhilarating? Because you could feel the achdus of a people that had come together. Every different religious and secular sub-community was represented. (Well, almost. I don’t want to write about the “almost” just now, in the middle of the war.) It was a brilliant move to have the cameras trained on the young people there, to see their enthusiasm and commitment. I don’t know whether MSM captured any of it, but the contrast between our kids and the hooliganism of the Hamas supporters in cities around the country was apparent to all. The DC cops certainly got it.
If achdus is indeed what Chazal point to as the way to win wars, the American Jewish community, for all its divisions, showed that millions of Jews still operate as a family.
Those of us old enough to remember previous rallies were bowled over by how Jewish (rather than Jew-ish) it was. The organizers are to be commended for leaving out all rabbis, avoiding a source of internecine conflict and discomfort. That worked out well – particularly for the Torah-abiding community. Ishai Ribo did a better job of giving the event a “yiddishe taam” than virtually any rabbi we could have tapped as a speaker. At previous events (which the yeshiva world, contrary to the revisionists, participated in), the frum community felt like outsiders, as they had to listen to the words of people who seldom, if ever, invoked Hashem. On Tuesday, Ishai somehow engineered that the event pretty much began with a recitation of Tehillim, line by line. (A guitar strumming in the background turned that into the “musical” performance he had been billed to give in that slot.)
Besides his other songs, all full of yearning for Hashem, he managed to end with both a Shema Yisrael (Did we hear correctly? Shema by 290,000. Such a shout did not need the Shaarei Shomayim to open for it. The pressure surely must have knocked down the doors!) and more devekus. Who could have imagined that this would be part of a mass rally?
Even the secular organizers found ways to mention G-d! Who would have imagined?
Who would have thought that the kol isha that was standard fare in the past would give way to a monopoly on musical performance by Ishai and the Maccabeats?
Which leads to the next point. It was a banner day for American Jews. But it was particularly so for Orthodoxy. The imprint of Orthodoxy was all over the event. The points mentioned above. The fact that Ishai did not have to translate his words, because so much of the crowd understood them. The fact that the organizers knew that music by Ishai Ribo and by the Maccabeats would be recognized by the non-Orthodox, and appreciated by them. All this speaks of the Orthodox having taken over Jewish culture in America! Gone are the days when we had to beg for some scraps of recognition. It was clear that it was the Orthodox alone who had the best chance of soldiering on (if they decide to stay in America, which is a different conversation).
Orthodox ascendancy was evident without discomfiting the 90% of American Jews who do not identify as Orthodox. There was plenty in the program for them and their message. In other words, different groups, with very different life-styles and ideologies, were able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as one people, one family – including listening to some chants that were hashkafically unacceptable – like “Never Again” without burning holes in frum eardrums.
Surely this was nachas ruach to HKBH, Who wants to show off the achdus of His people. Because the reason that they are one, is because He is One.