Friday, May 25, 2007
The Red Square, Moscow, mid-‘60es. Gigantic gathering, tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people. The speaker ascends the podium to tremendous applause. “Comrades!” He declares, “Two plus two equals six!” and the crowd breaks out in thunderous cheers. Only in the very last row one person whispers something in his neighbor’s ear. Immediately, a dozen policemen in uniforms appear, brutally beating the man while he is being led away, never to be seen again.
Same place, same scenario, some fifteen years later. The speaker ascends the podium to tremendous cheers and declares: “Comrades! Two plus two equals five!” The crowd breaks in thunderous applause. Only in the last row, one man whispers something in his neighbor’s ear. Two policemen, this time in civilian, approach him and call him to the side. “Sir” they ask him, “Would you like it to be six again?”
(Widespread joke in the formerly communist bloc)
We are again and again reminded of the gmore (Rosh HaShana 25) stating that each generation’s leaders (gdolim) must be respected as if they were the great leaders of previous generations, and therefore we must not question our leaders’ decisions or actions. The statement in itself makes much sense; we cannot expect – neither do we deserve- leaders such as Moshe Rabeinu, Shmuel Hanavi or Dovid Hamelech. The problem in the analysis, however, arises when there are no leaders to begin with. That gmore specifically discusses the lack of piety and wisdom of Gideon, Yiftach and Shimshon, calling them “kalei oilom” (“lightweights of the world” i.e. shallow, empty people) yet makes the case for their respect because they valiantly led and defended the nation, despite their shortcomings. (As a side note to my dear religious-zionist friends: please avoid any and all analogy between these “three kalei oilom” and the founders of Zionism and the pseudo-Jewish state: they may not have been too frum, but anti-Judaism and anti Jewish they were definitely not.)
We shall also note that there most definitely were great talmidei-chachomin and tsaddikim in those generations. But despite the tremendous and vital achievement of transmitting of our lifeblood, the Torah, most are not individually mentioned in the scriptures. It should also be mentioned that what the gmore calls “kalei oilom” can absolutely not be taken literally as we would use that term today (see Maharsh”o there). A person who dedicates and sacrifices himself for the sake of the nation, per definition cannot be “shallow” and “empty”. However, because the immense responsibility resting on such leaders’ shoulders, as well as the fact that they are role models, their shortcomings in piety and heeding the divine word are magnified and pointed out – so those aspects of their behavior not be followed.
In our days, however, the situation is very different. Our leadership –inasmuch as we have one- despite its vast Torah knowledge, is not leading or protecting its flock in any way shape or form similar to that of the aforementioned trio. Not in fighting our enemies from within and without, not in unifying the people, not in listening and being aware of the layman’s plight, and not in being informed and involved with the common folk. Yes, they are accessible, and yes, they are trying to help individuals who ask for help, but as far as changing large-scale problems, correcting injustices, corruption and other related burdens, there’s either complete inaction or lip service - “Ethics in business” seminars and such. Duh. Why not stop the out-of-control Hassidic ghetto-building at my expense and stop the politicians who are being voted for in return? Oh, yes and please let me see the books of the Mosdos. I’d like to know how much the Roshei-Yeshivos make, who gets a tuition break and why. When you send me a letter about a poor person sunken in debt, (through no fault of his own) please include a picture of his home, car, and children’s weddings and Bar-Mitzvas. Tell me what pressure you’ve put on politicians not for a few more bucks for a moisad or down-zoning the village but to protect us from terrorists, from the Ahmadinejads, from illegal aliens, from tax hikes, to fix our roads and to lower gas prices. Tell us why a bris costs $600, why thieves, racketeers and owners of prostitution houses sit at the mizrach while honest people are looked down at as “balebatim”, why young kollel avreichim own luxury homes, luxury cars, and fancy “European style” clothing for all children four times a year and you don’t say anything about it. Tell us about the “affordable housing” scams – why an apartment in a complex isn’t cheaper than a farmhouse on two acres? Why is it that the bus-line between New-Square and Sing-Sing is alone enough to keep Exxon-Mobil in business, yet the only mussar that I hear is that my wife’s shaitel must be curtailed, I can’t use the internet, I can’t smoke and I must drive a Japanese car that saves the planet – but not me. I’m sick and tired of hearing how important the “Medine” and the Holy Holiday of “Yom HaAtzmaut” is and that I’m ungrateful for not serving in the IDF, especially from phony rabbis who never fired as much as a cap-gun, let alone serve themselves in that caricature army. How about all those certified private tutors and special-ed therapists filing fraudulent documents to continue cashing in on the government? Why don’t you urge your constituents to join their State Militias? Because that would make too much sense? Since secular education is so dear to some of you, why don’t you urge your business-owning constituents to hire college kids from the community instead of rapists from Guatemala? If you are against ransacking the government, maybe you want to let us know how much a university professor makes? The director of a Homosexual club? (You know, the de-facto non-existing club without which Uncle Sam and David Ford won’t bestow their goodies on you.)
To add insult to injury, it just came to my attention that the Agudah is pressuring politicians in regard with the threat of terrorism on schools; following the government’s decision to beef up security in public schools, religious schools also asked for assistance. Did they ask for security personnel? Security systems? Preparedness and education on preventing attacks and how to respond to an actual attack H”V? The answer, sadly, is no on all counts. They asked for funding.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please stop slinging mud at each other and address the issues. And try to fix them.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please stop pulling the wool over our eyes.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please stop the tremendous Chilul Hashem the problems you ignore cause – the Jew-hating street rabble use them as weapons against all of us.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please face reality and unite.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please call a spade a spade, a ganif a ganif and a fraud a fraud.
Dear rabbis and leaders, please realize that we all know…
…that two plus two is four.