It's easy for bloggers to find a column or article they don't like and post a rebuttal or dismissal of the piece on the Web. Heck, that's what a good chunk (most?) of my posts seem to be some times. It's harder to find stuff by folks you've differed with before and lavish praise on it? We're used to a negative spin in the media. After all, no one reports good news. It's not sensational. And it's the same thing with good columns. If you disagree, you want to tell the world. If you agree, you shrug your shoulders and move on.
But what with the recent emphasis on Jewish unity, or to be more specific the lack of it, I wanted to draw attention to Rav Yonasan Rosenblum's latest piece from Mishpachah, "A Hint of Jewish Unity". Although he certainly could not have realized it, the impact of the piece would become much more important shortly after with the horrific events of yesterday in Israel. My brief stopover in Toronto last week happened to coincide with a solidarity rally for Sderot called by the Toronto Jewish Federation. As an Israeli citizen and a resident of Israel for almost three decades, it struck me that if Jews in Toronto were gathering to show solidarity with their fellow Jews in Sderot, it was no less incumbent upon me to do so.
This is one of the things I admire about Rosenblum. Yes, at times he will push positive PR for the Chareidi world in spite of any negative implications that might have otherwise been emphasized. Well, that's his job, after all and he is dedicated to earning an honest living. However, most of the time he will present a situation with a great deal of insight. He doesn't enter a discussion convinced that he is right and dismissive of his opponents. He is prepared to defend his position with great erudition but also concedes when a different point might be made. Thus, he starts the article with a thought that is not at all controversial, that of attending a Sderot rally. Later in the article, however, he notes:
I also reflected on how unlikely it would have been for me to participate in such a gathering of a broad cross-section of my fellow Jews in intensely polarized Israel. Even within the Israeli religious community, those things about which chareidim demonstrate generally do not attract the national religious community and vice versa.
This is an important observation. One comment that keeps coming up in the Israeli media is how the secular residents of northern Tel Aviv don't care about what happens in Sderot and won't until the rockets start landing in their back yards. A similar complain is sometimes voiced about the Chareidi community in Yerushalayim. Except for those who live there or truly care, the idea of rockets falling on Sderot has become like background noise. Of course it happens every day. Now, what was the score on the Leafs game?
What has been forgotten by many, I suspect, is that these rockets are not being fired at Sderot out of a desire to hurt or kill Israelis. They are being shot because of a desire to hurt or kill Jews. In a country where being Israeli has frequently supplanted being Jewish, a connection may have been broken between culturally disparate segments of society. How much more so the distance between the Israeli and Golus Jewish communities. Too often we see ourselves as Canadians, Americans, Israelis, but not as Jews with a tremendous heritage in common.
FROM THE MOMENT that the scenes from Sderot began, I found myself crying. I wasn’t exactly sure why. The most obvious explanation, of course, was that I was crying over the suffering of the residents of Sderot. But I suspect that there was something else behind those tears as well – a certain question: Why did I have to come to Toronto to focus on the suffering of my fellow Jews in Sderot?
As I child, I recall the many times my parents would shush me during the news as the words "And in Israel today..." came from the television. Every incident, every action or reaction, was the subject of divided attention and then endless conversation with Jewish friends and family. Of course we had to discuss it. We were Jews, this was Israel, it was not a question.
And this is possibly why Rav Rosenblum found himself crying, why I felt an overwhelming urge to this morning when I went through the news to read about what happened yesterday in Yerushalayim. We are all fellow Jews, both those who have kept their observance of God's Torah fresh and alive and those who have unfortunately strayed from that path. No, we no longer share even the most basic values and any attempt to build a reconciliation on the illusion that we do is doomed to fail.
But we share something more. A spiritual tie to one another born in one tremendous moment over 3000 years ago when the Heavens opened and God's voice called out "I am the Lord, thine God, that took you out of the house of bondage, out of the land of Egypt." It is that tie that makes the people of Sderot and the students of the Mercaz HaRav yeshivah my brethren and makes me feel a connection to their suffering. And that is the tie that must be nurtured to avoid our people from further splintering.