Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Ellul 5760 - September 20, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Judaism in the Secular Street

It is all our fault, they tell us. Listen to Sever Plotsker, a well-known leftist journalist: "Chareidi Jewry lost the Shabbos because it tried to force shemiras Shabbos through power and not via the spirit onto all citizens of Israel. . . . If the religious-chareidi leadership only had the sense to work through darchei noam, with convincing and compromise, shemiras Shabbos would be much more widespread that it is today, but the leadership chose to use its political clout to impose a dati-chareidi lifestyle onto Israel. . . . Thus it lost, and caused heavy damage to the Jewish religion."

Plotsker is only one of many who are so "concerned" for the religion of Israel that they have even taken time out from bashing it to counsel us on how they think we should and should have worked to preserve it.

There is no doubt that we can and should do more to advance the cause of kovod malchus Shomayim, and it is something that we are particularly sensitive to in these days of Elul. We certainly have to start with ourselves and our own community, and to concentrate on the tried and true principles of Torah and avodas Hashem as we are taught by our Torah leaders.

But trying to pin the blame on us for the state of the street in Israel is ridiculous. It ignores the raw and brutal power that was used to secularize hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most from Arab countries, starting with Yemenite and Moroccan immigrants of the fifties and continuing with Yemenite and Russian immigrants of the nineties. Parents were refused work unless they sent their children to secular schools. The social and emotional pressures of the army separated many from their traditions.

It would certainly have been easier for us to withdraw into our own communities and let the secular street fend for itself. Yet gedolei Yisroel said throughout that we must no abandon our brethren and should do what we can to ensure that the public space of the State of Israel remains as Jewish as possible. Under their guidance and leadership we try to preserve a public spirit of Shabbos, to minimize the presence of treif foods, and to guard the boundaries of family life and personal status.

In all these cases it is laughable, or else shows a tragic ignorance, to term this an imposition of the chareidi lifestyle. There was a time when the spirit of Shabbos was a common heritage among all the Jewish people. Even if they did not go to shul and study Torah, at least even secular Jews did not want to spend their Shabbos on shopping sprees. But all that is only a minimal sort of Jewish spirit and very far from the religious lifestyle, and completely lacks the true content of a Torah life.

It is no secret that the early leaders of the State fully expected religious Judaism to wither away, playing no social role except possibly as a tourist attraction. Instead religious Jewry grew and flourished -- and so far managed to preserve not only itself but to broadcast a forceful message which, when it is allowed to be received, finds responsive listeners among all social groups in Israel.

It is very clear that if not for the efforts of the religious community, there would be no need for the "secular revolution" that the prime minister is championing in his latest attempt to survive politically. And as we prepare for the yomim noraim we must not forget our brethren who need a serious introduction to the beauty of our common tradition.

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