Any foreigner visiting Eretz Yisroel in the past several
months can see a distinct difference between how two parts
of its population have reacted to the threatening security
condition. Such an enormous difference would be more proper
for two separate nations.
On one hand most of Israeli society lives with a feeling
that life is going on as if nothing is happening. People
continue flocking to places of entertainment and amusement.
The newspapers, radio, and television carry on reporting
about petty matters, about the outcome of the last
basketball and soccer game and other "vital" sport news. It
is as if they do not know that in less than an hour's ride
away a bloody war is taking place in which people are daily
being killed and wounded. You might think that no danger
hovers above the head of every Jew who walks the streets of
The tension because of the deteriorating defense situation
is not evident in the daily life of most people living in
Israel. At the most, they make do with a sigh after hearing
painful and alarming news, denounce our enemies lavishly,
offer an abundance of "professional advice" for the army,
and from time to time repeat the inevitable question: "What
will be in the future?" Besides this, the dire state of
affairs does not leave its impression on their way of
Actually they do not feel that they should act any
differently. On the contrary, to some extent, entertainment
serves them as a tranquilizer or a bottle of beer, allowing
them to overlook their recurrent misfortune. "Let us eat and
drink because tomorrow . . ." (Yeshaya 22:13).
On the other hand, if that same foreigner would visit a
chareidi neighborhood, he would hear the Tehillim
said fervently every day in the botei midrash. He
would have noticed that on erev Rosh Chodesh Shvat
tens of thousands of Jews called out to the Creator to save
us from all our suffering.
If he would extend his visit also to the yeshivos he would
hear mussar shmuessen urging the talmidim to
do teshuvah, to refine their character traits, and to
increase doing virtuous acts and chesed for others.
He would also see that the yeshiva talmidim are
seriously implementing what they have heard from their
roshei yeshiva and mashgichim and have made
concrete decisions to strengthen themselves in Torah,
yiras Shomayim, middos tovos, and kindness to
This is exactly what I said before: We are like two separate
people. In Eretz Yisroel lives a Torah Nation that concerns
itself with the suffering of every Jew wherever he is. It
fasts, intensifies Torah study, and entreats Hashem daily to
send peace to His nation. But another nation also lives in
Eretz Yisroel: A secular nation that remains swamped in
vanities of life, in entertainment and amusement, and is
blithely unconcerned about what has been occurring
throughout the country.
Secular newspaper reporters have even recently written how
gratified they are that "life is back to normal." Organizers
of large cultural events claim that to show our peaceful
intents to the world, all these events should take place
despite the daily violence. One of them remarked that
running a gaudy parade of entertainment and debauchery is a
"profound declaration of the need to stop one moment from
our insane dance. Music is built upon the idea of live and
let live. Everyone is one nation, all are free--and one's
nationality, culture and geographical location are
insignificant." One column reporting about culture events
explained "thunderous and joyful dancing and music are the
real alternative because of their innate distance from a
culture of war."
If you would ask all those happy-go-lucky
people why they are not thinking about the Jews being killed
and wounded, the hundreds of people continually frightened
from shooting, bombs, and Molotov cocktails, while instead
they are leading a carefree life, they would answer: "We
cannot help them anyway. How could it help them if we stop
enjoying ourselves? Won't the critical security condition
anyway continue? We must therefore continue to live as usual
- - life is back to normal.'"
But a Jew who believes in Hashem knows he can help his
suffering brothers since the tefillos and Torah study
of each Jew awakens the attribute of Divine chesed.
Besides this, even someone who does not beg Hashem for them
knows he must feel the suffering of others. This concept is
totally unknown to our brothers who have strayed from
Chazal teach us how each Jew should act when the klal
is suffering. "When the public is afflicted a person should
not say I will go home, I will eat and drink and only worry
about myself. A person should suffer together with others,
as we find that Moshe Rabbenu suffered together with others,
as is written: `But Moshe's hands were heavy and they took a
stone and put it underneath him and he sat on it'
(Shemos 17:12). Did Moshe not have even one pillow or
mattress to sit on? Moshe, however, said: `Since Yisroel are
suffering, I will also share in their suffering' "
It is quite true that feeling uncomfortable will not at all
improve the condition of the other person who is really
suffering. Doing so is out of place as far as analytic
reasoning and intellect are concerned. Cold logic analyzes
each act from a material outlook strictly according to what
benefit it induces. Genuine taking part in the suffering of
others is, however, an ethical act emanating from one's
inner self. Only in this way does a person really identify
with the affliction of unfortunate people.
"It came to pass in those days, when Moshe was grown, that
he went out to his brothers and looked on their burdens"
(Shemos 2:11). What is the meaning of "He looked on
Did not anyone who was not blind see the suffering of
bnei Yisroel? Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 1:27)
teach us: "Both his eyes and heart joined in their
suffering." The suffering of another Jew is not his own
private problem. We are all "partners" in it. A Jew feels
another Jew's misfortune. He is fully distressed with the
other's bitter fate and fills his whole heart with deep
concern for his fellow Jews. Chazal teach us that Moshe,
"placed his shoulder underneath the burden of each one and
said, `May I die instead of you.' "
Although as far as practical benefit is concerned it would
not seem to help anyone if we fulfill "He looked on their
burdens." This is, however, a time that each person is
tested as to what degree he worries about others and how
much he worries about himself. Rational arguments of "What
will we gain from this," show a profound and internal
alienation between those overindulging in the pleasures of
life and those bitterly suffering. Only someone who does not
feel the pain of others as his own asks such questions. It
is impossible to explain to him the depths of this matter,
and we cannot artificially imbue in him such a feeling that
is after all a direct result of the general relationship he
has with other Jews.
Life "cannot continue" on as normal when another Jew
suffers. This is not demanded only from leaders. It is
demanded from each Jew. When the public at large suffers,
every Jew must join in their suffering.
The carefree living that continues full blast in secular
society can serve as a lesson for each one of us, and not
only for this period but for every time. "Anyone who suffers
together with the public is zocheh to see the
consolation of the public" (Taanis 11a).