In the current Israeli Knesset election campaign, some
political party heads have hired public-relations
specialists. Their job is to work out, together with the
candidates, the party's official line and what image they
should project to the public. Nothing is done haphazardly.
Every message and remark to the nation has been
Many politicians have adopted the PR approach, which prefers
a "positive message." Do not say anything unpleasant to
someone who will later be casting a ballot. Try to be liked
by everyone, and frequently use clever expressions like, "I
want to emphasize what unites the nation more than what
divides it." In this way, the PR experts claim, persons
running for office will gain public support.
This is especially the case with the new Center Party, a
party that perfectly fits its name: It addresses itself to
all voters and winks at every segment of the population: the
right, the left, the religious, the irreligious, the
Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. In a press conference convened
by the heads of the Center Party when it was first
established, this approach came across as so preposterous
that even the reporters, who are used to almost anything,
strongly criticized it.
In a Ma'ariv editorial entitled "This Isn't It!" the
paper discussed the phrase used by Amnon Lipkin- Shachak, who
was then the nascent party's nominee for prime minister.
"Have you noticed that people on the street laugh less
nowadays?" was Shachak's remark. Ma'ariv wrote the
following: "After the press conference there were several
people who in fact smiled more. They suddenly found out that
the new candidate has nothing to offer -- except for himself.
He had no new idea, not one original suggestion, nor any
unconventional solution. What we did hear were several
cliches of the sort that every politician airs on such a
formal occasion. `Violence is taking control of our lives,'
`We need an internal revolution,' and that an `abyss of
hatred' divides the various sectors of the population. Amnon
Lipkin-Shachak unquestionably evaded furnishing clear answers
to delicate questions."
The feeling of political commentators after the press
conference was that a party whose ideology can be easily
condensed into "making everyone smile," or "decreasing
hatred," and "it will eventually be good for everyone" is
showing that it actually has nothing to propose.
Ma'ariv commented, "If someone hoped that Amnon Lipkin-
Shachak would bear good tidings that would change how the
country looks, he was disappointed."
Even the reporter Amnon Dankener commented about Shachak's
maiden speech in an article called "The Pareve Charm."
It seems that Shachak had nothing new to say, nothing
interesting, and nothing that aroused thought. "But this is
actually the essence of the new movement of which he is the
head. That is the brand of goods he wants to sell. In the
jargon of food distributors, Amnon Shachak wants to
distribute something pareve . . . Amnon Shachak
yesterday addressed himself to `the masses who want things to
be good,' . . . The dream that things will improve is,
however, not a political platform, and Lipkin-Shachak surely
has already heard about the distressing fact of human nature
that the right way teems with harsh differences of opinion
and diverse directions. . . the pareve charm. . . has
a certain attraction for the public, tired after the last two
and a half years brimming with quarrels, lies and filth. But
even someone who appreciates this type of food will
eventually ask: `One moment please, where is the meat?' "
The reporter Nachum Barnei'a remarked about Shachak's speech:
"He wants to be the opposite of Rabin: Not to decide, but to
agree. . . Rabin was the angry father and Shachak promises to
be the merciful father . . . to make the Israeli nation
smile. . . After he is elected, Arabs will laugh with Jews,
religious Jews with secular Jews, the poor with the rich,
Russians with Moroccans. This is charming. If he was running
for president [of Israel] that would be acceptable, but
Israel is a harsh country -- there are sharp corners, harsh
decisions and only infrequent smiles."
Another article in the same newspaper, under the title "The
Style is the Message," wrote: "Yesterday we could hear what
Shachak wants. He wants to live in a country where there are
no road accidents, no violence, no lack of patience or
tolerance. Who doesn't? He wants to live pleasantly. Who
doesn't? . . .. This was a simple speech, over simple,
lacking news and surprises . . . Yesterday Shachak delineated
the problems that the State of Israel faces: unemployment,
education, health, peace and security. He promises to make
brave and just decisions, but he did not give us any inkling
what these decisions will be. When yesterday he announced his
decision to run for prime minister, he said, `I am not a
politician.' That in reality was Amnon Shachak: a person
without any political experience, without a party, and still
without a platform or slate . . . but being pleasant cannot
Yitzchak Mordechai, the former Defense Minister and the
candidate who replaced Shachak, also used the same method of
not expressing any stand. He uses "nice words" and wants
everyone to like him. Ha'aretz writes, after an
interview with Mordechai, that the impression they gained was
that he is trying to display himself as "the real midpoint
between the right and left." "Perhaps it is characteristic
that during the entire broadcast interview we did not hear
from him even one word expressing himself about essential
political matters -- not security, not foreign affairs, and
surely not economy or society. Only Itzik, Itzik, and again
@BIG LET BODY = The "positive approach," the method of
overlooking fundamental problems and trying to round out and
smooth corners even when key issues are at stake, is not the
private possession of PR professionals and politicians before
elections. Many try to use this as a way of life. Man has an
inborn trait of wanting to be popular and accepted by
everyone. No one wants to be hated or even controversial.
But this cannot work in reality. It is impossible to please
everyone. In an attempt to please people who possess
differing beliefs and to avoid wrestling with contrasting
opinions, a person will have to forgo his independence and
forsake the principles that he contends are sacred.
The gedolei Torah of previous generations have
therefore written that a Jew must take care not to adopt this
way, a way liable to create difficulties for him in
fulfilling his obligation in Olom Hazeh and to prevent
him from observing the Torah uncompromisingly.
The Chovos Halevovos (Sha'ar Yichud HaMa'aseh,
ch. 5) writes that one of the ways that the yetzer
tries to mislead people is to persuade them to want to be
liked by everyone. The yetzer depicts the advantages
of a person who is popular in glowing colors. The
yetzer likewise warns man about the possible harm that
might occur to someone who stands up for his principles and
does not satisfy others.
"It is fitting," says the yetzer, "for you to
discharge some of your obligations to other people. You are
aware that they can be of use to you or can hurt you. It is
clear to you that when they are pleased with you they praise
you, and when they are angry at you, you will lose out. You
should therefore try to do as they want so that they will
like you." When the yetzer comes with such arguments
the Chovos Halevovos advises us to respond, "How can I
please everyone who is now living when I cannot please even
my household members? Still less can I please all others." In
connection to this he mentioned what a chochom wrote
in his will to his son: "My son, you cannot please everyone,
but try to please the Creator and He will make you acceptable
@BIG LET BODY = The slogans of "behaving in a pleasant way,"
"emphasizing what unites us and not what divides us,"
"preventing friction in religious matters," were cliches used
for decades by various compromisers in matters of religion
who always preferred compromising values or standing on the
sidelines during campaigns for sacred values, because they
wanted approval and popularity.
Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l once sent the head of a
group which broke away from Agudas Yisroel a sharply-worded
letter criticizing their conduct. You, he wrote, profess to
prefer a "positive approach" and do not believe that the
Torah-true prospective endlessly emphasizes attacking the
negative, always "against, against, against." This
balebatisheh approach disregards what the Mishnah
Berurah rules (1,1): occasionally, when there is a need
to deal with apikorsim "it is a mitzvah to hate them,
quarrel with them, and spoil their designs as much as one
can." In such cases a Jew is obligated to despise them to the
utmost. By not acting aggressively against evil, a person
creates an atmosphere of indifference and weakness, and
moreover casts a stain on those who do protest and protect
the pure Jewish outlook, making them look like mere
quarrelers, ba'alei machlokes.
R' Moshe Sheinfeld zt'l used to mention to these
people the vort attributed to the Kotsker Rebbe
zt'l: When the Torah warns Am Yisroel after
they arrive in Eretz Yisroel not to be tempted to follow
alien, spurious beliefs, the Torah concludes: "Lo kein
(nothing like this) has Hashem, your Elokim given you"
(Devorim 18:14). Said the Kotsker: The key is to
remember lo kein: the Creator has given a Jew the
power and courage to say "lo" to any improper
"kein." A person should be accustomed always to say
kein, to agree regularly to every proposal, but
sometimes a person must utter an explicit lo and
select the "negative style."
@BIG LET BODY = In the famous address by Maran HaRav Eliezer
Shach shlita at the Degel HaTorah Movement Founding
Convention more than ten years ago, the Rosh Yeshiva chose to
focus on this point: We must guard the Torah and the genuine
hashkofo transmitted to us from Sinai, even when doing
so requires forgoing aspirations for popularity and specious
In response to all those who maintain that fighting for the
truth and only the truth generates a machlokes, the
Rosh Yeshiva cited what the Maharil Diskin zt'l once
said: When Moshe Rabbenu was niftar, the Torah writes,
"Bnei Yisroel wept for Moshe" (Devorim 34:8).
Chazal (Ovos DeR'Nosson 12:4) explain that the
posuk is emphasizing that not all of bnei
Yisroel wept over Moshe's departure, as is written
explicitly about Aharon Hacohen: "When all the congregation
saw that Aharon was dead, they mourned for Aharon, thirty
days, all the house of Yisroel" (Bamidbar 20:29). This
needs to be better understood. These pesukim are
apparently coming to praise Moshe Rabbenu, but what praise is
there in that not everyone cried when he died?
Chazal are teaching us that since Moshe Rabbenu was a leader
of the Jewish Nation he needed to make decisions concerning
the public in general, and "of necessity there would be
complaints against him. He was forced to be a `person who
makes a machlokes.'" The Torah commends Moshe Rabbenu
for the fact that not all of bnei Yisroel wept after
his death, since "of necessity there would be complaints
against him" (VeZorach HaShemesh, pg. 138).
Maran shlita recommended this approach to us for
constant use. We are living in a generation when many have
deviated from the Torah's way and have adopted bogus
ideologies. We must stand firm to protect the true Torah
outlook and the stature of the Torah World. There is no other
way. The Chovos Halevovos writes about the
yetzer and its agents that "you are oblivious to them
but they are conscious of you."
If a person does not attack all contemporary trends that are
improper they will instead overwhelm him. There is sometimes
no choice. We must occasionally employ the "negative approach
and style" to say "No" and to protest against what is
unbefitting the Holy Nation. This must be done, even though
we will be looked upon as people who start
Maran shlita has often emphasized that the most
prominent title to be awarded a communal activist in our
generation is that of a fighter. Maran used this concept
often when he praised the precious young people who are
working with great dedication for the klal wherever
they are. He wanted to implant within those who are fighting
in the front for Yiddishkeit, and within the entire
public, the concept campaigning for the principles of our
religion and to elevate the Torah's honor is not a "negative
approach" but an obligatory goal. This is true even though we
may be stuck with a distorted image of being persons making
machlokes. Being a fighter for such sublime matters is
not a disgrace but rather a badge of honor.
More than a hundred years ago the chareidi writer and thinker
R' Yaakov HaLevi Lipshitz zt'l (author of Zichron
Yaakov and the right hand of Maran HaRav Yitzchok
Elchonon Spector zt'l) wrote an incisive article in
which he rebuked all those who complained and asked why today
we lack communal activists. In this article (Dor
VeSoferov, printed in HaKerem, 5648) he points out
the difficulties activists face.
"People do not function in midair or in the desert.
Everything that can be done is done among people. Even the
best thing a person can do will always have some adverse
effect or cause some criticism. Even the sun, which is
"tzedokoh and refu'ah," will hurt those who
gaze at it and derange those disturbed by its heat. Surely an
act of tzedokoh from a mere human will harm someone.
Nothing virtuous exists that will not hurt someone. Jealousy,
sinas chinom, the pursuit of honor, will spread out
like vipers and cause many deaths. Experience and our history
reliably teach us that prominent people active for our nation
were all harassed by jealousy and hatred.
"It is superfluous to cite proofs for what is well known. The
idealistic and the energetic suffer from the ridicule of the
apathetic. Only the idealistic and energetic are harmed and
persecuted by sinas chinom. This is as Abaye remarked
to Rovo: "Like you, whom everyone in Pumbedisa hates." Rashi
explains: "[People hated him] since [Rovo] would rebuke them
about Heavenly concerns." Nonetheless those active [in
spreading Yiddishkeit] pay no attention to all the
criticisms and honestly sacrifice themselves for the love of
good that fills their essence.
"There is, nonetheless, another evil almost worse than all we
have mentioned, something that even patience cannot tolerate:
That is the false motto of the masses [that those who stay
out of all controversy are praiseworthy, since, in the end,
who is it] that ultimately spends their lives well and
pleasantly, and lives a life of tranquility and peace, and
are even counted among the prestigious? It is none other than
they who are entirely indifferent. They lack all emotion, and
do absolutely nothing, not even the slightest thing. As far
as they are concerned even if the world were to turn over
they would not budge an inch to worry about anyone but
themselves. These people even take pride in the fact that
they do not get involved in anything. The public honors them
and points to them as symbols of honesty and justice.
"Even when they pass away they are lauded as never harming
anyone, of never even chasing away a fly. Actually, these
praises are more fitting for a block of wood, a lump of soil,
an inanimate stone, than for someone alive, someone
considered a microcosmos, someone who is inherently social.
These are people who can only be defined as being husbands
for their wives. If bikur cholim is needed in their
city, this will not stir them at all. If an old age home, a
tzedokoh fund, clothing for the poor, or a talmud
Torah is lacking, even if there is hunger, plague,
Rachmono litzlan, or any general dilemma, Rachmono
litzlan, they will not move in the least.
They only labor for themselves, . . . They never do good for
the general public. Nevertheless, the masses applaud them as
virtuous and upright. The eulogies praise them and arouse
grief for their departure. They managed to enjoy their lives
and even after death were honored by the public.
"However, those who instead cast away their honor, their
strength and their time, and during their whole life labor
for others just as much as they do for themselves, are a
target for all the verbal arrows thrown by the jealous, those
full of sinas chinom, those who criticize incisively,
who ridicule, who are the reckless, the jokers, and the
envious. They are the ones who interfere with the work of
these activists and sometimes even slander them. Their
families embitter the lives of the activists and gripe that
everyone complains of their dominating others. If, after much
toil and forbearance, the askonim manage to make a
worthy contribution to society, the critics, the indifferent,
and the devoted challengers of those who work for the
klal, will totally embitter their lives. Jealousy
causes others to look at them suspiciously and prevents those
possessing that trait from considering that the time might
come when they will need a good turn from these activists.
Jealousy reigns supreme over any future considerations."
Indeed, anyone who is active, and especially in religious
matters, should expect virulent criticism. Someone who
criticizes others, like Rovo in Pumbedisa, will in the future
be hated "since [Rovo] would rebuke them about Heavenly
concerns." Someone who fights for Torah observance and
bequeathing the pure Torah ideology to others cannot escape
losing popularity. In a short time he will become a "baal
machlokes" and a quarreler.
Those who work for the public and need to make difficult
decisions become thereby controversial and lose approval.
This was therefore the praise of Moshe Rabbenu, that not all
of bnei Yisroel cried when he was niftar.
We have seen throughout history, and in our own generation
too, that gedolei Yisroel who were active in
buttressing Torah observance and making decisions for the
public, who did not refrain from ruling even about sensitive
matters that aroused a reaction, suffered from
Even askonim who fight for strengthening the Torah are
accustomed to being victimized and plotted against, and are
prey to vile mudslinging for their "sin" of not adopting the
"positive approach" and for their "extremism." It is no
surprise that this happens, since their activities tread on
the toes of those who have false hashkofos and make
compromises about Yiddishkeit.
The askonim, however, have always rejected all of the
followers of alleged unity, have dismissed the superficial
view that a peaceful life must be our primary aim, and have
preferred to fight for the truth.
Our Torah teaches us that this is the right way and that
there is no other way. A man must proceed only according to
the truth, without taking public opinion into consideration.
If instead he prefers to please everyone he will see no end
to his efforts in this direction and will deviate from the
way of truth, as the Chovos Halevovos writes: "How can
I please everyone who is now living when I cannot please even
my household members? Still less can I please all others. You
cannot please everyone, but you should try to find favor
before the Creator, and He will make you accepted by