Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Kiddush Hashem

by Chaim Walder

This week, as I sat in the home of a mourner who had lost his thirteen-year-old son, I heard one of the most moving stories I have ever heard, one which demonstrates that every Jew can be an agent for kiddush Shem Shomayim, even in situations no one ever dreamed would occur. The following story was related by someone who had come to console the mourners, and he even mentioned the names of those involved. The incident took place recently.

A prominent talmid chochom from Bnei Brak was severely injured by a police car crashing into him with tremendous impact. Since then, the rav has been in the hospital and has been suffering greatly.

A week after the accident, an elderly, secular couple arrived at the hospital to visit the rav. The rav's family asked how they knew him. They replied that they don't know him at all and that was why it had taken a week to ascertain his identity and find out where he was hospitalized. Why did they come? They were at the scene of the accident, and what they saw made them eager to become acquainted with the victim.

What did they see?

The accident was difficult to swallow. People mulled about the bleeding victim, and all that they could do was to call Magen David Adom on their cellular phones and hear that an ambulance was on its way.

The worst moment of all is when you see a severely injured person right in front of you, writhing in pain, and you are unable to do anything because you aren't a doctor. The driver who had hurt him mulled around the victim, frightened and hysterical, and in desperation said: "I beg your forgiveness. I'll make amends to you. Tell me what you want and I'll give it to you."

In a shattered, cracked voice, the injured, suffering rav replied, "Promise me that you'll keep Shabbos for an entire year. That will be the best compensation, and I'll forgive you with a full heart."

Upon hearing this, the secular couple could not go back to its regular routine. All night, as well as the following day, the scene disconcerted them. They decided that they had to visit that special man in hospital. They also related that they had assembled their entire family, including their grandchildren, and repeated the story, telling them, as a sort of last will and testament, "If such are the chareidim, we understand why it is important that they not go to the army. We have to protect them so that the Torah they study will protect us."

Later on, one of the visitors at the house of mourning told a story of a child who had been run over by a bus driver and had died as a result. When the bus driver called to console the family (he didn't dare come in person) he apologized profusely for the tragic occurrence and said that he couldn't sleep at night and that his life was no longer worth living because he had unwillingly caused the death of the child. The child's mother told him: "I have an idea, and if you follow through with it, I, the mother of the child who was killed, promise that we will forgive you completely. You know that our son had yet to reach the age of bar mitzvah, and didn't merit to lay tefillin during his life. If you agree to lay tefillin instead of him throughout your entire life, I promise to forgive you with a full heart, and the child in Shomayim will forgive you and love you."

The driver burst into tears, and promised to lay tefillin. Today, five years after the accident, he still lays tefillin every day.

Apparently, everyone can be an emissary of faith in the Creator of the World, during times of happiness as well as times of sorrow. Noble behavior on the part of the Torah and mitzvah-observant Jew draws people closer to Hashem and His Torah.

Now let's digress from these stories and focus on an issue very removed from them: the elections. There too, we can make an all-out kiddush Hashem.

Two weeks ago, a secular journalist called me, asking about the voting patterns of the chareidi sector. I told him that I have no idea if we are going to vote or not. It all depends on what the gedolei Yisroel say.

He said, "And if the rabbonim don't say anything?"

"Then I won't vote," I replied.

"But wouldn't that negate the guidelines of the rabbonim?" he philosophized. "If they don't say anything, that means they are giving you the right to decide on your own."

"And within the framework of this right, I will decide to do what they themselves do, in other words, to refrain from voting," I explained. "There is a concept known as, `Who sees them going out and doesn't go out himself?' In addition, one can say, `Who sees them not going out, and nonetheless goes out?' The chareidi sector is subservient to the gedolei haTorah. What they decide to do is what the chareidi community will do." I suggested that he ask the man in the street, stressing that he approach the average citizen.

This week he returned to me, startled. "Listen. I walked down one of Bnei Brak's streets at 1:00 in the afternoon, and asked ordinary people -- those with hats and suits -- and all of them said the same thing you did: at this point, they aren't voting unless the gedolei hador tell them to vote. When I asked more incisive questions, I saw that some people tended to favor Sharon, but in the same breath, they told me that were the gedolei hador to tell them to vote for Barak, that is what they would do, and that if the gedolei hador don't say anything, they wouldn't vote."

That's it, rabbosai: unparalleled kiddush Hashem.

When this article appeared in Hebrew (Friday, 9 Shevat), we still didn't know what the gedolei haTorah would tell us to do. They later issued their instructions. Nonetheless, this is a rare opportunity to demonstrate to the whole world that the chareidi sector is not open to election propaganda or to posters like, "The voice of your brother's blood calls out to you from the earth," signed by certain bnei Torah. The chareidi sector is a force that listens to one command only: that issued by the gedolei hador, and if such an order doesn't ensue, the chareidim will not go out to the polls, and in that way will make a great kiddush Hashem.

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