Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Elul 5763 - September 4, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Shore the Breaches in Elul

Nothing will stop Europeans from taking their summer vacations in August, not even the health of their own parents. Many left their parents to swelter in the unaccustomed European heat (it was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (10C) hotter than usual), while they went away. In an admittedly extreme case, Salvatore Dio left his 82 year old widowed mother on the doorstep of his brother Leonardo in Italy on the way to his summer vacation. Salvatore said that it was his brother's turn to care for their mother, but he admitted that he knew that his brother had already left on his own vacation. Mrs. Dio raised 12 children. She survived but many others did not. In France, over 11,000 additional deaths were recorded in August due to the heat. Many of these dead were elderly people who could not fend for themselves in the harsh conditions.

Human life is becoming cheap in the modern world. Chazal say that murder is a prohibition that all the nations of the world understand, but that is becoming less so. In Europe and even parts of America, it is legal to assisst someone to commite suicide. The practice of modern terror, and its reception throughout the world, is one of the most evident expressions of the downgrading of human life.

The recent murderer of 21 innocent children, women and men in Jerusalem was a Moslem imam who worked in one of Hebron's largest mosques and lectured in Islamic law. His religion apparently did not help him to control his low beastly urge to shed blood. He surely saw the crowd of people, including elderly women and babies, whom he was destroying in the seconds before he did so.

The pundits who discuss these awful crimes are divided about whether the attackers should be called "suicide bombers" or "homicide bombers." What is lost in the discussion is that the horror of these attacks is in their targets -- innocent, noncombatant men, women and children -- and not the attackers. Their suicide, whether understandable or not, is of less import than the fact that their targets are civilians.

The breakdown of respect for human life is echoed in all areas of morality that were supposed to have been mishpotim -- rules that are understood and assented to by a reasonable person.

The family, the basic social unit whose focus was once on rearing children, is virtually destroyed in the West and elsewhere as Western adults are altogether uninterested in having children and consider living together only for their self-interest. If children are not the point, then all the rules that are essential to the maintenance of families make no sense.

Even the most basic requirement of social discourse, that people tell the truth, is no longer accepted. Major corporations are found to have lied to everyone for years about their business activities. The US government is sinking deep into debt while embracing major spending programs and cutting taxes at the same time. Meanwhile it is working, but at some point things will break down. State governments are relying on gimmicks and tricks to avoid facing the reality. In California, when the governor presented a rational program of expense cuts and tax raises, he was threatened with being turned out of office. This shows an utter flight from responsibility.

We are now in the middle of Elul, the season of teshuvoh. We must certainly check our own ways and repent. But with an eye to the breakdown in so many areas of traditional morality that pervades the societies around us, it is of vital importance that we inspect ourselves and insulate ourselves and our families to ensure that -- Rachmono litzlan -- this general moral deterioration does not have effects, chas vesholom, on our lives as lived according to the Torah.

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