Friday, June 29, 2007

Birth pangs of the Mashiach Part 2

As I stated in the first part of this series, the biggest problem the Jewish People have right now is the internal problems the Israeli society is having. In many ways, if this was solved, we can expect that all our other problems will be marginal.

After having the discussion that I related in the first post with one of my Israeli cousins, I had another discussion with another one. With her, we discussed some more detailed issues which were dividing the people in Israel. For example, she told me that many secular people would want to send their kids to religious schools for cultural and traditional purposes. However, when they do send them there, when the kids return, they return completely detached from their parents reality. Its as if these school try to be factories for creating religious kids out of secular kids and when the kids go back home, there is a great incoherence between what they believe and what their parents believe. This creates two main problems: 1. the kids many times decide to completely reject the religious education they got. 2. When they don’t reject it, their religiosity many times comes at the expense of their relationship with their parents, giving an image in the Israeli Population of the Torah creating conflicts rather then bringing peace, thus creating a big hillul hashem.

I think the source of this problem is from a twofold misunderstanding of the word kiruv. First, we religious people have to understand that kiruv is not about looking at our brothers who are less religious and trying to make them like us. We are not point of reference! Kiruv is on the one hand educating but also on the other hand learning from the other. If you think you have nothing to learn from your secular brother who goes to the army, sacrifices his life for the good of klal Israel, works hard to bring food on the table for him family, smiles to everyone when he sees them on the street, then you are not in a position to teach him anything about religion. Rav Kook in a very famous essay explained how the 3 main messages of Judaism were spread out in his generation in 3 different sectors of klal Israel: Kodesh (religion) was represented by the orthodox jews, Uma (nationalism) was represented by the secular Zionists, Adam (Universalism) was represented by the Socialists. Rav Kook explained that we each had to learn from each other in order to have the ultimate homogenous message which includes all 3 messages.

Kiruv is about going to your secular Zionist or socialist brother not only to change him, but because you feel you need something out of him the way he is. Kiruv means that while I will teach him about religion, I will strive to learn some socialist or nationalistic messages out of him. Its not that I am better and everyone has to be like me. Its that we need to learn from each other. Its less kiruv (me bringing you closer to something) then hitchabrut (us getting closer to each other). And I don’t mean me becoming less religious or you less nationalistic, but both of us becoming very religious, very nationalistic and very socially minded.

The problem is that while 99% of people will say they agree with this, I think 99.5% of Kiruv workers do not work like that. Rather, the way its presented is that you go to lectures where a rabbi “shows you the light” because he knows the truth which you don’t know. Unfortunately, he forgets that you know some truths that he doesn’t know.

If people in Israel realized that, then there would be a healthy interaction between the secular and religious sectors.

The second misunderstand of the word kiruv is that even when doing kiruv, which is probably the most klal Israel thing to do, people only think of their own private olam haba. Instead of thinking of the higher light of the building of a Nation representing God, which is the goal of all of creation, they think of gathering points in order to get a bigger olam habaa (of course I’m generalizing but its what is mostly out there). What this ends up being is that instead of trying to make the whole nation gradually get closer to God, they try to recruit individuals and “save them” from their current life. Each soul they “save” is extra points for them in olam haba. Not only is this extremely close to some Evangelical Christian practices, the fact is that the goal of Am Israel is not to create 100 000 tsaddikim but rather a nation which is holy. This is what we learn from a minyan, which is called “eda” (one of the words to describe a nation). Even 9 tsaddikim cannot make a minyan but 10 regular people who just finished bar mitzvah can. We need the whole edah to be together, even if they are not tsaddikim. My Rav, Rav Mordechai Elon Shli”ta, created this program in which secular parents and children learn torah together in order to grow together and for there not to be a division between what the parents believe and what the children believe.

The second problem me and my cousin discussed (and I’ll be brief on this one), if the fact that secular and religious kids simply don’t hang out. In Ch”ul, you have religious kids and secular kids who are best friends, go together to pizza etc… In Israel, most of the time they live in different cities and when they don’t, they go to different hang out spots. If we do not see each other, how can we respect each other? How can we love each other? True, it’s a bit of a risk to raise a family around secular people, but look, in Montreal, this risk is being taken by everyone who lives in the jewish community since secular and religious people live together and the fact is that the same question always comes back: Whats more importants, your personal success or Am Israel’s success? The answer is Am Israel. If we saw each other on the street and say good morning to each other every morning, maybe then it would be less of a problem to respect and love each other.

Beezrat Hashem, the gueoula shelema will come bimhera beyamenu. more...

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