From the very beginnings of Am Yisrael, we have had different opinions on many subjects. Many jokes have even been written about how we argue, but at the end of the day, debate is actually quite healthy. Buried deep in our souls is the need for truth. G-d Himself is 100% truth and we seek to emulate His ways, so we hunt for truth every chance we get. The entire Talmud is filled with thousands – maybe even tens of thousands – of Rabbinic arguments and we study these arguments from morning to night. A major part of our tradition is to understand the logic of both Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai as they “battled it out” in the Bais Midrash of old. And then, in addition to the debates in the text of the Talmud, we add on even more debates in the great intellectual wars of Rashi vs Tosfos. These different opinions – and the incredible logic from both sides – form the nucleus of our people. It has clearly been one of the most exciting aspects of Judaism and one that has kept the fire of Torah burning for thousands of years.
During all these debates, however, there was always one rule – respect. Respect for the person, respect for his ideas and respect for his honor. Unfortunately, this golden rule has been forgotten as today’s Halachic and Hashkafic arguments are filled with hatred and poison. It pains me greatly to think about this and especially to write about this but I cannot remain silent any more.
Let me show you an example of what I mean. A young man from Great Neck, who grew up completely secular but became a Ba’al Teshuva a few years ago, took issue over my stand on the Har HaBayit issue. I am an ardent supporter of Jewish prayer on Har HaBayit and have visited this holy place many times. I follow the p’sak of the #1 worldwide expert on this subject, HaRav Yisrael Ariel, founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Ha’Mikdash, who encourages Jews to follow Halachic preparations and ascend the Temple Mount. Rav Ariel has written thousands of pages on this subject and is the reason behind the revival of this important topic. Among his writings is an entire chapter dedicated to the Rambam’s visit to Har Ha’Bayit which took place on the 6th of Cheshvan in which the Rambam writes that, “I entered the Great and Holy House and prayed there on the fifth day of the week (Thursday), six days in the month of MarCheshvan. I have vowed that this day will be like a Yom Tov for me with prayers, joy, eating and drinking and just as I merited to pray there in its destruction, so will I – and all of Israel – see its rebuilding, Amen!”
Rav Ariel is a Gadol B’Torah, a tremendous Talmid Chacham and unbelievably knowledgeable on every aspect of the Bet Ha’Mikdash and Makom Ha’Mikdash in this day. I understand that this is a very sensitive issue for Am Yisrael and there are different Halachic opinions on this subject but what I cannot – and will never – accept is when we stop respecting Halachic giants from opposing opinions. Here is what the young man from Great Neck wrote me in an email:
When referring to the Religious Zionist rabbis he wrote; “The religious Zionist rabbis are like Korach and his cohorts who will be swallowed by the earth eventually”. The next day he sent me an email blaming the Har Nof massacre – not on the blood thirsty Arab terrorists – but on the Rabbis who permit Jews to ascend Har Ha’Bayit; “Those holy Jews died in that Shul because of those arrogant and stubborn Religious Zionists who think they know best”.
I must state that these words are from a young man who today is Shomer Mitzvos. He learns a few hours a day and is involved in a successful business. You might say that his attitude is an exception to the rule and I am picking on the one bad apple in the bunch. I wish that were true. About a month before Rav Ovadya Yosef passed away, he attended a shiur given by the Rosh Yeshiva of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen. This Rav Cohen is so respected in the Sefardic community that after Rav Ovadya Yosef died, he was appointed the Posek of the Shas Party, a position he still holds today.
HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen said in that shiur – with Rav Ovadya Yosef sitting next to him and not objecting – that in the passuk that says that Hashem’s throne is not complete as long as Amalek is in the world – the word for throne is “Kess” (spelled Kuf Samech) and he said that this stands for “Kippot Serugot” – the “Knitted Kipa” world – which he said was AMALEK!!! As you know, there is a POSITIVE MITZVAH in the Torah to KILL every member of Amalek so by calling the Knitted Kipa (Religious Zionist) community “Amalek” he sentenced us all to DEATH!!
This is the hatred that has poisoned Am Yisrael all these years and many in our community have unfortunately tasted and enjoyed much of that poison. We need to stop this immediately! We need to respect one another’s differences and live in tolerance and true Jewish unity. I told the young man who emailed me, that as long as you follow a serious Halachic posek, you have on whom to rely and this must be respected across the Jewish world. We will never bring Moshiach if we call Rabbonim “Korach” and wait for the day for the “earth to swallow them up”.
Our enemies have taught us, time and again, that they don’t care if we drink Cholov Yisrael or not. They don’t ask if we own a television or spend 3 hours picking out a Lulav. The enemies of today are thirsty for Jewish blood and it doesn’t matter to them if that blood is Ashkenazi, Sefardi or a mixture of both. They murder Chabadniks in India, secular Jews in France and religious Jews wearing Tefillin in Jerusalem. Trust me on this one; they didn’t ask if that Tefillin was Rashi or Rabbenu Tam.
One of our best defenses is unity and that begins with respect. Yes, we can – and should have – our differences. As written above, Am Yisrael was built on that, but those differences must be kept within the walls of the Yeshiva and never internalized. Our love for each other must burn in our hearts and souls. Any and all hatred must be directed exclusively towards the enemies of Hashem and His chosen nation. Within the family, however, we must constantly drive our Jewish car made from Compassion, Acceptance and Respect which spells C-A-R!! That “car” is quite large – and can take many passengers – but hatred is never one of them.