Thursday, June 09, 2016

When Leaders Remove G-d from the Equation

By Moshe Feiglin

And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beit Lehem in Judah went to sojourn in the field of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beit Lehem in Judeah. And they came into the field of Moab, and stayed there. And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth; and they dwelt there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died both of them; and the woman was left of her two children and of her husband. (Ruth 1:1-4) 

The Scroll of Ruth opens with a description of a leadership crisis during the era of the Judges in ancient Israel. (Elimelech was one of the leaders of Israel at the time). The mentality of the leaders at the start of the Scroll is not connected to Jewish identity or Jewish destiny in the Land of Israel. They did not believe in the unique role of the Nation of Israel and when the going got tough, they sold out their compatriots and bought themselves passports to the nearby land of Moab. 

When Israel's leadership lacks the basic understanding of the unique destiny of the Nation of Israel and the vital role of the Land of Israel - when holiness is completely uprooted from Israel's existence - everything turns upside down. The Nation of Israel's presence in the Land of Israel becomes a temporary real estate venture, while its existence in foreign lands becomes permanent and sanctified. In fact, the Nation of Israel's very physical reality becomes just some more merchandise that can buy another day of quiet - quiet for the people standing at the top of the heap of concrete that used to be someone's home. They feel perfectly comfortable trading in the Land's real estate and even in the lives of its inhabitants. 

When nothing is holy - not the Nation of Israel and not the Land of Israel - it is fine to give the Nazis the children of the poor just to buy a few more days of quiet in the ghetto. It even makes sense. The Judenrat and the Jewish Police were Jews who had basically removed G-d from the equation. When that happens, all that is left is simple arithmetic. 10,000 children will be sent to the crematoria but - for the time being - tens of thousands will be saved. It makes sense, doesn't it? 

When nothing is holy anymore, when the land is not holy, it is fine to destroy Jewish homes and towns and surrender our land to the Arabs. Just like the children of the poor who were hunted down by their brothers to fill the Nazi transports, the settlers are the sector of society that has proven that it is incapable of fighting its brothers/destroyers. And if their destruction means another day of quiet, another day of holding the government together - and maybe it will even somehow allow us to save Jerusalem - then it is all very logical, isn't it? 

It always begins with the outposts. But just as in the case of the Nazi transports - when the leadership betrays the nation - the enemy's appetite gets larger and larger. The end is a given. Destruction for all. 

The Scroll of Ruth does not describe what happened to the common people who remained in Judea after they had been abandoned by their leaders. What we do know is that the "leaders" who betrayed their people are just passing names in the Scroll - forgotten or derided. But after they left, they were replaced by true Jewish leaders - leadership of faith and loving kindness - leadership that got the Nation of Israel back on its feet again. 

Shabbat Shalom and Shavuot Sameach.

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