Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - An Address to Rabbis of Mizrachi 5714 (’54) - Part II - From Harabbanut V’hamedinah pp. 152-155
[Editor’s note: We present these ideas without intent to apply them to specific current events. While we hesitate including an arguably “political” address in a Torah leaflet, which we try to keep apolitical, we believe that Rav Yisraeli z.t.l.’s arguments explain why he believed that “political” efforts to raise the banner of religion in the State of Israel are part of a Torah outlook. We saw last time that the integrative nature of Jewish society in Israel makes the relative share and impact of the religious and “secular” elements of the society crucial and complex.]
Let us use a classic metaphor to describe the situation. Picture the religious community as a fire and the “secular” community as water. In the Diaspora, the non-Jewish society serves as the pot that separates the two elements and prevents the water from extinguishing the flame. The religious community can ignore the “secular” Jewish population regarding its prayers, educational system, and other “cultural” elements of existence. The inner community alone sets the tone for its institutions. Society enables the building of a religious ghetto. During Shabbat in the Diaspora, the street, which is primarily non-Jewish, anyway does not feel like Shabbat, so another open shop, which happens to be Jewish-owned, is not as troubling for the Jew who makes his way to shul. Certainly, a non-religious Jew will not feel he has a right to dictate how a religious Jew should run his life. In terms of the metaphor, neither the water nor the fire feels threatened.
So, in the Diaspora, the relationship between the different types of Jews is not forged around the religious questions. Relationships, which exist primarily within the realm of business or joint philanthropic activity, are reasonably correct. The “fire” even has some influence over the “water.” The lifestyle of the religious Jew, who sacrifices to keep his religious commitment, often evokes respect from his Jewish, non-religious counterpart. Great religious leaders are respected by the rest of the Jewish population, who often help support Torah institutions, despite theological differences. Clearly the “water” also has a cooling effect on the “fire,” creating such tepid, variant groups as Reform and Conservative. However, since this type of change is usually gradual, it does not arouse the same level of tensions.
The situation is very different in Israel, where the “fire” and “water” intermingle. The non-religious community is to a great degree anti-religious and sees it as their role to establish a religion-free society. The religious community cannot be apathetic to the prospect of the streets of our Jewish State dominated by a secularism that discards the religion of Moshe and Israel. One cannot walk down Jewish streets on Shabbat and see its desecration without feeling bitterness. Even the individual religious life of the religious is very dependent on the attitude of other segments of society. Religious needs must be supported in part by public funds, to which all contribute, and these funds are often channeled through municipalities. Members of the public at large oversee the schools that educate our children and the street, over which we have no control, influences their upbringing. In general, when a neighbor acts in a way that disgraces Shabbat or mocks other holy things, his Jewishness cannot be overlooked in Israel, and it is hard to remain indifferent. Reactions and counter-reactions occur, causing an atmosphere of tension and rivalry. The competition reaches every element of public life, from the local street, to the municipality, to the national level. Therefore, it is important both to the religious and the non-religious to have a large proportional representation. For us, it is crucial, because otherwise our minority could be one that can be ignored and trampled.
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