Thank you to Ann Goldberg for her thought-provoking article titled “Those Boys of Yours” in the November 26th issue of the Where What When. Ms. Goldberg’s intent was to remind the reader of the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and not to assume that if a boy sits and learns he is part of the small, misguided group that is currently creating a chillul Hashem in Israel.
That Ms. Goldberg’s friends and/or acquaintances would assume that her family was involved in the incidents she is discussing because they have “that look” (black hat, white shirt, black pants, velvet kippah) is disheartening. I also have a hard time with the use of the word “frum” to describe this stereotype, when frum should simply mean shomrei Torah and mitzvoth, and not what colors you are wearing.
Ms. Goldberg’s article continues with the assessment that the ultra-Orthodox community allows its leaders to guide them in dealing with the government and the IDF. I agree with Ms. Goldberg that Torah learning is vital for the safety of am Yisrael, but what seems to be forgotten by many is that there has to be a balance. When Yaakov was preparing to meet Eisav, aside from choosing gifts, he also davened and prepared for war.
This is a lesson to us that we must have someone to physically guard our homeland and our people. One cannot be so naïve as to think that our Torah learners would be safe in their batei midrash if our soldiers were not out there helping to protect them. Do people really believe we could safely visit Maarat Hamachpela, Kever Rachel, and, of course, the Kotel any time of day or night without the IDF?
Ms. Goldberg asks if army service changes its conscripts. It seems she feels it will likely change the chassid more than the Hesder student, who may have had more exposure to the outside world. I contend that no matter one’s background, the army will change him. We need our Torah learners to keep us safe, but who should serve in our physical army and who should serve in our spiritual army? If a boy is not a “learner” but cannot serve in the army, can he help the country in another way?
No child should have to perform army service. Our soldiers are children! Some don’t even shave yet! If you take a child from a chareidi yeshiva, a Hesder yeshiva, and a chiloni school and put them together in the army, every one of them will be transformed, no matter their background. None of them should have to see or experience the army. But since we do need an army, maybe if they are together, they will learn from each other and grow in their respect for each other and all of am Yisrael.
The government has given the wonderful opportunity for some to sit and learn and be our spiritual army, but what is that spiritual army doing for the physical army? Is your shul saying a prayer for the peace of the country? Are the rabbeim and morahs teaching the boys and girls that when they see a chayal on the bus they should get up and give him a seat or say thank you? Are the yeshivot outside of Israel saying Tehilim for the chayalim, sending them thank you notes, or possibly collecting items such as gloves, hats, scarves, and sending them to Israel to keep the chayalim warm during the winter? Or is the message being taught one of disdain?
The color green is used in the Torah to describe the vegetation that will sustain life. Why then does this color make certain members of our faith see red? Why couldn’t a certain chayal who is very close to my heart go safely in uniform to Meah Shearim to purchase a sefer so he could learn when he was off duty, and instead needed to be escorted by police to safety from a mob of “frum” Jews hissing and shooing him out like a stray cat?
To my dismay, shame, and shock, this is not an isolated incident. Why was it safer for him to be standing guard on Yom Haatzmaut near an Arab village, where they wished him “chag sameach”? Why when he went to meet a friend to learn in a very large yeshiva in Yerushalayim was he given funny looks and asked what he was doing? He had a gemara open in front of him; did they think he was knitting a sweater?
Whether or not one believes in the State of Israel, we are still being protected by the IDF. If the chayalim, especially the chiloni chayalim, could feel the admiration and appreciation, a little bit of hakarat hatov, that they so wholly deserve, it would work to close the gap of animosity and bring us closer together as a nation.
Balance needs to be reintroduced; it seems to have gotten lost. Hashem created this world with balance, and we must recognize and appreciate this gift. Hashem created the heaven and the earth, day and night, the sea and land, man and woman. Looking further, we have shamor and zachor for Shabbat. We are told we need yirat Hashem and ahavat Hashem. Likewise, we must teach our children to respect both our physical army and our spiritual army.
We are all the children of Hashem, and each of us is special and unique. If I may be so bold as to rephrase the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I long for the day when we are judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our clothing.
So, yes, Ms. Goldberg, baruch Hashem “Those Boys of Yours” were not causing the spectacle, but what can we do so people don’t even think to ask the question? We need to look for the good in each other and appreciate our diversity as a nation. Only when we treat each other with kindness and respect and realize that we each have something special to offer to our nation will we be zocheh to see the coming of Mashiach, soon in our days.