Disrupting Yom Kippur prayers
Disrupting Yom Kippur prayersEitan Ron, Flash90

The headline alone should send chills down the spine of every sentient Jew: “Left wing protestors disrupt Yom Kippur services.” It is hard to fathom a more lowly, despicable, and shameful act, save for the fact that what would be denounced as Jew hatred if it happened anywhere else in the world, here in Israel finds no shortage of media defenders and secular apologists. Free people can debate which group is more disgraceful and more hateful.

Yom Kippur, a divine gift that bestows upon all Jews forgiveness and is a day of national reconciliation, in Tel Aviv and elsewhere sadly turned into an orgy of Jewish Jew-hatred, but more accurately Jewish self-hatred of a scale heretofore unknown. Who could have imagined in their most dystopic nightmares that Jews would destroy mechitzot, prevent public prayer, shout crazed inanities at a cantor, a chazan, and interfere with and insult worshippers, and carry on like hooligans on such a holy day?

This is more than secularism; it is a hatred born of a contempt for Judaism, Torah and G-d. Can people do soul-searching if they do not believe in the existence of the soul?

When I heard about these sickening events, my first thoughts were: what parents raised these miscreants? What schools educated these boors? Both parents and educators should be embarrassed by these failures, just as the people of Israel were embarrassed before the entire world by this sorry display. This is the product of a particularly vile strain of anti-Jewish secular progressivism.

It is painfully obvious that these thugs are not just devoid of Jewish values; they are devoid of any values. Their fabricated fear of hadatah (“forced” religion) has stripped them even of common decency. Would that they would allow even little of the Torah’s light to penetrate their hardened shells; at least they would have some values.

The secular progressives rationalize this thuggery by claiming that they are defending their latest cause – a fierce opposition to sex segregation in public places, even when the participants want it and no one else is inconvenienced by it. In essence, Jews who came to pray and wanted the separation, mechitzah, were driven out by people who did not come to pray but only to cause trouble. The public square, to their thinking, cannot accommodate religious Jewish worship (of course, they had no objection when Muslims in Yaffo put up partitions to accommodate Muslim prayer during the Eid just three months ago, approved by the same municipality now horrified by prayer on Yom Kippur). To call them “hypocrites” is almost a compliment so far removed are they from any semblance of morality, decency, and mutual respect.

They claim to be defending democracy. But on January 2, 2020, the Daf Yomi Siyum at MetLife football stadium in New Jersey attracted over 90,000 people, and there was separate seating for men and women. American democracy somehow survived that great affront. How? It is known as tolerance, a lost virtue in modern life.

Laughably, they further claim that they were just enforcing the law, itself the product of a distorted and tendentious system. But civilians have no right to enforce any law; that is the province of the authorities. It is literally taking the law into your own hands. In any event, these secular progressive hooligans’ commitment to law and order is quite selective; they do not mind violating the law and blocking highways, trains, and airports when it suits them. Perhaps other Israelis who find themselves inconvenienced when roads are blocked and the police are passive, well, perhaps we should learn from them about self-enforcement of the law.

We take for granted that they have no interest in Israel as a Jewish state and only sporadically pay lip service to that notion. To be sure, their “Jewish” state is purely ethnic and as such anachronistic and obsolete. They reject the Torah which provides our only true claim to this land. They thus cannot justify why “ethnic” Jews have any other cogent or legitimate claim to the land of Israel, which would explain why they otherwise spend much of their time trying to dismember the land of Israel and surrendering it to the enemy.

But more pointedly, under the guise of “preserving democracy,” they are actively waging war against the idea of Israel as a democracy. It cannot be repeated enough that they are trampling on the core tenet of democracy: that the people have the right and authority to rule through majority vote as determined in free and fair elections. It seems indisputable that their support for democracy is conditioned on them being in the majority, which sounds like a hollow commitment to democratic principles.

They do not believe in Israel as a Jewish state. They do not believe in Israel as a democracy. They do not believe in the Torah. What do they believe in besides violence, brutality, mob rule, and anarchy?

Who would think that Jews could sink to such depths? Well, the Talmud (Pesachim 49b) realized this possibility long ago when it stated that “the hatred of an ignoramus (am haaretz) for a Torah scholar is greater than the hatred of a Gentile idolator for a Jew.” In our context, it means that the hatred of the Jew without Torah for those Jews who honor, respect, love, learn and observe the Torah exceeds the hatred of the worst of our persecutors towards us. (How sad that yesterday’s assaults on Jews at prayer recall the British and Arab destruction of the mechitzot at the Kotel in 1928, almost a century ago.)

Both hatreds are irrational, but the hatred of the wayward Jew is more intense as he or she is willfully rejecting something that is part of their birthright. They could have it but their fear of the Torah they do not know is profound. Ironically, two of the groups whose prayer services were disrupted yesterday – Rosh Yehudi and Tzohar – are among the most moderate, welcoming, and amicable religious movements in all of Israel. And they were attacked!

It would be wonderful if the rioters could reflect on how far they have fallen but, at this point, given their level of passion and irrationality they presently lack the capacity for self-reflection.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote (Orot Hateshuvah, Chapter 13) that a Jew cannot cleave to the yesod hale’umi, the national foundation of Israel, except by purifying his soul through repentance. What is our national foundation?

Rav Yaakov Filber commented that the “national foundation” of other nations is not based on ethics or a religious lifestyle. It is understandable then why the nations of the world would support a separation of religion and state in their own countries. The national bond is primarily historical and geographic; their national identity is unrelated to any moral aspirations. But the “national foundation” of Israel is conditioned upon the fulfillment of the Torah, and anyone who severs his connection to the faith of Israel sooner or later will be completely cut off from any national values. Such a person will be prone to intermarriage, and even the Jewish homeland itself will be expendable.

And now we see that such people will lack even a fundamental respect for Torah and the right of a Jew to worship as he or she sees fit. Inevitably those who are distant from Torah must hate the people who learn it and observe it and that is what we are seeing today, whatever pretext they concoct to rationalize their misconduct.

And with all that, these errant people are our brothers and sisters. We are bidden to love them and bring them closer to Torah. We cannot fight them as they fight us. We are constrained by the Torah and even by a functioning moral compass. What we can do – what we must do – is show resilience and courage moving forward. The most appropriate response is for the government to pass all the proposed judicial reforms as quickly as possible, including the Knesset override bill (require a vote of 67 Knesset members for any Supreme Court usurpation of Knesset legislation to be invalidated). A government that cannot do that – and cannot keep the public highways clear of demonstrators or protect Jews at prayer on Yom Kippur – has forfeited its right to lead.

Nothing cries out more the need for judicial reform than the Yom Kippur disgrace that was sanctioned by the legal establishment. Opponents will scream for a week and then life will go on and we can then rebuild Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

That is the short term. In the long term, it is vital for Israel’s future that the secular school system restore some meaningful Jewish content to its curriculum. A system that has reared people with such an intense hatred for Torah, mitzvot and religious Jews is an abject failure.

The Talmudic sages taught (Succah 27b) that “all of Israel is worthy of sitting in one Succah together.” We are all part of the same nation and the same faith, in which everyone has a share. We can all sit in one Succah – except, of course, if the secular progressive haters demolish it. We can only pray that we have hit rock bottom and can henceforth only grow in Torah, mitzvot and love of Israel. May the light of Torah permeate every Jewish heart!

Rav Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President of the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of the Chumash commentary “The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility” (Geffen).