Rav Zvi Leshem INTRODUCTION As a baal tshuva, who grew up in a traditional although not Halachic family, the issue of how to relate to less or non-observant Jews, has been on my mind for many years, as it is a practical question. As I became a Jewish educator, with many students who were baalei-tshuva, it became apparent to me that this was not only a personal issue, but rather one which students needed to be taught in a systematic way, so that they could incorporate it into their own religious persona and world view. There are numerous practical Halachic issues, such as Shabbat and Kashrut observance in the parent’s home as well as issues such as yichud and negia when dealing with relatives, and a host more. But more primary is the question of hashkafa, what am I to think about my non-religious friends and relatives? What sort of relationships should I seek to build with them? How should I educate my children to relate to their own grandparents? How do I balance the natural healthy sense of familial love, with the concern that these relationships could perhaps even be detrimental to the religious nurturing that I wish to provide for my children! The questions are endless.In addition to the above, my life in Israel since 1979 has also caused me a lot of soul-searching about relations between the religious and secular populations. Issues such as religion in politics and the draft exemption for Yeshiva students cause an anti-religious backlash that troubles me greatly. For years I served in the army in a combat unit, where I was one of the only religious soldiers. The intense encounter of a “Yeshiva bachur” with the reality of Israeli secular life, perhaps at its least refined, was a great shock, but nonetheless the mesirut nefesh of those soldiers, combined with their being so turned off by their perception of Israeli religious life, was quite an eye-opener.This polarization became more extreme in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin z”l. Although various politicians attacked the religious and right wing population and manipulated the fact that the assassin was religious, nonetheless some soul-searching began in the religious community. In the years that have past, the national religious population has witnessed a significant trend of secularization among much of the youth, and the old lines seem to be breaking down. While this may be positive in terms of easing societal divisions, it is obviously negative from the strictly religious standpoint of bringing up children who continue to live largely according to their parent’s values. Of course the trend is still too new to give any final verdict, but has led to much confusion on the part of many. Another issue that affected me deeply was the process I went through with my own son. Always been somewhat rebellious religiously, he went to study in a small, and fairly open and creative Yeshiva high school. We were hopeful that he would thrive in this religiously unpressured environment, and very disappointed that he seemed to slip further away, and in our opinion, did not get the yachas he needed. In 12th grade, he was asked to leave the Yeshiva, due to religious incompatibility, and transferred to a secular high school. I was struck by the radical difference in approach between the two schools. Until that time I had been convinced that only the religious school system really had strong educational values. I was fairly sure that the secular schools, other than teaching the material for the matriculation exams, had little to offer their students. I received a very rude awakening! What a contrast! The Yeshiva, technically, and in my opinion morally, responsible for my son’s education and spiritual well-being, threw him out in 12th grade because he discussed his spiritual questions and doubts with his Rav (as we had always encouraged him to do). Of course there was a past history, but this was the “last straw”. And this in 12th grade, when due to the sensitivity of the year from an educational standpoint, it is forbidden to expel students. From our perspective, he was “thrown into the street” and left to fend for himself. The other half of the shock was the treatment he received at his new secular school. I should point out that this school was under absolutely no obligation to accept him. No high school wants to accept new students in 12th grade, especially not students who have had trouble in a previous school. Yet we found everyone at the new school to be extremely compassionate and helpful. He was accepted lovingly, and given much help and attention in the difficult new academic situation that he found himself in. As I compared his new (secular) teacher, a man with earrings, to his former rav with his kippa, zitzit and beard, I could only be much more impressed by his new teacher! The openness of the staff towards him and the energy they invested stood in dramatic contrast to the treatment the Yeshiva had meted out. All of this was further impetus for me to further question some of the attitudes that I had previously taken for granted. THE MITZVA OF TOCHACHA (REBUKE) Let me step back and address what I perceive to be the Tora’s attitude toward the non-observant. As an orthodox educator, the attitudes that I teach my students must be grounded in traditional sources in order to carry authority. I began to study the issue about fifteen years ago, also in response to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, a letter, which ended with the dramatic question, “Is such unjustified hatred really what religion is all about?” Bearing in mind the statement in the Gemara (Yoma 9b), that the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam and the Mishna Brura’s statement that our mourning today is primarily for the Second Temple’s destruction, I set out to clarify what was the Torah’s attitude to the non-observant. It seemed to me that the place to start would be with the mitzva of tochacha, rebuke. This was presumably how the Tora instructs us to react to the violation of Halachic norms, and would hopefully provide a framework for me to develop my attitude toward the secular community. In Leviticus 19:17 we read; “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart. Thou shall surely rebuke thy neighbor, and not bear a sin because of him”. This verse raises several questions; the greatest being, the purpose of the mitzva, which is not stated, and the nature of the sin mentioned at the end. The commentators raise several possibilities. According to Rashi, one must rebuke without causing public shame that being the sin referred to. The end of the verse teaches us how (or how not) to fulfill the mitzva. According to the Ibn Ezra, we must rebuke in order to clarify what has really happened in a situation where one appears to be deviating from Halacha. If I see someone driving on Shabbat, I may assume that this is wanton violation, and may come to hate my brother in my heart. The Tora therefore commands me to rebuke him thus giving him a chance to explain himself. This saves me from the sin of hatred, and that is the sin referred to at the end of the verse. The end of the verse teaches me why to rebuke, not how to rebuke, as in Rashi’s explanation. The Rambam, (Daot 6:7-8), is similar to Rashi that the sin involved is in the nature of the rebuke, but he goes a step further reminding us to use sensitivity, and avoid shaming even when engaged in private rebuke. However the Rambam also clearly states what is probably the most obvious rationale for the mitzva, to cause the sinner to repent and return to the good path; “If one observed that a person committed a sin or walks in a way that is not good, it is a duty to bring the errant one back to the right path and point out to him that he is wronging himself by his evil deeds, as it is said ‘thou shalt surely rebuke your neighbor.’” We learn two important points from this Rambam. The first is the utmost sensitivity needed for rebuking, as even causing private embarrassment is a grievous crime. The second is that the purpose of rebuke is to cause a desirable change in behavior. This latter point is crucial, for it can serve as a yardstick for determining how and when to apply the mitzva of rebuke. For example, if the yelling of “Shabbos” at someone driving on Shabbat could logically be assumed to be an act which would actually contribute to the driver’s disdain of Judaism, rather than bringing him closer, this would not be a valid application of the mitzva of rebuke. Additionally, this particular example might be prohibited as an act of public shaming.It is also clear from many sources that the very mitzva itself is fraught with problems. We will illustrate this point with a few examples. The Sfat Emet interprets the verse; “You shall surely rebuke. The rebuker must be part of the rebuke, and know that he has a part of the sin…don’t throw the whole sin upon the sinner. Rather involve yourself, and repent. Then your friend will also feel this and be aroused to repentance.” The Mai HaShiloach, (Behar), points out that in a situation where I feel that my rebuke will be ineffective, then what I should engage in is a process of limmud zchut, trying to find a justification for the sinner’s behavior. Rebbe Nachman (2:8) tells us that if the rebuker is not himself on the proper level, his rebuke will not be able to achieve the desired positive effect, but instead will cause spiritual harm! Lastly, Rav Kook, in Midot HaRaaya, offers a deep psychological insight, which can only serve to deter one who would rebuke lightly. “One must carefully analyze human nature when intending to rebuke someone so that they will change their behavior. Perhaps this behavior is actually preferable, despite its shortcomings, for these shortcomings are perhaps protecting this person from even worse behavior!” People tend to “compensate”, and unless I am very careful, I may actually cause more damage. A simplistic example: Someone chews gum constantly, and I finally get him or her to stop. They then go back to smoking, which is what the gum chewing was compensating for!The most important source on this point is actually quite ancient. The Gemara (Arachin 16b) states that in our day and age we have lost both the ability (art) of both giving and receiving rebuke. We no longer have the proper sensitivity is give rebuke in a way which will be effective, and we are no longer capable of hearing rebuke without immediately responding defensively and attacking back. We shall see later that this point has clear Halachic ramifications. Rav Hirsch, basing himself upon this Gemara, sees two prerequisites for rebuke to be an operative possibility. Firstly, it can only work within a community where there is a shared common value system. In other words, a rebuke to a Chinese person about why he doesn’t follow the customs of an Argentinean is completely meaningless. This point will be crucial as we study the possibility of rebuke between Dattiim and Chilonim. Secondly, the entire community must be truly committed to their shared values. Only when I am as willing to receive rebuke as to give it, can I hope that my neighbor will be receptive to my rebuke as well.Up until now, our discussion has been primarily theoretical. The next issue to address is the Halachic definition of a non-observant Jew today. Only by answering this crucial question will I be able to assess the applicability of rebuke as the operative directive for dealing with him. And if I determine that it is not applicable, how then does the Tora expect me to relate?
THE APPLICABILITY OF TOCHACHA TO THE CHILONI
The Rambam, in Hilchot Mamrim 3:3 after writing with great hostility towards heretics in general, and Karaites in particular, makes a distinction between the initial heretics, and their descendants: “When is this true? For a person who decided to deny the Oral Law…like Zadok and Beytus and their followers. But the children and grandchildren of these heretics, who were raised under the influence of the Karaites, they are to be likened to children who were kidnapped and raised by them (tinok shenishba), and they are not quick to grasp the ways of the Torah, and are acting under duress (ones)…It is proper to encourage them with words of peace so that they can repent and return to Tora.” In 16th century Egypt the Radbaz took exception to this and encouraged the continued battle against the Karaites, but this is perhaps due more to historical circumstances than to a philosophical or Halachic dispute. In any event, the Rambam’s revolutionary application of the concept of duress (ones), creating a category of societal, cultural, educational, and familial duress, had revolutionary Halachic consequences. No longer was the sinner to be judged as a wanton evildoer (mazid) with all of the penalties that this implied. He could now, despite his seeming free will, be viewed as acting under duress, (ones), and thus not an evil person, no longer subject to Halachic penalty, and even a candidate for love and peace! This position was applied later by other poskim in discussing the proper relationship with non-observant Jews. For example, the 20th century American posek Harav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin in a responsa about the permissibility of counting the non-observant in a minyan, wrote as follows: “In this generation, when the various reformers spread their web to catch every Jew, we must be careful not to push them away, and we view them as acting under duress (anusim).”One of the most explicit proofs for the exclusion of Chilonim from the mitzva of tochacha comes from the Chafetz Chayim. In his Biyur Halacha commentary to the Shulchan Oruch, laws of Yom Kippur (Oruch Chaim 608:2), he addresses the famous ruling of the Rema, that although we say that it is preferable not to rebuke someone who will not listen, this is not applicable in the case of an explicit Tora prohibition. Writes the Chafetz Chayim, “The decision of the Rema that one is required to protest against an explicit Biblical prohibition is only for an occasional transgression. But one who has thrown off the yoke, like a public Sabbath violator or a wanton Kashrut violator, is no longer considered ‘your brother’, and you need not rebuke him. Similarly in Tanya debe Eliyahu Raba; ‘you shall surely rebuke your brother, who loves you and is together with you in the mitzvot’.” In this passage we hear echoes of some sources we have discussed. The use of the term “amitecha” in the Tora expresses the idea of a community of common values, such as Rav Hirsch wrote regarding the prerequisites for Tochacha. If the goal of the mitzva is to generate proper behavior on the part of the sinner, that it makes no sense to rebuke someone who does not share your values. This would seem to be a clear proof that one should not yell “Shabbos” at a person driving on Shabbat. Not only is it counterproductive and perhaps a violation of the prohibition of public embarrassment, but also the mitzva is not even applicable in the first case!How then should we relate to those chilonim whose Halachic violation does not invite rebuke? A beautiful answer is found in the Tanya, chapter 32. “As for the Talmudic statement that one who sees his friend sinning should hate him…this applies to a companion in Tora and mitzvot, (amitecha), and having already rebuked him, and nevertheless he has not repented…But as for one who is not your friend…Hillel said, ‘Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creatures and drawing them near to the Tora; Even those who are removed from G-d’s Tora…one must attract them with strong cords of love, perchance one might succeed in drawing them near to the Tora and Divine service. Even if one fails, he has not lost the mitzva of neighborly love, (viahavta lirayecha kamocha). Even those who are close to him, and whom he has rebuked, yet they have not repented, while he is enjoined to hate them, he is also enjoined to love them…hatred because of the wickedness…and love on the account of the hidden good in them, which is the Divine spark…” The Tanya has a two-pronged approach. Rebuke is the mitzva you apply to those who are part of your community and share your values, but have strayed from the path. For those who are distant to begin with, there is a different mitzva obligation-love! Here we find the use of the word “rayecha”, “your friend” applied precisely to those Jews who do not observe the mitzvot. Lastly, all Jews deserve our love, we may hate their evil behavior, but we love them, for they have a hidden Divine spark. Implicit in this argument is an assumption, not dissimilar from that of the Rambam, that the Jew engaging in evil behavior may not in fact be evil. He may be acting under various negative influences, but this does not represent his essence, which is good. (This is similar to the famous statement of the Rambam that one may beat a man until he agrees to give his wife a get, and this is not considered duress, for inside he truly desires to do the right thing!)Similar sentiments are found not only Chassidic sources. The Meshech Chochma writes that after the sin of the Golden Calf, when all of the Jewish people descended to a lower spiritual level, it became forbidden to hate sinners. The great Halachic authority, the Chazon Ish, basing himself also on the statement in the Gemara Erachin that we no longer know how to properly rebuke, reaches the following conclusion; “You are not allowed to hate someone until after he doesn’t accept rebuke. It says in Ahavat Chesed that for this reason one must love the sinners…for since we don’t know how to rebuke, it is always before the rebuke, and we consider them to be acting under duress.”In all of the above sources, while we find a lot of love and care for the sinner, it is based on a charitable assumption that he is acting under duress, i.e. that his perceivable free will is in fact not free, for he is a tinok shenishba! This is problematic, for it seems to deny the autonomy of the chiloni to make decisions for himself, a position that might well be seen as patronizing and condescending. Furthermore, there is a clear assumption that the dati has the right and the good, and he is willing to bestow it upon the chiloni for his own good, another patronizing assumption. All in all attitudes like this do not make for good dialogue. A true revolution in perspective came only in the early twentieth century in the writings of Rav Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
FROM KIRUV TO EQUALITY:
THE RADICAL THEOLOGY OF RAV KOOK
In the early twentieth century Rav Kook was faced with a theological dilemma unheard of in earlier times. As he contemplated the Zionist revolution and the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael by the pioneers, he was forced to confront the fact that the process of settlement was being carried out largely by secular Zionists. Some were not only indifferent to Judaism, but openly proclaimed atheism and opposition to religion. In contrast, most of the rabbinic leadership was opposed to the Zionist enterprise, either due to their theology of Divine redemption or due to the predominantly secular nature of the project. For Rav Kook, this was more than just a question of the secular Zionists fulfilling the central mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, largely neglected by the religious. As part of Rav Kook’s Kabalistic outlook he viewed the return to Eretz Yisrael as a significant stage in the geula, the redemption. Paradoxically, those Jews who were either indifferent or hostile to Judaism were bringing the geula! They, while lacking in the fulfillment of many mitzvot, were willing to endure great hardship and privation, even risking their lives (mesirut nefesh) for the sake of building the land, more so than those Jews who were dedicated to Tora and mitzvot.In numerous passages Rav Kook deals with the questions of the estrangement of modern Jews from traditional Judaism, and the central role that the secular Zionist was playing in the redemptive process. The conclusions he reached, while to some extent predicated on ideas we have already seen, included radical new elements as well. In a letter (#138) to a rabbi whose son had become a Communist, he encouraged the father to maintain close ties with the son. He was to be viewed as acting under duress, not out of spite, and was in fact anus al pi zerem hazman (forced by the flow of time). In other words, historical and political processes could be so powerful as to constitute the Halachic category of ones, much in the same way that the Rambam had described the descendents of the Karaites. Rav Kook however goes much further than the Rambam. The boy in question had not been raised in a foreign culture; in fact he had grown up in a rabbinic home! This is a significant expansion of the concept of tinok shenishba (although Rav Kook does not use that phrase here), over that of the Rambam, making room even for those who would seem to have opted out of Judaism through their own free will! Rav Kook adds another point as well. The youth leaving Judaism for radical politics are in fact not evil. A high level of idealism and determination to aid the oppressed motivates them. While their solution is misguided, their strivings represent a positive dedication to important ideals. When they return to the fold, predicts the Rav, they will bring with them a very positive energy, and have much to contribute to the Jewish people.In Rav Kook’s eulogy for Theodore Herzl (Mispad b’Yerushalayim), the Rav alludes to the idea that Herzl may have been the Mashiach ben Yosef, that figure, portrayed in rabbinic literature as the forerunner of the Messiah, perfecting the physical nature of the Jewish people and paving the way for the Messiah to later perfect their spiritual nature. Here too, we find the Rav investing a completely secular Jew with great religious significance, possibly in a way that Herzl himself might have found comical or even objectionable!This same approach is carried even further in what is perhaps the most famous passage. In letter 555 (Igeret Takana), the Rav defended his close relations with the secular pioneers from an attack by the Chief Rabbi of Zfat, the Ridbaz. Here he gave his famous explanation to the rabbinic statement that the Messiah would appear riding upon a white donkey. The secular pioneers, by settling the land, thereby perfecting the physicality of Am Yisrael (completely neglected in 2000 years of the Galut), were paving the way for the Messiah to come and bring the ultimate spiritual perfection. They, with their involvement in the “chomer” (the physical), were in fact the chamur (donkey), upon which the Messiah was riding! Two things need to be emphasized here. Firstly, the crucial nature of the secular endeavor, as seen by the Rav, and secondly, his willingness to impute unconscious religious motivations to the avowedly secular. Those people who proclaimed that the Zionist enterprise was among other things, an open rebellion against Judaism, were unknowingly furthering the Divine plan!The implications of the above for the relationship between dati and chiloni are quite far reaching. No longer is the dati the one in possession of proper values, who must choose between Tochacha or love as a vehicle of rebuking or “being mekarev” the chiloni. A whole generation of secular Jews is infinitely superior to the dati community in the crucial tasks of settling the land and hastening the redemption! This is of course in no way implies that Rav Kook sanctioned the atheistic tendencies or non-Halachic behavior of the pioneers, but he did relate to them in a manner which was both non-judgmental of them as people and viewed aspects of the behavior as far superior to that of the dati who observed ritual mitzvot, but did not take part in the redemption of the land. While we are obligated to judge actions, we are enjoined from judging people. This idea, which essentially suggests a basic equality between the two camps, is clearly expressed in a passage from Arpalei Tohar:The soul of the sinners who are involved with Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael is more perfected than the souls of the believers who are less involved in the public good. But the spirit of those who fear HaShem and observe the Tora is much more perfect than that of the sinners. The perfection, which comes with the light of the Messiah, is that, the Jews will unite. Then the soul of the believers will be corrected by the influence of the good sinners, and the spirit of the sinners will be corrected by the influence of the believers. Then a great light will shine upon both, and complete repentance will come to the world. Then Am Yisrael will be ready for redemption.No longer is one camp right and the other wrong. Each side is superior in one aspect and deficient in the other. Each side must learn from the other. This position has been the focus of much speculation in recent years, i.e. would Rav Kook, if he were alive today, say the same thing. On the one hand it can be argued that today’s chiloni is far less idealistic than his pioneering predecessor. He seems to be more materialistic and consumer oriented. On the other hand, the continued willingness of the chiloni to risk his life by serving in the IDF is a sign of continued commitment to the Jewish people and their land.
THE NEED FOR A NEW MODEL
Whatever answer we give, one thing has become increasingly clear. The model for tolerance that we have been working with may no longer be relevant. One cannot hope for an open and serious dialogue with one whom you define as a tinok shenishba, for in doing so you negate that person’s autonomy and free will. Similarly, the imputing of subconscious religious motives to one who rejects them is also not a viable strategy for a healthy relationship. Rav Ronan Lubitz, in a recent issue of Daot has argued that the entire corpus of Halachic literature surveyed above may be completely irrelevant to today’s chiloni. In the pre-modern period, when the great majority of Jews lived in autonomous Jewish communities, in which almost everyone was observant, the decision not to observe the mitzvot was generally a sign of conscious rebellion against the Tora and against the community. It was often part of conversion to another religion, and involved some degree of leaving the fold of the Jewish people for another, often competing and hostile, community. None of this is relevant today, when the chiloni is part of the majority of the Jewish people, and whose decisions are generally based not upon a rebellion against Judaism or the Jewish people, but rather based upon modern notions of personal autonomy, and a belief system in which the mitzvot do not play a significant role. Lubitz argues that the entire Halachic and theological attempt to use the concept of tinok shenishba in one form or another, is not only unconvincing and somewhat offensive, but also completely unnecessary, as it does not really address the modern condition of the Jewish people. We need a new construct, which looks honestly at the secular community, accepts their definition of themselves, and enables meaningful dialogue based on mutual acceptance and partnership. This does not require relativism regarding their actions, as from a religious perspective the mitzvot are still completely binding, but an acceptance of the other on his/her terms without being judgmental, or without the use of constructs such as tinok shenishba to justify the relationship. On the other hand, the need for maintaining Halachic standards and the fear of “legitimizing” Halachic “deviation” still makes it difficult to overcome all barriers. As British Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks succinctly points out in One People?, there exists a catch 22 in the relationship between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox. The Orthodox, writes Sacks, cannot accept pluralism, which implies legitimacy, and instead offers inclusiveness, which does not. The non-Orthodox on the other hand, cannot accept the offer of inclusiveness, which by definition legitimates them but not their practices, and demands instead pluralism that would sanction their practice as well, a demand that Orthodoxy cannot accede to. Of course there are a variety of definitions to the concept of pluralism, ranging from what might be called inclusiveness or tolerance to those bordering upon relativism, but this is beyond the scope of our discussion. CONCLUSIONS On the personal level I see no impediment to a healthy relationship between a dati and a chiloni. My own best friend for the last thirty years attends a Reform synagogue and votes for the left-wing Meretz party. (This is not to imply that chiloni and Reform are identical). We have great respect for each other as people, are non-judgmental one towards the other, and tremendously enjoy spending time together. Our relationship is very open, and we confide in each other in a way that I, at least, am unable to do with most of my other good friends, with whom, on the surface, I have much more in common. On the societal level as well, great strides are being made. In the aftermath of the Rabin assassination, religious-secular dialogue received a new impetus. New organizations such as Tzav Pius and Du-Siach augmented veteran organizations working in the field, such as Gesher. More recently, Rav Yaacov Medan and Prof. Ruth Gavison co-authored a new proposal for the religious-secular “status-quo”, and the Amanant Kinneret document reaffirmed the partnership of both communities in Israel to continue partnership based upon the commitment to common values regarding the Jewish identity of the State and of Israeli society. The continued erosion of Shabbat observance in the workplace has brought secular Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin to the forefront of the fight to preserve Shabbat as s meaningful day of rest in Israel. Orthodox education, in addressing this issue, must take all of the above into account. It must seek an honest and open assessment of the situation and find a healthy balance regarding the delicate balance between religious humility and dedication to the mitzvot, “religious values” and Ahavat Yisrael, itself a paramount religious value!In educating our children and students we need the courage to be honest. In today’s open world people are faced with a myriad of options about how to live their lives, including whether or not to remain religious. We need to let go of the notion that our children are our property and that we can force them to be like us. Firstly it isn’t true. Secondly, a coercive religiosity may be bankrupt of any true religious significance. While it is scary, we need to be ready to tell the truth to our students about contemporary Jewish society. The price we pay if they discover that we have been dishonest is far greater.