By Rav Aryeh Zev Ginzberg
The world has always been divided into two categories, the doers and the non-doers: the minority who dedicate their days and nights for the community at large, and the majority who are content to just sit on the sidelines and be passive observers to all that goes on around them.
It is no different for K’lal Yisrael. There are a minority of Yidden who live for others, whether it’s delivery for Tomchei Shabbos, giving up their Shabbos and yom tov menuchah to go on Hatzalah calls, or even dedicating the little free time that they have to work for their shul or local yeshiva. This minority comprises, for the most part, passionate and concerned people who want to make a difference in the world during their few years that Hashem has awarded them with health, wealth, and the ability to do for others.
Then there are the majority of Yidden, who busy themselves with their own lives and the lives of those closest to them, and generally have no interest in the greater needs of the community. Maybe they are not indifferent, but they surely are not passionate about getting out there to help make changes for the general community.
This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just the way it has always been. Look at your shul, for example. For every hundred families, most often it’s five or ten that shoulder the bulk of the burden and expend great efforts to do what needs to get done, while the silent majority are content to be just that, silent. They don’t really feel too strongly one way or the other.
In the last few years, that has changed. With the introduction of blogs into the world-in particular the Torah world-we now have a new category of people. There are people who do care about the general community and are indeed passionate about their beliefs and feelings, but rather than becoming “doers,” they are satisfied to just become “bloggers.”
They hide behind the anonymity of the computer screen, where they can say what they want, how they want, and when they want, regardless of the consequences. Many of these bloggers are indeed passionate about what they believe in and what needs to be corrected, but many express themselves in a brutal and cruel fashion.
A case in point is the painful tragedy of the Sholom Rubashkin trial. Here is a man who has been for years a pillar of the community, a renowned ba’al chesed, and a son, husband, and father of a large family who is facing (Rachmanah litzlan) a life sentence. Here again, the doers in K’lal Yisrael (a small minority, as always) have come together to try to help him and his family in whatever way possible during this terrible ordeal. Then we have the silent majority who see but don’t want to be heard; it’s not their problem.
Now we have the new group of bloggers, who have spent valuable time with hundreds of blogs and comments on whether he deserves or doesn’t deserve this terrible fate. What has happened to us? Where is the Yiddishe compassion for a Jew, and for his wife and children? What makes one Jew spend his time attacking another Jew and judging him in the most brutal terms, all while hiding behind a computer screen?
In truth, often we are our own worst enemy. There is an observation by the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel that is extremely painful to read, but unfortunately has much truth to it. In Parashas Bo (Sh’mos 10:28) Pharaoh tells Moshe Rabbeinu, “for on the day that you see my countenance, you will die.” Explains the Targum Yonasan that Pharaoh threatened Moshe that if he would see him again, he would deliver him into the hands of Dasan and Aviram, who previously wanted to kill him.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita, in his sefer Ta’am V’daas, explains that we can see from this that it is worse to fall into the hands of an evil person in Yisrael than into the hands of a gentile, for in many instances the evil Jew bears more animosity towards his righteous brethren than does a gentile.
How frightening, how devastating-and, yes, how true. To read some of the comments on a blog (that have been sent to me) from Torah-orientated Jews who speak with such bitterness, hatred, and dismissal of so many wonderful people, organizations, and even, chas v’shalom, of gedolei Yisrael, almost always in an anonymous fashion, is to witness a frightening phenomenon in K’lal Yisrael that hasn’t existed before.
Do the bloggers think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t know how to tap into the world of blogs? Do any of the bloggers believe that lashon ha’ra against other Jews and organizations will go unpunished, and that in the world of cyberspace “leis din v’leis dayan” (there is no law and no judge)?
I read recently a great story about the rosh yeshiva of Sh’or Yoshuv, Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt’l. He was once sitting with a group of talmidim, during the Yom Kippur War, when someone made a disparaging remark about the soldiers, commenting that they didn’t keep the mitzvos. Rav Shlomo pounded upon the table and thundered his protest: “In Egypt we were at the 49th level of tumah, in the depth of impurity, and a mere seven weeks later we stood at Har Sinai. Be careful how you talk about a Yid!”
I wonder what the rosh yeshiva would say if he read some of the thoughts expressed in these anonymous blogs and the disparaging remarks made about Torah-orientated Jews by other Jews-often about gedolei Yisrael or leaders of the community who dedicate their days and nights on behalf of K’lal Yisrael. In truth, he probably wouldn’t say anything; he would just tear k’riyah.
While I have long been disturbed by this assault upon our Torah values by the infiltration of the “bloggers” in our community and the great harm that it has brought us, recently that concern has been significantly increased. I attended a simcha several days after returning from the Agudah convention on Thanksgiving weekend. I met an old friend, who is a leader in his field and a prominent philanthropist as well. Several years ago, I tried to convince him to join me at that year’s Agudah convention, where I felt his acumen and concern for the community at large would make him a perfect candidate to benefit from and provide guidance to the convention. He agreed to join, and only a last-minute family conflict forced him to cancel his reservation.
He asked me about this year’s convention, and with great enthusiasm I shared with him the highlights of what was a remarkable convention. Difficult and painful subjects were discussed publicly, and important solutions and ideas were presented and implemented. I told him how important it is for him to come and participate in these workshops and symposiums, as so much has been accomplished and can be accomplished as a result of these frank and open discussions.
He responded that he doesn’t need to participate, because he does so in a different venue. He described to me his “blog name” and how he feels liberated to say whatever he feels and thinks to an open forum, without anyone knowing its source. He then took the liberty to show me some of his blog comments over the last week.
I could not conceal my disappointment in both the choice of venue that he had made to express his thoughts and the great loss that the greater community has as a result of qualified people with so much to contribute, in word and in deed, having left the “world of doers” and entered into the “world of bloggers.” They accomplish nothing, but create a venue for others to vent their frustration and hatred towards the individual and/or the community at large.
The Agudah convention was a great kiddush Hashem. Hundreds of Yidden all joined together to hear from gedolei Yisrael, to talk openly of our problems and of our faults, and to discuss how to help solve these problems. Issues are discussed in open forums, where every person can voice his or her position and show concern for K’lal Yisrael. Each year, new ideas from those discussions are put forth and put into motion to make a real difference in the Torah world. Shuvu, Vaad l’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel, and, last year, the Emergency Parnossah Initiative are just a few of the wonderful organizations that had their conception at an Agudah convention.
And here this wonderful, bright, and dedicated and concerned Jew doesn’t feel motivated to become a “doer” like his father and grandfather before him, but is content on using these talents to become an anonymous blogger.
K’lal Yisrael has a myriad of problems, and we have enough non-doers. What we desperately need are more doers. One thing we definitely do not need is more bloggers in our community. May HaKadosh Baruch Hu protect us from ourselves.
The above article first appeared in the Five Towns Jewish Times, published by Mr. Larry Gordon.