By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It is a point of fact that we in the Chareidi community do not readily like to admit. There are times in history when complete D’oraisah Mitzvos are entirely ignored. Here are three examples:
- In America in the 1940′s the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jewish women who lived here did not cover their hair.
- In the late 1980′s the overwhelming majority of Yeshivish orthodox Jews were not strictly observant of the prohibition of eating bugs in vegetables.
- And in Me’ah She’arim last week at about twelve in the afternoon, a large percentage of onlookers did not strictly observe four very important Torah mitzvos.
This third example is most egregious.
The newspaper reports about the incident are horrifying: “Following an in-home visit with one of his IDF soldiers, the platoon commander was surrounded by a group of dozens of ultra-Orthodox individuals who began threatening him and pelting him and his car with eggs, stones, bags of water and soiled diapers. His car sustained significant damage.
The officer also said that several female residents threatened to kill him if he did not leave immediately.
The commander’s mother, a resident of the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, claimed her son barely made it out of the neighborhood alive. She said, that her son told her,”they had murder in their eyes..” Nobody in the crowd tried to protect him… He escaped by the skin of his teeth.”
Let’s take it as a given that those who are attacking a fellow Jew are beyond the pale and are in violation of attempting to violate one of the aseres hadibros of lo sirtzach – do not murder.” Nonetheless, they must be reigned in and they must be reigned in now. We in the Chareidi community must stand up and not merely condemn this clear violation of Torah and humanity, but we must demand that we find the individuals involved in this travesty and fulfill the dictum of uviarta hara mikirbecha – removing the evil from our midst. It is not acceptable to allow such an attack to go unpunished.
But furthermore, just like all other aspects of Torah we must educate ourselves about some very basic Torah Mitzvos.
Lo Saamod Al Dam Rayacha
There is a negative Mitzvah of not standing idly by your brother’s blood as well. This is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch (CM 426:1) and in the Rambam. We have to explain situations where this might come up and give specific examples as well. We must do so in order to ensure that we do not stand idly by our brother’s blood.
Lo Suchal l’hisalaym
There is yet another negative commandment associated with the positive commandment of Hashavas Aveida, and that is the verse in Dvarim (22:3), “You cannot shut your eyes to it.” This verse comes directly after the Mitzvah of Hashavas Aveidah. The Netziv (HeEmek Sheailah) refers to this Mitzvah as well. We must teach this Mitzvah too in order to make sure that we are always ready to uphold it.
V’Chai Achicha Imach
The Sheiltos (Sheilta #37), based upon the Gemorah in Bava Metziah 62a, understands these words to indicate an obligation to save others with you. The Netziv in his He’Emek She’ailah understands it as a full-fledged obligation according to all opinions. He writes that he must exert every effort to save his friend’s life – until it becomes Pikuach Nefesh for himself.
V’Ahavta l’Rayacha Kamocha
The Ramban, Toras haAdam Shaar HaSakana (p42-43) understands the verse of “And love thy neighbor as yourself” as a directive to save him from danger as well. Although he discusses the issue of medical danger, it is clear that this is an example, and it would apply to danger from physical enemies as well. Even without the Ramban, however, it is clear that defending and protecting someone from danger is a fulfillment of this Mitzvah.
One might think that these Mitzvos are simple matters and do not need to be modelled or explained, but they do. The evidence here points to the great need. To say nothing of the massive Chilul Shaim Shamayim that has transpired here.
What we need here are two things:
The first is an unequivocal statement condemning this time of violence by the respected leaders of the Chareidi communities. Everyone has the right to express their halachic and political opinion as to what can undermine Klal Yisroel and what represents an existential threat to Torah and to Klal Yisroel. However, when that rhetoric causes some to exceed the boundaries of halacha and engage in what constitutes possible Shfichas Damim there is a responsibility to speak out. Specifically, and with the greatest of Kavod, the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Yoel, the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, the Toldos Aharon Rebbe, the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe, the Dushinsky Rebbe, and the Gavad Eidah and HaCharedis HaRav Weiss have all spoken out against Chareidim entering the IDF. But when the meshugayim begin interpreting this as a green light for shfichas damim there is a halachic obligation to speak out against this too. It should not just be relegated to the litvisha Gedolim of Klal Yisroel and to their papers to condemn it. They must do so themselves.
What we also need here some organization that will create literature that concentrates on these Mitzvos and upon educating the youth of the Chareidi communities including Meah She’arim with practical applications of these Mitzvos with both religious and irreligious people who differ from the way we may look. The Mosdos and the Rebbeim should be paid to implement these program, and there should be oversight to ensure that they are being taught.
These Mitzvos must be observed just as the Mitzvos of proper hair covering, and staying away from bugs must be observed. No one has the right to flaunt halacha and these are clear-cut halachic issues.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.