We write in anguish and frustration, responding to the images that we have seen, and the words that we have heard in recent days. We have heard the Kol Yaakov (voice of Jacob) used far too often to hurl accusations at wide swaths of people replete with extraordinarily inflammatory language and just Chayalim at the Kotel recently read reports of the negative branding of an entire group of Jews in a public venue. We have also witnessed the Yedei Esav (hands of Esau) used by Jews against soldiers who are laying down their lives to defend our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel.
It is impossible to state how damaging all of this is to the image of the frum Jew – indeed of our Holy Torah itself – in the eyes of countless millions of people, Jew and non-Jew alike. It is terrifying to observe this in the days before Tisha B’Av, as we prepare to cry before Hashem and ask Him to end the exile which exists because of baseless hatred. We recall the words of the Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, Dean of Volozyn Yeshiva) in his introduction to Bereishis. He describes a generation of “chassidim, tzadikim and amalei Torah (righteous and learned people),” who nonetheless were not viewed as acceptable to Hashem, because “they treated anyone whose ways were not to their liking, as suspect of …heresy, and through this came to bloodshed and to all the evils of the world.”
The pain in our hearts does not allow us to remain silent, and we ask others to speak out against this distortion of our holy Torah with no less zeal then they would for chilul (desecration of) Shabbos. We cry out, “Please! Enough!” Let all our words be uttered carefully and with precision, mindful of what they can mean to others. Keep in mind that many people – especially our impressionable children and teenagers – do not make subtle distinctions. When leaders of men utilize hateful imagery when speaking about others with different viewpoints, they are at the very least morally responsible for the violence someone commits as a result of such rhetoric.
Hate does not have an off button. Once children are taught to hate certain people, they wind up hating just about everyone. Including themselves.
There is a great Yiddish quote that comes to mind, “Chalukei De’os avadeh, uber Pirud Levavos keinmal nisht,” loosely, differences of opinion certainly, but personal enmity never! Let us also remember one of the thirteen midos of R’ Yisroel Salanter – to be mindful of the honor of all people, particularly the ones with whom we disagree.
Tonight and tomorrow we commemorate a tragedy that befell us all collectively and throughout our lengthy exile, our persecutors oppressed us equally and never seemed to care much about our differences.
Let us commemorate Tisha B’av together with unity of spirit and, and in that merit, may Hashem grant us our deepest wish – the rebuilding of our Beis Hamikdash when we can celebrate and serve Him together in love and friendship.
Yakov Horowitz, Monsey NY
Yitzchok Adlerstein, Los Angeles, CA