By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have been outraged by the Haredi attempt to rule Israel through violence and coercion. Israel is not Iran. People cannot and will not be forced into behaviors that they do not espouse. How could the Haredim, who are supposed to represent Torah values, resort to such behavior?
— Michael K.
I have been equally outraged by the events you describe. Perhaps I am enraged even more than you are, as I, and the many dignified and respected communities I identify with in Israel, have had our good reputation marred by the acts of a few uncontrollable hotheads who refuse to heed the words of their own leaders and have taken the “law” into their own angry hands.
Upon consultation with its rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America, the central organization representing Haredi Jews in America and the world, issued the following statement today, which I offer an excerpt:
“Reports of recent events in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh are deeply disturbing.
Violence of any sort, whether physical or verbal, by self-appointed “guardians” of modesty is reprehensible. Such conduct is beyond the bounds of decent, moral — Jewish! — behavior. We condemn these acts unconditionally.
Those who have taken pains to note that the small group of misguided individuals who have engaged in this conduct are not representative of the larger Haredi community are to be commended. It is disturbing, though, that some Israeli politicians and secularists have been less responsible, portraying the actions of a very few as indicative of the feelings of the many. Quite the contrary, the extremist element is odious to, and rejected by, the vast majority of Haredi Jews … ”
The above statement is representative of what is being expressed by Haredi rabbinical and political leaders in Israel and around the world.
We live in very dangerous times in which Israel is under political and physical attack by enemies throughout the world. When we attack each other we strengthen the hands of those who seek to attack us. I fervently pray that all Jews will live in harmony, which is the greatest protection of all. For God protects the Jews when we are as One.
I urge you to visit www.aish.com and click on the letter to the Beit Shemesh offenders which promotes the teaching of love, compassion and pleasantness in place of misguided violence, anger and coercion. That is the real Torah way.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.