They are Making a Grave Mistake
By Rabbi Menachem Bombach
November 12, 2016
During our thousands of years of exile, the secret to the magic of Judaism stemmed from one thing — differences of opinion. Jews first and foremost disagree. It is only due to this collective trait, that we have survived multiple challenges through the ages. Ironically, disputes and disagreements are what enabled us, even in the toughest of times, to retain our inner vigor and vivaciousness and to be absolutely clear as to the path we should take. Disagreement is the lifeblood of the Jewish people.
How is that possible? We never settled at disagreement alone. We always argued our positions, we put down on paper our diverse opinions and we strove to clarify them getting closer to the truth. For time immemorial, Jews argued amongst themselves about how they understand and interpret the Torah. It’s because of this that we today have merited such a wide network of beautiful and elaborate halakhic traditions and different commentaries and explanations of the Torah that broaden our intellect. Jews also argued with the ideas and cultures surrounding them. This is how our predecessors of the Middle Ages bequeathed us dozens of sefarim on Jewish philosophy and thought. One can also contend that the initial and painful struggle between the Hasidim and Mitnagdim caused each group to deepen and sharpen their own philosophy and find sources for many of their minhagim.
Last night, Jews resorted to violence and threats directed at my family and me for the sole reason that they disagree with my methods of education. Last night, at precisely 3:27AM, two Jews who were dressed as very religious looking Jews chose methods of intimidation and threats just because I serve Hashem in a slightly different way to them. I still do not know their identities and whether they were acting on behalf of someone else and therefore I can only address them in public:
First, I want to tell you – I deeply respect that you may think differently than me. I am constantly trying to navigate Hashem’s world and regularly thank Him for the great diversity that He bestowed upon us, for the landscape, for the wonderful world of nature and for all the different types of human beings and their many faces and diverse opinions. In addition, I am a firm believer that precisely to serve our Creator, we must each walk in the way in which our conscience guides us as this is the role for which we were destined.
Secondly, I urge you not to abandon your beliefs, but rather the opposite, allow them space and room for expression. I would more than welcome the opportunity to engage in a serious and substantive discussion on the topic of how best to educate our children – about the challenges facing the teachers of our forefather’s tradition, about the obstacles we all constantly encounter and the most successful ways to deal with them. On the contrary, I would be happy if you challenge me, to make me work harder to prove my ways, to try to elucidate them even more clearly.
Both my points above require me to tell you very pointedly that according to the way I understand our holy Torah, you are committing a grave mistake. Even if your intentions are for Heaven’s sake (l’shem shamayim), your actions are wrong and bad. I urge you to open up your eyes and pay attention to the fact that you are disgracing and embarrassing the name of God, are sinning when it comes to biblical mitzvoth between man and his fellow man, but more importantly, there is zero chance that by following this path, you will achieve your goals. Because even if every single morning I must wake up to my locks being glued shut or to puddles of tar thrown on my floor, I can only relate to these as tests that I am forced to pass in order fulfill my task in this world.
Even if I will not have the opportunity to carry out a debate for Heaven’s sake with those who think differently than me, I will continue to remember that the faces of the G-d fearing Haredi community to which I belong, are multifaceted and diverse and comprised of many, many different people. I will continue with even more resolve to expand the educational projects to which I dedicate my time and attention. I will do all in my power to realize our vision for our graduates to become talmidei chachamim, full of yirat shamayim and men of knowledge and intellect. I will charge my students wherever they are, to exhibit responsibility to all parts of the Haredi community, to identify with it and to contribute to it with all their might.
In conclusion, I owe thanks and blessings to all those who offered their support, encouragement and desire to strengthen the institutions of Torah and service of Hashem through their words, deeds and financial resources. Those circles of supporters, whose numbers grow daily, of quiet yet determined individuals who enable us to continue to adhere to the holy work of educating Jewish children. I know that we are all brothers. There is more that unites us than divides us. And I hope that there will come a day that we abandon the ways of brute force, fear mongering and intimidation to return to the tradition of our ancestors of using the power of disagreement and argument to help spread the word of Torah and make it great.
Rabbi Menachem Bombach, a graduate of the Gesher Leadership Institute and a member of its steering committee, is the Founder and Director of the “Hasidic Midarsha for Boys” in Beitar Illit. He is also a member of the faculty at the Mandel Program for Leadership Development in the Haredi community. He has an M.Ed. in Public Policy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.