call to stand for Kedusha
Where are our leaders?
In recent years we have witnessed increasingly bold and aggressive efforts to force sexual immorality and gender distortions into every area of society. It has become a religion of “can you top this”, with every push of the envelope being mindlessly praised and celebrated by self-proclaimed priests of new morality. Those who so much as question the propriety of any push of the envelope are demonized, bullied, and even threatened with prosecution or destruction.
Their symbol is the rainbow, which represents not “inclusion”, but God's wrath at the world for similar perversity thousands of years ago. Interesting choice of symbols! In Israel the verse proclaiming the commandment to love one's fellow is often superimposed on this rainbow, as if the Torah has nothing else to say on this or any other subject. Don't laugh – by the time you read this that might be prosecutable.
The only thing we can be certain of is that whatever push of the envelope made today's news will be passé tomorrow. They might not yet have dreamt up what “rights” they must fight for tomorrow, what privileges they must be granted without so much as a two-sided discussion, but surely they will think of something. It is the fight that really drives them, not any particular “right” that must be achieved. They will never stop finding a pretext to continue fighting.
While all this has been going on, our rabbis and God-fearing Jews have almost completely abandoned the arena. This is a travesty for which we will have to give a reckoning before the Heavenly Court. I am less afraid of backlash and controversy than being challenged by the Heavenly Court for not speaking up. My rabbinic colleagues should be as well, or they are in the wrong profession. Positions of leadership should not be staffed by followers, no matter how scholarly or pious they may be.
To rabbis and their followers who may find this mussar offensive enough to react to it, I ask one simple question: why does the previous paragraph offend you to the point of reacting, while gay parades through the streets of Israel do not? Why does criticism from an insignificant person like me raise your ire, but the foisting of perverse relationships and gender distortions into our society, media, schools, and legal system doesn't seem to bother you at all?
This is a movement with a far-reaching agenda, celebrating perverse behavior, encouraging it, aggressively seeking to change social norms, hijack the education system, persecute and prosecute all those who stand in their way. You have nothing to say about this? You don't believe this is your job and your responsibility?
If you believe that by ignoring these threats they will eventually go away, the opposite has proven to be true. If you believe that responding to those attacking Torah norms will grant them legitimacy, they have profited far more from your cowering silence. If you are worried about losing your job, I ask you to reconsider what your job actually is. If you are afraid that you will be prosecuted simply for speaking out, I assure you that you still have that privilege, for now. Your ability to speak out has already been eroded, and criminalizing the expression of Torah-true views is definitely on the agenda of those pushing the envelope. It will be much easier to maintain this privilege if you fight for it now than it will be to regain it when it is taken from you.
You also fail 100% of the times you choose not to try.
There is a precedent for rabbis abandoning their posts when hefkeirus movements gradually took over society. It did not turn out well.
I call attention to the following Midrash Rabbah from the introduction to Eicha, section 22. Reish Lakish derives from pesukim throughout the neviim that the rampant avoda zara which was the main reason for the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash was a movement that gradually took over the nation. At first some people worshiped avoda zara in secret, and no one objected. They proceeded to worship avoda zara behind the door, and no one objected. The avoda zara movement spread to the roofs, then the gardens, then the mountain tops, then the fields, then the intersections, then the public squares, then the cities, then the main streets, and ultimately into the Holy of Holies itself.
Every time the envelope was pushed further, there was an opportunity for the leaders and concerned citizens to protest, and each time they were silent. It is for this reason that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, our people were exiled, and we have been lamenting our fate ever since.
This idol worship "movement" bears more resemblance to the traditional-family-destruction movement than you might realize. Chazal teach us that the Jews knew full well that there was no substance to avoda zara, and they only desired it as a ploy to permit sexual immorality in public (Sanhedrin 64A). Indeed, avoda zara was often associated with redefining such behavior as a sacred act, much as today's "progressives" rename and reframe abhorrent acts to make them sound noble. There is nothing innovative about today's version of the movement; Koheleth teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun, and today's gender benders and family deconstructionists are no exceptions. This sort of thing has been going on since the earliest generations.
In the times of the Beit Hamikdash the leaders looked the other way as avoda zara spread throughout the land. When it was still considered a shameful act, they dismissed the practitioners as trivial outcasts, hardly a threat worth their attention. When it emerged from the closet, they still didn't bother addressing it. They had their shuls, their shtiebels, their Batei Midrash, shiurim to prepare and ceremonies to attend. When it became a full-fledged movement that gradually overtook society, they no longer dared protest. They huddled in their shuls, their shtiebels, and their Batei Midrash and convinced themselves that dealing with matters of national concern was not their job and not worth the consequences.
Before long the tables were turned, and those who dared object to avoda zara found themselves in the crosshairs of those who had taken over, and they suffered the consequences. Message sent to everyone else who might have a problem with it, and message received.
Not only was the Beit Hamikdash destroyed because of this, but also the 480 shuls in Jerusalem, each of which had a seminary (Midrash Eicha, introduction section 13). The rabbis who stayed silent and excused themselves from what went on in society lost their shuls and their positions anyway.
As the Midrash Eicha further writes (1:23): Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Abba and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yeshoshua...the gedolei Yisrael saw sins being committed and turned their faces away from it. Said Hashem to them, 'The time will come and I will do the same to you.'”
What a stinging rebuke that reverberates today!
With very few exceptions, the rabbis of our time have followed this erroneous course of inaction while this hefkeirus movement has spread throughout the land, growing more bold and insatiable as the voices of protest have become few and faint.
Shall we suffer the same fate again?
Thank God, there is great scholarship in our time. We have no shortage of rabbis who can expound on complex areas of halacha, perform religious functions, and advise us on how to observe mitzvos in extenuating times such as lockdowns. I do not mean to belittle any of that. But the call of the hour is to provide clear, unwavering messages of Torah-truth to a society that is confused and under siege by today's hefkeirus movement.
These messages can be delivered with compassion or with strong mussar, depending on the audience, but they must be delivered. They must be delivered both within local communities and in the larger public sphere. They must be delivered with conviction and determination in the face of those who will push back. God's holy truth is on our side; defending that truth and spreading it should be what is most important to us.
It is worth being proud of.
It is worth fighting for. If we are unwilling to fight for it, then the complex rabbinic expositions, religious functions, and halachic technicalities lose all meaning.
In the next article I will offer guidance in responding to the main challenges we often face from the media and the ambassadors of the hefkeirus movement. These challenges are hollow and easy to address. But first we must accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven, recognize the call of the hour, and summon the inspiration to proudly stand for the Torah in the face of those who assault it.
I call upon my rabbinic colleagues to rectify the sin of their predecessors and lead the way.