Torah Tidbits

30 August 2014 / 4 Elul 5774
Issue 1053
Shabbat Parshat Va’etchanan - Nachamu
July 18, 2013

Guest Article

Where is the Gratitude?

Rabbenu Bachya and the Sefer HaChinuch both state that expressing gratitude (Hakarat HaTov) is the essence and foundation of Judaism. If so, how do we explain the death threats sent to Charedi soldiers, serving in the IDF, warning them that an all out war will be fought against them, if these Charedi IDF soldiers do not abandon their military bases and discard their “tameh” (ritually defiled) uniforms.
These Charedi IDF soldiers who volunteered are spat upon and cursed if and when they wear their IDF uniforms to shul, or even in the streets of their Charedi neighborhoods.
Is this the proper way to express our
Hakarat HaTov to these IDF soldiers, who are “noseh b’ol im chaveiro” (sharing the burdens and troubles of
our fellow Jew)? Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Charedi Mirer Yeshiva in Jerusalem, referred to IDF soldiers, killed in battle, as “Harugei Lod” (the martyrs of Lod), whom the Talmud Bava Batra 10b, states that “No tzaddik can ever reach their level in Olam Haba.” He also wept and spoke every Yom Kippur about the need to empathize with the dangers that the IDF soldiers face on a daily basis.
Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshutz explains why Par’o exempted the Levites from bondage in Egypt. His astrologers foresaw that the savior of the Jews would come from the tribe of Levi. Thus, Par’o reasoned that if the Leviyim did not feel the pain of slavery, no member of that tribe would be capable of leading the Jewish People out of Egypt, because he could not identify with their suffering.
The greatness of Moshe Rabeinu was that despite being raised in Par’o's royal palace, far removed from the torture and slavery of the Jewish People, he still went out to his brothers and “saw their suffering”. Only when Moshe felt their pain, could he then lead the Jewish People out of Egypt. If so, how should we fulfill our Torah obligations of Hakarat HaTov and “noseh b’ol im chaveiro” with respect to the personal sacrifices of those who serve in the IDF? Is it by cursing or spitting at them?
The Vilna Gaon warned us to beware of false piety. He states, “A person, who appears religious and pious on the outside, but does not act with Derech Eretz, causes a great Chilul Hashem”. People, who assault, verbally abuse or degrade other people, including IDF soldiers, cannot be called Charedi. The severity of the sin of publicly humiliating someone, including IDF soldiers, is likened to murder, according to the Talmud Bava Metzia 58b, and the perpetrator has no share in the “World to Come”. Thus, people who dress as Charedi Jews and yet defy the Halacha’s standards of Derech Eretz and ethical behavior are not Charedi at all. 
There is an amazing Baal HaTurim on Vayikra 6:3. “The Kohen shall wear his uniform to remove the ash from the Altar.” The same word for uniform, “Mido”, is also used in reference to the soldiers of King David’s Army. The Baal HaTurim comments, “The priestly garments are like the uniform of the Israeli combat soldier.” Based on this Baal HaTurim, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt”l and the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l both said that the IDF uniform of today has the Kedushah of the Bigdei Kehuna (priestly garments).

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