Monday, April 30, 2007

Don't spit in a well you drink from.

Israel is the world's best father-in-law[*], providing houses, healthcare and handouts to tens of thousands of Haredi families. Without the largess of the state, Israel's Haredi communities would fail, Torah institutions would shutter, and the Haredim themselves would be thrown into a state of perilous insecurity.

As a general rule, dependence breeds resentment, and a fine example of a dependant community's resentment toward its benefactors was published this week in the Yated Ne'eman in the form of a long article congratulating Haredim on their dedication to Torah. It had this coda: "...the truth must be told: This blessed [spiritual] prosperity in the yeshiva world after the Holocaust of European Jews has nothing to do with the state and its authorities. It does not exist because of the state. It exists in spite of the state."

It exists in spite of the state? What is the origin of this delusion? Does the author think Haredim lived comfortably and successfully in pre-state Palestine? Or in pre-War Europe? Though our memory of those days has grown cloudy, the average European Jew lived with less security and less comfort than the average Israeli Haredi. He was poorer. He was weaker. He was sicker. He lived in almost constant danger of disease and of his non-Jewish neighbors. And, most significantly, he had much less time for significant learning.

In the temple, the menorah, with its Ner Tamid, or Eternal Light, represented wisdom or spiritual acheivment. Directly across from the menorah was the shulchan, or table, which was always set with showbreads. The word "Tamid" is used to describe both the light and the bread. The lesson, of course, is that the sustenance of the bread and the illumination of the lamp are mutually dependant.

One doesn't exist in spite of the other. One exists BECAUSE of the other.

[*] I don't mean to bore you with displays of hyper-caution, but I have an inchoate sense this phrase didn't originate with me.

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