Yesterday, I was listening to Rav Eliyahu Meirav’s interview with the Israeli media, and I felt very sad. For those who don’t already know, Rav Meirav’s stepson, Yosef Cohen, Hyd, was one of the two Nahal Chareidi soldiers gunned down at Givat Assaf, close to Bet El, last Thursday.
Rav Meirav was raised on the totally secular Shomer Hair Kibbutz of Bet Alfa, and was a fighter pilot in the IDF airforce. He made teshuva after the Yom Kippur war – along with so many others of that generation, who’d seen with their own eyes just how limited the army really was.
Rav Meirav met Rav Berland – and became one of his closest students.
If you read the secular press descriptions of Rav Meirav, you’ll notice that they kept stressing that he was part of the Breslov ‘sect’. That’s their way of using subtle language to keep dissing religious people anyway they can, and to sow division and hatred.
After Rav Meirav’s son was killed al Kiddush Hashem, all those ucky news sites with their agendas to sow hatred and strife between the Jewish people started running false stories about how Yosef had been ‘thrown out of his home’ for joining the army, and how his parents had ‘sat shiva’ for him even before he died.
Because hey, why miss any opportunity to put the boot in to the chareidi community, and especially the Breslov Chassidic ‘sect’?!
This led to the absolutely sickening spectacle of Rav Meirav and his wife having to give interviews to the press – before they’d even buried their son – refuting the lies that had been spread about their family.
I listened to Rav Meirav speak – about Yosef’s last words, about his own background and teshuva, and most of all about the need for us to stop all the awful hatred, and to come together as one people, respecting each other’s differences – and it really made me pause for thought.
The haters out there are on all sides of the equation.
They read Ha’aretz, they live in Tel Aviv, they hate any hint of yiddishkeit, and they use the media to paint awful pictures of frum Jews as ‘blood-sucking, medieval parasites’ at any opportunity. But that’s not the only place you’ll find them.
You’ll also find plenty of apparently ‘frum’ haters out there too.
‘Frum’ haters pour scorn on the Jews who don’t live in Israel and wait for big comets to smash into America and kill everyone. They hate people who want to convert to yiddishkeit, they hate people who don’t conform, they hate people who aren’t ‘frum’, or who aren’t ‘frum’ enough, or who are too ‘frum’, or not the right sort of ‘frum’.
‘Frum’ haters also hate people who don’t vaccinate….and they hate people who do vaccinate. They hate people who voted for Trump, and people who go to Uman for Rosh Hashana (or who don't go to Uman for Rosh Hashana); they hate people who don’t think exactly like them, and see the world exactly the way they do.
Every bit of the Jewish world is riddled with this disease of hating other Jews – including our bit.
And there is no segment of society that is doing better at loving our fellow Jews than any other.
We all have the problem and we all need to work on it.
One of the things that drew me to Breslov, and drew me to Rabbenu, is that in Rabbenu’s tent, everyone is welcome. When you go to Uman, you stop seeing people as ‘frum’ and ‘not frum’, or as part of your group or not part of your group.
You just see them as individuals, as Jews.
And some of those Jews are really nice, and really deep and really holy – however they may look externally. And some of those Jews are really not so easy to get on with, and have a number of obvious bad middot and issues – however they may look externally.
The yetzer works overtime to convince us that ‘our bit’ of the Jewish world is fine, the best, the shining example for the rest of Jewish society, while all the other bits are the ones with the problem.
But it’s not true! Not at all!
The problem comes down to this:
There are Jewish people who look for reasons to hate other Jews, and there are Jewish people who look for reasons to try to love them.
And both groups are scattered and embedded across all the different segments of Jewish society.
Sadly, our world being the morally-degenerate mess it currently is, it seems the people who hate the most are also the ones with the biggest mouths, and the biggest audiences, and the biggest following on Youtube.
The haters pop-up all over the place, to have a go at others, and to put the boot in, and to harp on about how great they are, and how great their group is – always at the expense of others.
I’ve had to learn the hard way, that this is not at all what God wants from us.
I’ve also had ‘hating’ tendencies that I’ve had to really work on, and to try to uproot, over the last few years. That process of teshuva taught me that the haters ‘hate’ because they actually don’t like themselves very much at all. And that they’re secretly jealous of other people, and it’s the envy that causes them to diss the other Jew, the other group, so loudly, so poisonously, so arrogantly.
Whatever the hater is criticizing so much in others, that ‘thing’ is somehow embedded in their own souls.
So, I listened to Rav Meirav talk, and I wondered ‘how can I do more, to get from hate to love’?
How can I do more, to make my house a ‘no-tolerance for sinat chinam’ zone?
I’m going to pray on it, and I’ll let you know what I come up with.
Because one thing is for sure:
Nothing is slowing up Moshiach more, or causing us more problems and heartache in our own lives, than hating other Jews.
UPDATE: You can see Rav Meirav giving over his message of unity in English, below:
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com