Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Share in the Suffering of our Brethren

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Any foreigner visiting Eretz Yisroel in the past several months can see a distinct difference between how two parts of its population have reacted to the threatening security condition. Such an enormous difference would be more proper for two separate nations.

On one hand most of Israeli society lives with a feeling that life is going on as if nothing is happening. People continue flocking to places of entertainment and amusement. The newspapers, radio, and television carry on reporting about petty matters, about the outcome of the last basketball and soccer game and other "vital" sport news. It is as if they do not know that in less than an hour's ride away a bloody war is taking place in which people are daily being killed and wounded. You might think that no danger hovers above the head of every Jew who walks the streets of Israel.

The tension because of the deteriorating defense situation is not evident in the daily life of most people living in Israel. At the most, they make do with a sigh after hearing painful and alarming news, denounce our enemies lavishly, offer an abundance of "professional advice" for the army, and from time to time repeat the inevitable question: "What will be in the future?" Besides this, the dire state of affairs does not leave its impression on their way of life.

Actually they do not feel that they should act any differently. On the contrary, to some extent, entertainment serves them as a tranquilizer or a bottle of beer, allowing them to overlook their recurrent misfortune. "Let us eat and drink because tomorrow . . ." (Yeshaya 22:13).

On the other hand, if that same foreigner would visit a chareidi neighborhood, he would hear the Tehillim said fervently every day in the botei midrash. He would have noticed that on erev Rosh Chodesh Shvat tens of thousands of Jews called out to the Creator to save us from all our suffering.

If he would extend his visit also to the yeshivos he would hear mussar shmuessen urging the talmidim to do teshuvah, to refine their character traits, and to increase doing virtuous acts and chesed for others. He would also see that the yeshiva talmidim are seriously implementing what they have heard from their roshei yeshiva and mashgichim and have made concrete decisions to strengthen themselves in Torah, yiras Shomayim, middos tovos, and kindness to others.

This is exactly what I said before: We are like two separate people. In Eretz Yisroel lives a Torah Nation that concerns itself with the suffering of every Jew wherever he is. It fasts, intensifies Torah study, and entreats Hashem daily to send peace to His nation. But another nation also lives in Eretz Yisroel: A secular nation that remains swamped in vanities of life, in entertainment and amusement, and is blithely unconcerned about what has been occurring throughout the country.

Secular newspaper reporters have even recently written how gratified they are that "life is back to normal." Organizers of large cultural events claim that to show our peaceful intents to the world, all these events should take place despite the daily violence. One of them remarked that running a gaudy parade of entertainment and debauchery is a "profound declaration of the need to stop one moment from our insane dance. Music is built upon the idea of live and let live. Everyone is one nation, all are free--and one's nationality, culture and geographical location are insignificant." One column reporting about culture events explained "thunderous and joyful dancing and music are the real alternative because of their innate distance from a culture of war."

If you would ask all those happy-go-lucky people why they are not thinking about the Jews being killed and wounded, the hundreds of people continually frightened from shooting, bombs, and Molotov cocktails, while instead they are leading a carefree life, they would answer: "We cannot help them anyway. How could it help them if we stop enjoying ourselves? Won't the critical security condition anyway continue? We must therefore continue to live as usual - - life is back to normal.'"

But a Jew who believes in Hashem knows he can help his suffering brothers since the tefillos and Torah study of each Jew awakens the attribute of Divine chesed. Besides this, even someone who does not beg Hashem for them knows he must feel the suffering of others. This concept is totally unknown to our brothers who have strayed from Torah.

Chazal teach us how each Jew should act when the klal is suffering. "When the public is afflicted a person should not say I will go home, I will eat and drink and only worry about myself. A person should suffer together with others, as we find that Moshe Rabbenu suffered together with others, as is written: `But Moshe's hands were heavy and they took a stone and put it underneath him and he sat on it' (Shemos 17:12). Did Moshe not have even one pillow or mattress to sit on? Moshe, however, said: `Since Yisroel are suffering, I will also share in their suffering' " (Taanis 11a).

It is quite true that feeling uncomfortable will not at all improve the condition of the other person who is really suffering. Doing so is out of place as far as analytic reasoning and intellect are concerned. Cold logic analyzes each act from a material outlook strictly according to what benefit it induces. Genuine taking part in the suffering of others is, however, an ethical act emanating from one's inner self. Only in this way does a person really identify with the affliction of unfortunate people.

"It came to pass in those days, when Moshe was grown, that he went out to his brothers and looked on their burdens" (Shemos 2:11). What is the meaning of "He looked on their burdens"?

Did not anyone who was not blind see the suffering of bnei Yisroel? Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 1:27) teach us: "Both his eyes and heart joined in their suffering." The suffering of another Jew is not his own private problem. We are all "partners" in it. A Jew feels another Jew's misfortune. He is fully distressed with the other's bitter fate and fills his whole heart with deep concern for his fellow Jews. Chazal teach us that Moshe, "placed his shoulder underneath the burden of each one and said, `May I die instead of you.' "

Although as far as practical benefit is concerned it would not seem to help anyone if we fulfill "He looked on their burdens." This is, however, a time that each person is tested as to what degree he worries about others and how much he worries about himself. Rational arguments of "What will we gain from this," show a profound and internal alienation between those overindulging in the pleasures of life and those bitterly suffering. Only someone who does not feel the pain of others as his own asks such questions. It is impossible to explain to him the depths of this matter, and we cannot artificially imbue in him such a feeling that is after all a direct result of the general relationship he has with other Jews.

Life "cannot continue" on as normal when another Jew suffers. This is not demanded only from leaders. It is demanded from each Jew. When the public at large suffers, every Jew must join in their suffering.

The carefree living that continues full blast in secular society can serve as a lesson for each one of us, and not only for this period but for every time. "Anyone who suffers together with the public is zocheh to see the consolation of the public" (Taanis 11a).

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.