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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Where are the Pashkevil?

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Pashkevil are protest posters that are pasted on walls. They are particularly common in Jerusalem as a means of conveying directives to the public.

I had the privilege of living in Jerusalem. Everyday there are posters about a new threat or problem facing the Jewish community. Most recently there was pashkevil about the dangers of attending public concerts. (Jewish music performed by Orthodox men and children with separate seating). Before that there was pashkevil concerning the dangers of cell phones that have Internet access and before that there was pashkevil about the dangers of certain books that expose the community to foreign concepts.

I’m not commenting on any of the above - I’m simply asking where are the posters about aggressive driving that have cost the lives of so many this summer, or honesty in business, lashon hara or damaging someone else’s property, or making excessive noise ,thereby harming your neighbors quality of life?

The Chofetz Chaim in one of his Earth shattering letters wrote the following:

“I must speak out my heart about the manner of conflict taking place among the Jewish people. One camp publicizes its view in the newspapers with the signatures of all of its backers. The other side does the same. One of them wrote ‘the one with the most signatures wins’, and I say the one with the most signatures is creating unnecessary conflict in Israel. All of Israel is burning like a fire as each side places more and more ads condemning their opposition. Even the holy land of Israel is becoming a subject of controversy. I don’t know who permitted all of these terrible sins. Everyone is sure that he is saying the truth and it is the other opinion that is creating the argument. This is a grave error, because even if both are right, they have no right to violate the Torah. So many mitzvos are being violated. No good can possibly come out of this. Right or wrong, they are creating a chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name). Twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva died in one month, not because they argued, but because they argued improperly and caused a chilul Hashem. Certainly each one of these giants felt that he was right.”

We recently went through the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av and we learned that all of the suffering that the Jewish people have endured over the past 2000 years is a result of Sinaat Chinam or baseless hate.

We prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with the knowledge that no teshuvah, fasting or selichos will restore our relationship with G-d if we don’t first straighten out our affairs with our fellow man. (see Kaf HaChaim 606;3)

So where are the posters?

It seems to me that the true leader is the one that knows exactly where to put the emphasis and knows which battle is worth fighting.

Moshe Rabbeinu conveys the word of G-d to the People of Israel before they enter the Holy Land:
“When you go to war against your enemy, and you see horse and chariot, people who outnumber you; do not be afraid of them, for G-d, is with you” The officers will address the people as follows, “Whichever man has built a new house and did not inaugurate it as a dwelling, let him go and return home lest he die in battle and another man will inaugurate it.  And whichever man has planted a vineyard and did not redeem it[s fruit,] let him go and return home, lest he die in battle and another man redeem it. And whichever man has betrothed a woman and not married her, let him go and return home, lest he die in battle and another man marry her.” The officers will further address the people and say. “Whoever is afraid or faint hearted, let him go and return home, and let him not destroy the resolve of his brothers like his own resolve.” (Devorim 20; 1-6)

Rabbi Yose HaGalili explained that if a soldier is afraid for his life because he has sinned he should not go to battle. He should return home. This, of course, will be a terribly embarrassing moment for the soldier.
In order for the sinning soldier to save face, the Torah commands the officers to present a number of reasons as to why a soldier may be abandoning the battle. He may be leaving because of his new house, new wife or his new farm. This way no one will ever know that he is leaving the battle because he is sinner.

Whose feelings are we protecting? We are about to embark in a serious war for our land with a sophisticated enemy. Why are we worried about hurting the feelings of soldier who has sinned?!
The answer is simple. We can have guns, jets and generals, but if we forget about the simple feelings of even one who has sinned, we are playing right back into our downfalls in history.

Let the pashkevil read: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a.

This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by my friend Jeff Zucker, on the occasion of the seventh yartzeit of his beloved father Ross, Reuven ben Shaul, a"h.

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