High tower heroism needed now
High tower heroism needed now
By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
Częstochowa or Chenstechov, as its Yidden called it, was a famous city in Poland that had a large and thriving Jewish kehillah that made up around 26% of its population. Incidentally, as a young yeshiva student one of my mentors was the previous Rov of that city, and he certainly embodied the elegance and sagacity of one holding such a title.
The city was more than just a mere dot on the map; it was famous for a particular landmark that rose higher than anything in the region. It was the monastery that housed the icons of what was the predominant religion in the country, and thousands flocked to it yearly. The centre piece of the building was a high tower from which much of what passed for spiritual and secular justice was meted out. For hundreds of years it seemed that all power in the area was held by the secretive and hidden monks and their superiors. When faced with any injustice local denizens would shrug their shoulders and sigh, “You can’t start up with the folks in the High Tower.” After all they held all the reigns in their hands and dealt with issues without anyone having recourse. For generations it was known that “the folks in the High Tower” were not to be tampered with; their every whim was law.
“Mosdos must hear the cry of the moment and act in the manner that our holy forbears taught.”
I sometimes wonder, are we not living with this very same dynamic? Ellul brings with it the beginning of a new zman in our mosdos, and tragically, without fail, my phone will ring with calls from parents who can’t get their children into a school. One Yied told me that his eight year old son insists on getting dressed in school uniform every day, even though he has no school to go to. These broken parents ask me what they can do, and I am ashamed to say I have no answers. The “folk in the high tower” have decided that these kids are not acceptable, for whatever reason that takes their fancy, and so, as far as they are concerned, they don’t deserve a Torah education. These parents are often bled dry, told to go for expensive assessments, only to find that they aren’t accepted anyway!
Allow me a momentary diversion. Anyone witnessing the world of politics today cannot but wonder what is happening both here in Britain and across the pond in my native America. Candidates for the highest office in the land, with seemingly no credentials, are coming from nowhere and gathering up steam, becoming very possibly the winners in the next elections. How did this come about? Many pundits are telling us that the support given to these out of the box candidates are actually not about them; instead people are voting for drastic change. They are sick and tired of the elite making decisions about their lives and not hearing or caring about what they in fact want or need. Sure, the candidates will make the right noises, but when it comes down to reality they are not trusted to care about “the little guy”. No, it’s about “the folks in the high tower” again. What they declare is what is good for the rest of us.
The Torah community isn’t one for insurrection; we are bound to our Daas Torah and will act accordingly. However, when the “folk in the high tower” take no notice of Daas Torah; when they won’t even answer the phone to local Rabbonim, well then things begin to simmer. This can’t be right: all these kids left in the streets, kids with no sin other than not ticking all the boxes as prescribed by the machers.
We recently learned in the Torah about the Eglah Arufa, a unique area of halocho that is replete with spiritual lessons. Briefly, if a dead body was found outside a city’s gates, the leadership of that city would have to bring a special korban and declare: “Our hands did not spill this blood.” In other words, they are declaring that we had nothing to do with this tragic death. It is astounding that this declaration had to be made by the city’s elders. Were they then suspected of having a hand in anything nefarious? Chazal explain that this proves that the leadership must take responsibility for such losses. You can’t sit on the top table and not care for those below.
Today we are witnessing a number of such “deaths”, at least in a spiritual sense; kids left outside the gates of our schools, not understanding why, nor being given any thought. There is no excuse; our hands are all stained by the shedding of these youngsters’ innocent blood.
I had the merit to witness a moment of sheer dedication for our children. The Pnei Menachem of Ger ztl was once visiting Brooklyn before he became Rebbe. He was in the Yeshiva Yagdil Torah for the Shalosh Seudos and afterwards went into the office of the founder of the Yeshiva, Reb Akiva Zilberberg ztl. The room was packed as the throngs wanted to share the final moments of Shabbos and havdalah with the tzaddik. I was there with my son who was then a mere child of three or four. In the tumult that occurred, as the many tried to get into the small room, my son let go of my hand and fell. He started to cry, Tatti! The Pnei Menachem called out, “Sha! A Yiddishe kind vient.” “Quiet! A Jewish child is crying.” The room fell silent, and the child was soon safely in his tatti’s care.
To those in the tower I say: Yiddisher kinder are crying. Do you think their tears will go uncomforted? Do we not believe that in Hashem’s realm there is no way these tears will go unattended?
It is time that the folk in the high towers be held accountable, now, in Ellul, before Rosh Hashonoh. It is not merely a quirk of the calendar that all this pain arises just as we start to blow the shofar. Hashem is giving us an opportunity to rectify what is so wrong, and to do it now at this most opportune time. Mosdos must hear the cry of the moment and act in the manner that our holy forbears taught.
Our communities have a noble reputation in the world of Chareidisha Yiddishkeit; we besmirch it with this callous behaviour.