Saturday, February 09, 2008

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Defending the Torah vs. Loving Your Fellow

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This past Shabbat I encountered a new phenomenon in my new religious community in Eretz Yisroel. Walking home from synagogue on Shabbos night, a police car cruised up along one of the side streets of the community. He clearly appeared to be on patrol.

I continued on my way with several of my children, walking to a main intersection that has a number of synagogues. There we encountered a small crowd of men and teenagers chatting after services prior to heading home to make kiddush and start the Shabbos meal. The police cruiser had completed his patrol up and down that long side street and now came down the main street...

Now, this is Israel, it's assumed that the police are Jewish. And, even if they're not, the community wants peace and quiet from weekday activities on Shabbos. They .. won't .. tolerate .. disturbances .. on .. Shabbos. They will _defend_ Shabbos.

So, as the police vehicle cruised slowly by, the young men jumped into the street shouting SHABBOS, SHABBOS !!!!, almost threatening to attack the vehicle. (But not doing so. There are some communities where they will attack vehicles that enter on Shabbos.)

Well, we all know that having somebody jump screaming in your face is the way to positively affect people about religion, right? After all, how could anyone not understand the joys and wonder of Shabbos by having 30 men in dark coats and hats jump screaming at their car?

They jumped into the street shouting SHABBOS, SHABBOS (all together, it was impressive and mildly scary). So I shouted also, AT THEM --> "AHAVAS YISROEL!!!" (Love of your Fellow!!!) Everyone paused and turned, what in the world was that??? They thought for a second, then another group, maybe 8 or so fellows just in front of me turned and shouted, at me, SHABBOS, SHABBOS!!!

So I shouted at them, AHAVAS YISROEL!!! Then the group in the street shouted again, SHABBOS, SHABBOS!!! So I shouted again, AHAVAS YISROEL!!! At that point they just kind of walked away stunned, heading home to their Shabbos meals, as did we.

The group in front of us continued along at about the same pace for about a block, then one of them, a youngster around 16, turned and somewhat tentatively said "Good Shabbos". I responded warmly, "Good Shabbos!", and headed on my way.

I wonder if they understood my message, the way of Aharon HaKohein, loving peace and pursuing peace. Also, simple intelligence says that the police aren't going to be wasting their time cruising the area if they don't have a concern. G-d forbid somebody needs them and they refuse to come due to concern for their own safety! (Of course, it is possible in Israel that some violently secular policeman did choose to cruise a religious neighborhood on Shabbos just to upset the residents. I prefer to look with a good eye, however.)

(Painting by Rabbi Elyah Succot, courtesy of A Simple Jew.)

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