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Angel's Advocate

Eytan Kobre

Because this is how’s it’s supposed to be always

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

I

 

T

he likelihood of ending up at a wedding where you don’t know a single soul is, it must be conceded, rather remote. True, my father a”h used to joke about what a down-and-out fellow ought to do with the last hundred bucks to his name: “Go out and buy himself a decent suit. Nowadays, with a chasunah smorgasbord somewhere around town every night of the week, at least he’ll never go hungry.” (True, too, that during those many meaning-laden minutes between the soup and the first dance — the guests’ contribution to the producing of a wedding album that might at some future family Chanukah party actually be taken out and leafed through — a tablemate has on occasion leaned in and popped the dreaded “So, whose side are you here from?” and I in turn have been sorely tempted to volley back with “the caterer.”)

But a bris is a different story. It generally takes place in shul following davening, increasing the chances of being in attendance with no apparent connection to the simchah. And that’s precisely the way it was Sunday morning when, following a Shabbos with family in Lakewood, I arrived at a local shul for Shacharis.

The telltale signs were there from the start: fathers arriving hurriedly with their bar-mitzvah age sons; a lone lady in the ezras nashim, placing it off-limits for me to don tallis and tefillin there; a larger than usual number of boys wearing talleisim, in accordance with minhag Ashkenaz. And then, with the sudden, alacritous arrival on the scene of the mohel, it suddenly became clear: In mere minutes, a new Jew, a little Yekke, would be ushered into the Covenant. 

Davening ended, but I lingered. The opportunity, however unexpected, to use the occasion of the bris kodesh to daven for good things, important things, isn’t one to lightly forgo. But it was this little one’s chasunah (see Nedarim 32a with Ran), so one must daven for him too, and in any event, it’s part of the nusach of the bris that all present say “k’sheim shenichnas labris, kein yikaneis l’Torah, l’chuppah, u’lmaasim tovim.” 

There I was among unfamiliar faces in the middle of Lakewood, davening for the hatzlachah — way into the distant future, to the chuppah and beyond — of a Jew I’d never before met and might not meet again. A Jew about whom I knew very little, except that he’s very little and probably very cute — a very little Yiddel, albeit with an impressive voice and healthy lungs.

It was an exhilarating and thoroughly unexpected moment of ahavas Yisrael. It felt good, not because there was anything in it for me but because this is how’s it’s supposed to be always, regarding every Jew of every size, and shape and creed too.

Just this Shabbos, while reading the biography of Rav Mottel Pogramansky ztz”l — an ish peleh, a rare and rarefied genius of mind and soul in pre- and post-war Europe — I came across this observation of his: To share in and feel along with another person in his time of sorrow is a beautiful act of humanity. But to rejoice, truly so, in his simchah? That takes a malach (but even a mortal can aspire to do so).

Even when we’d want to throw ourselves with abandon into someone else’s simchah, there are little things, human foibles and fables, which can get in the way. A gnawing drop of kin’ah, a tad of gaavah, a k’zayis of kavod, and before we know it, we’re unable to fully fuse with the baal simchah in his joy.

But today’s chassan, this newly minted Jew, little Chaim Mordechai, he’s such a clean neshamah that none of those darker feelings can even surface. One can’t help but partake fully in both his pain as he wails (hence no recitation of Shehasimchah b’meono) but also in this true simchah of his, with a heartfelt prayer on our lips.

With Eliyahu Malach Habris at his side, this boy makes everyone around him malachim for a moment. And once we know what’s that’s like, we can try to extend it further.

 

WHO’S MINDING THE COOP? According to an Israeli television news report, the State of Israel is getting ready to submit a demand for compensation from seven Arab countries and Iran totaling a reported $250 billion, a figure based on research by an international accounting firm, for property left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel. This follows the Palestinian Authority’s own past efforts to claim over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents who fled or were forced to leave at the time of Israel’s founding, for which it presented supporting documentation to the United States a decade ago.

A Times of Israel article quotes the coordinator of the effort, Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, as saying the “time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs.” The timing of the demand is apparently tied to the soon-to-be unveiled peace proposal and the resurgence of a 2010 law requiring that any peace deal must provide for such compensation. According to the television report, funds received from these countries would not be allocated to individual families, but would instead be distributed by the government through a special fund.

The objective seems just, but the question is whether it’s wise to put in charge the Israeli state whose hands in a related matter are suspiciously unclean. Gamliel is quoted as saying that “all the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.” The irony of her statement — given the state’s abysmal track record in its early days regarding crimes against its own citizens — is only compounded by the fact that Gamliel is the minister in charge of achieving “social equality.”

In 2016, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed MK Tzachi Hanegbi to reopen the three prior investigations that had largely exonerated Israeli government of guilt in the disappearance of possibly thousands of Yemenite infants. Amid decades-old charges of Yemenite-baby trafficking, Hanegbi’s investigation revealed evidence of medical experiments performed on these children, numerous deaths due to medical negligence, and dismemberment of their bodies following death for medical research. Based on his findings, Hanegbi admitted that, at a minimum, hundreds of children had been kidnapped from their parents. “They took the children and gave them away,” he said, “I don’t know where.”

And then there is the lengthy and painful history of anti-Sephardi discrimination by the government and broader Israeli Ashkenazic society. For decades, post-Zionist Sephardic academics have leveled searing criticism of Israel for its treatment of this populace.

But in an essay in Middle East Quarterly, Meyrav Wurmser, the neoconservative founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and a former Hudson Institute fellow, wrote that while the “post-Zionist Mizrahi radical rejection of Zionism and the Israeli state is the wrong medicine for the disease” because it opts “for a solution that is outside the Israeli political system,” she conceded that the

Mizrahi post-Zionist allegations about the systemic ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic discrimination that marked much of Israeli society in its early years are truthful. The claim that Mizrahim continue to live the consequences of this type of discrimination is not a distortion. The examples they point to are neither fabricated nor taken out of context. They represent a dark chapter in Israeli history that remains open even today.

Perhaps instead of the Israeli government being the sole arbiter of how any monies that might be recouped from Arab countries ought to be distributed, it should be looking at using its own money to pay reparations for the injustices perpetrated by its own hand, and should leave administration of Arab compensation to others, such as Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish communal organizations.

It’s bad policy when the fox, placed in charge of the chicken coop, is the one expected to make those chickens whole again.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 743. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com

 

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