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Clean up your community’s act first, before you lecture the rest of us

Knesset Member Rabbi Israel Eichler seen during a vote in the Knesset assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The expression “Holier than Thou” is a well-known pejorative that points to the fact that those who criticize are often guilty of the very same things to which they lecture the rest of us, but who, nonetheless, have a blind spot when it comes to their own indiscretions.

United Torah Judaism party member Yisrael Eichler definitely falls into that category. Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, on Sunday evening, expressed what Eichler claims were “words of ignorance” when he stated, “only in Israel has Jewish blood shed like water,” reminded the prime minister that “the Zionists and the partisans did not prevent a holocaust in Europe. The Germans were stopped on the way to occupying the Land of Israel by miracles and not because of the Zionists.”

While no one would argue with attributing the fact of Israel’s existence and preservation to being the work of divine intervention, it’s historically wrong and morally incorrect to give no credit to any fighters who unceasingly labored toward the establishment of the Jewish state, be they Zionist laborers or partisan soldiers.  

Who is equipped to say that God has not used His hand-chosen warriors, since the beginning of time, to accomplish His purposes? Yes, the Almighty gave the victory, but the great men of valor such as Gideon, David, and even one woman named Deborah, were no less important in the grand scheme of God’s eternal plan.  

Within Eichler’s scolding, it’s hard to ignore the very real sense of contempt for the efforts of earthly means, such as humans, in stopping their enemies, and it is that disdain which often comes through loud and clear from the religious ultra-Orthodox camp, towards those who, in their view, do not possess a sufficient amount of faith.

To shore up his point, Eichler makes the ridiculous claim that traitors among Jews, known as Judenrat during the time of the Holocaust, “collaborated with the Nazis and accused Zionist leaders of refusing to approve plans to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.” In other words, “Not only do we, the ultra-religious have contempt for Zionists, but even the traitors among our own people, felt the same way.”

It is this kind of “holier than thou” attitude that has, in large part, been responsible for the massive divide between the two camps which have been created, ever since our country was taken over by a government coalition comprised of extreme, religious ideologues, as well as those who don’t have the guts to challenge them. 

Eichler further goes on to point out that, ever since the Holocaust, Jews in the diaspora “have lived in relative peace and quiet,” as opposed to in the land of Israel where Jews have died in large numbers and where the nation is now in danger of annihilation. Apparently, it’s lost on him that a Jewish state where he, himself, lives, poses the greatest threat to the enemies of Israel, so where else would their efforts towards destruction be focused?  

Eichler seems to blame all of Israel’s past and present failings on sinful Israeli generals who not only erred in their handling of wars but who, today, are no more capable of protecting our country than they were back then. 

From there, he digresses to the High Court’s “dictatorship war,” connecting it, somehow, to global antisemitic accusations of apartheid and war crimes. But he reminds us that we have only to look to the “Torah followers” who, thanks to them, Israel still exists. Wait, I thought it was solely because of the Almighty, Himself?

Finally, he pivots to the annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine, where the faithful travel to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a renowned Hasidic leader, calling it “a significant spiritual event for many.”  

Simply put, these are the ravings of a man who has never worn an IDF soldier's uniform, risked his life in the battle for a Jewish homeland nor had any military tactical knowledge and appreciation. He represents the worst of hypocrisy because, as someone born and raised in the free land of Israel, he has reaped the benefits of the human protection, which he scorns, but has, nonetheless, been the beneficiary of throughout his lifetime. 

Yet, in Eichler's estimation, it is not worth crediting at all. This is only one aspect of his sanctimoniousness, because he fails to recognize that he is able to spout off his own “words of ignorance” thanks to the sacrifice of those who did put on that uniform!

It's curious, however, that in his desire to cast the first stone, by characterizing our generals as sinful incompetents, he fails to call out his own community’s sins. Pretty much everyone has heard about the corrupt and morally egregious practices that have taken place during these annual “pilgrimages” to Uman. 

Articles on arranged prostitution, wild parties and the like are not obscured and can be easily searched out on the internet. A couple of sites are provided by Haaretz and the Times of Israel.

Some refer to these events as “prayer and pleasure.” Despite Eichler knowing about such happenings, since all the rest of us do, it’s a bit odd that he doesn’t look, first, at the glaring indiscretions of his own Torah-observant community long enough to cast out the speck out of its own eye before attempting to remove the speck out of the Zionists’ eye.  

But that is the very nature of hypocrisy and the belief that wearing a long black coat, a black hat and growing sidelocks makes you spiritually superior to those who, instead, don a military uniform and carry a weapon meant to assure the safety of our citizens.

While it’s true that Netanyahu misspoke in his inartful way when expressing the amount of Jewish death in the homeland, as compared with other places in the world, Yisrael Eichler has no less misspoken when it comes to his utter disrespect for our military and those whose Zionist dream helped to create and build a Jewish country, one which he has been privileged to call home for 68 years. 

We, as Eichler, attribute all victories to God Almighty, but unlike Eichler, also to the brave men and women He used to accomplish them. We also recognize our shortcomings, failures and flaws as mere mortals, even those of us who claim to be people of faith, but it is never prudent to wag a finger and lecture someone else when your own house is not in order, and, as far as Eichler’s is concerned, he’s still got some hefty tidying up to do before he comes for the rest of us.

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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