Tuesday, April 05, 2005

R. Zekharia b. Avqulos Lives (Part Two)

My earlier posting about the crisis of Religious Zionism, reminded me that I hadn't finished discussing R. Zekharia b. Avqulos. As noted, most people know of him from the Qamtza/Bar Qamtza story in Gittin. However, there is another version of Q/BQ in Midrash Eikha Rabbah (Parsha 4 s.v. (3) ma'aseh). In that version, it turns out that R. Zekharia b. Avqulos was sitting at Qamtza's party and was a witness to the way Qamtza publically humiliated Bar Qamtza. The Midrash says that Bar Qamtza was deeply wounded by the serene way in which RZA and the others sat there and let Qamtza humiliate him when they could have protested the violation of the rabbinic injunction against humiliating another person. Hence, he decided to avenge himself on everyone.

I understand the Midrash to be conveying a very serious social message. Rabbis (and religious Jews, generally) are halakhically obligated to intervene to prevent others from being hurt; to object to verbal and physical abuse; and to take stands on social issues. If the Torah is reduced to ritual, it ceases to be the Torah (though the opposite is eqully true). The Qiddush HaShem that could be done if the RZ community were more involved in general social issues and more open about its Hesed activities, that Qiddush HaShem would go a long way to redeeming society, rejudaizing the country and really bringing the redemption closer.

1 comment:

Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

As to your two posts regarding the crisis of religious-Zionism. I agree with much of what you say. However, the chesed, etc that you say RZ's need to get involved in is being done in Israel. The RZ community is in the forefront of the leadership in local charities. Bnei Akiva has an entire network of snifim (branches) of which my son is a part - dedicated to Ehtiopian and other at risk Jews. The RZ community has volunteered to defend the country with the quality and quantity of its service. What we are lacking is two: Leadership that recognizes that there is life beyond Yesha and haredism: And a recognition that we have to also serve our own community .
The first fault has contributed to the rampant secularization in the country and the fundementalist-haredi mindset of the religious elite - the second has contributed to the neglect of our own education system.
Once again - it is the leaders who must follow the people.