No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement?
Erev Yom KippurOctober 12, 2005
Erev Yom Kippur. There’s a flyer floating around titled, “No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement.” Someone wrote to me asking, ” I’m confused, I’m sitting in Jerusalem, and everywhere I go, people are talking about slichot, penitence, humility… and yet there are these messages saying Lo N’Shlach.. we won’t forgive — have we changed Jewish theology? Have we decided that we humans are to sit in the place of Dayan HaEmet (the Supreme Judge)? Where is the humility? Where is the ahavat chinam? Where is the whole idea of renewal and rebirth — for all Jews, in fact, I thought, for the whole world?”
My immediate answer, emailed back: ” It’s understandable that you’re confused. After all, you still have a home – a place to live. You’re not living out of a suitcase in a hotel, without anywhere to go. You (I hope) have a job, clothing, whatever you need to live. Today, in Israel, there are some 10,000 people that are missing all those things – they were tossed out of their homes like rag dolls -– and the personal aspect aside, our land was taken from us and handed over to the enemy – BY THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT US AND KEEP OUR LAND FOR US. How are we supposed to forgive and forget – Did you know that families in a hotel in Ashkelon had their water and electricity cut off 3 hours before Shabbat – what are they supposed to do? That’s part of it, in short.”
I’d like to expand a little on this subject. A couple of nights ago Rabbi Avraham Schreiber, the Rabbi of Kfar Darom in Gush Katif, spoke here in Hebron. His topic was, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Towards the end of his presentation he mentioned that there are those who ask, “well, did we win, or did we lose? Of course we cannot say that we won. Here I am, a genuine refugee, no home, no belongings, no clothing, living out of suitcases in a hotel – everyone thinks, wow, living in a hotel, what a life? Well, I can tell you, everyone is climbing the walls – the children don’t want any more ‘hotel food.’ No, we surely didn’t win. But there is no doubt that a tremendous spirit was born and revealed, and I am sure that we, that Am Yisrael, will return to Gush Katif. It is inevitable.”
What does this have to do forgiveness? Aside from their own intrinsic importance, these words are my introduction to a short story Rabbi Schreiber told. In order to clarify this account, a few minutes ago I had a phone conversation with Rabbi Yakov Savir, a resident of Elon Moreh in the Shomron. Rabbi Savir teaches at the Elon Moreh Yeshiva, Birchat Yosef and is father to nine children, the youngest of whom is a five month old girl.
During the expulsion of Kfar Darom, Rabbi Savir was one of the dozens standing atop the community synagogue, on the roof. His presence on the roof was a protest against the planned expulsion/destruction of Kfar Darom. He was, together with many others, arrested following the group’s voluntary exit from the roof. However, Rabbi Savir was charged with multiple crimes, including being the ‘ringleader’ and ‘organizer’ of the entire episode. He spent time in jail and was finally released, but placed under ‘house arrest’ in Elon Moreh. Not too long ago, another hearing was held and the prosecutor offered to allow him ‘community arrest,’ i.e., he could leave his home, but not the community. There were, however, several conditions. One was a deposit of 30,000 shekels bond, and two, that he was forbidden to ….. teach Torah at the Elon Moreh Birchat Yosef yeshiva. Why? Because he is dangerous to the public and such a danger must not be allowed to proliferate his thoughts and ideologies. Therefore, he may not teach Torah at his yeshiva.
Shades of the Romans! I remember decrees like this, two thousand years ago, when Jews were forbidden from teaching Torah to the masses. Shades of the British. I remember hearing from Rabbi Moshe Segal zt”l, who dared blow the Shofar at the Kotel, at the Western Wall, following Yom Kippur in 1931, despite the British ordinance forbidding such a criminal act. Shades of Ariel Sharon, whose ruling junta permits such atrocities, as forbidding a Rabbi to…. teach Torah?!
Only a government which expels Jews from their homes could stand behind such a wicked decree.
By the way, according to Rabbi Savir, the case against him is virtual and has no place in reality. The trial keeps getting put off and as of yet, no judge has been appointed to hear the case. They have a fat file, with absolutely no evidence, pictures, witnesses, or anything else. What’s important: Rabbi Ya’akov Savir, a dangerous element to Israeli society, may not teach Torah in his yeshiva.
Story number two – short, not sweet, and overwhelmingly sad. Yesterday night a beeper message popped up on my screen. I am quoting it, as it came in. “An additional sacrifice of the Akeda (sacrifice of Yitzhak): Yehezkel Hazani, 52 years old, a resident of Netzer Hazani for 25 years, who was as healthy as could be, collapsed and died suddenly tonight, at the Netivot shuk. He leaves a wife and six children.
He had been, together with other Netzer Hazani refugees, living for the past two months at the Hispin community in the Golan. Today, he went south to attend an army ceremony which included his son. He was one of the pillars of the moshav, a farmer, who lost all everything as a result of the expulsion, and was transformed into ‘unemployed.’
The Netzer Hazani community will pray this Yom Kippur that Yehezkel Hazani’s blood be registered to the debts of the Shichmim Ranch (the Sycamore ranch – Sharon’s home), in addition to the expulsion.”
Yehezkel Hazani was buried at 10:30 last night in Rishon l’Tzion. May be memory be blessed.
During a recent class with Rabbi Dov Lior, a question was posed: If a soldier or policeman who participated in the expulsion requests forgiveness from those he expelled, must his regrets be accepted. Rabbi Lior’s response was positive, if the regret is genuine. This is the way of Torah. However, Torah demands that a request for forgiveness not only be based upon regret at that past. It is also dependant on ‘acceptance in the future.’ In other words, anyone who was, in any way, shape or form, a part of the expulsion machine headed by Sharon, Mufaz and cronies, who has any pangs of guilty conscience, must not only say “I’m sorry” and request ‘forgiveness.’ They must also say, loud and clear, that they will never, ever again participate in such an event again, irregardless of orders, job demands, or anything else. Anyone who cannot or will not agree to this condition need not be forgiven.
In all honesty, I’ve heard of soldiers who are ‘sorry’ but haven’t heard of too many who’ve promised ‘not to do it again.’ And G-d forbid, if the present prime minister remains in office, those orders will undoubtedly be issued again, and again, and again, G-d forbid.
When I look back, reflecting on what was and what wasn’t, I have a feeling, way down deep inside, that tomorrow, we all have to ask forgiveness, pardon and atonement, even those of us here in Hebron, and many others like us, who worked very hard to try and prevent the catastrophe. Why? Because, in the end, we didn’t do enough, one way or another. Perhaps we didn’t work together, the way we should have. Perhaps our decisions were wrong, strategically and tactically, maybe we didn’t pray enough, I don’t know. But I do know that if we had done enough, the expulsion wouldn’t have occurred and Gush Katif and the northern Shomron would still contain Jewish homes, not ruins. Gush Katif would still be in Jewish, Israeli hands, and their synagogues would not be desecrated, filled with Arab-Moslem filth.
Forgiveness must be requested from all of those we let down, some 10,000 homeless, evicted from their homes, jobs and lives. We must ask selicha from Eretz Yisrael, our holy homeland, which had limbs torn from it. Picture your arms or legs being ripped off, without anesthetic. That’s what happened to our Eretz Yisrael. And we must ask atonement from G-d, for letting it happen. For not being awake enough, for not being wise enough to see the light early enough to stop it, period.
And we must accept upon ourselves, that we will do anything and everything, to never ever let it happen again.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you did do everything you could. Well, I can only speak for myself, pleading and hoping that the words “No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement don’t apply to me too.
Gmar Hatima Tova.
With blessings from Hebron.