In the comment thread to yesterday's post, Off The Derech took me to task (unfairly, IMHO) for excusing Lakewood residents for some particularly nasty letters that have come out of the community in the last week. While I thought I was being fair and even-handed there, I will admit to OTD that I do sometimes try to give people the benefit of the doubt, even if it's not entirely deserved.*
Last year, I posted about people in Jerusalem who throw stones at cars on Shabbos, or take extreme measures to enforce tznius rules and the like. I really wanted to believe that their hearts are in the right place and that it's only their actions that are misguided. I really did want to believe that. And so I posted that the people who engaged in these actions were causing far more harm than good. By throwing stones at cars on Shabbos, they weren't encouraging even one person to keep Shabbos -- on the contrary, they were further pushing people further away from Shmiras Shabbos.
A number of my commentators on that post made the point that the people involved in these activities aren't interested in kiruv, but rather in "reinforcing" their own position. I suppose, deep down, I knew they were right, despite my desire for it to be otherwise. And yet, perhaps naively, I held out hope that perhaps my commentators were wrong.
Well, at this point, I'm no longer willing to let myself be played the fool for them. I've read about the protests that have occured, sometimes violently, over the last two weeks in Jerusalem - and I'm convinced. Sad to say, I'm have to finally admit to myself that the people who are protesting Chillul Shabbos in Jerusalem, by and large, do not really care one whit about Shmiras Shabbos.
If they truly cared about Shmiras Shabbos, they would take the appropriate actions to see to it that Shabbos was kept by as many people as possible. If they truly cared whether or not people outside their own little community kept Shabbos, they would engage in outreach and show people who drive on Shabbos the beauty of Shabbos. If national Shmiras Shabbos was truly their goal they would try to make a *positive* example.
Instead, however, they are doing the opposite. By protesting in a violent manner, they are (knowingly, IMHO) pushing people further away from Shmiras Shabbos. By engaging in the destruction of property, they are telling unaffiliated people that those who keep Shabbos are hooligans -- and very few people want to join a gang of hooligans.
I'm a *very* patient person -- sometimes to a fault. I also try to give people the benefit of the dobut -- again, sometimes to a fault. But at this point, I feel that my patience has been stretched beyond it's limit. There comes a point when I have to believe that people are acting disingenuously -- when their stated goals are different than their true goals. At this point I can no longer believe that those who claim to care about Chillul Shabbos actually do so -- because they are ultimately causing more Chillul Shabbos by their actions.
I always believed (and still do) that our goal was to encourage observance of the mitzvos. I believe that HaShem wants us to bring people *to* His service, not push them away. Unless someone can logically show me that the protestors believe that their actions will cause non-observant Jews to become observant (and do so convincingly) I'm forced to conclude that furthering observance among the non-observant is not their goal.
If people truly cared about Shabbos, they would protest in the way that Rabbi Yosef Haim Zonnenfeld used to protest. One time he heard about a store that was opened on Shabbos. So, what did he do? Did he gather his students to throw rocks at the store window? Did he begin to act violently? Did he threaten the store owner? No. What he did was to grab a chair and head down to the store with a Tehillim. He sat at the entrance to the store and began to recite tehillim. Eventually, the store owner came to understand the importance of keeping the store closed on Shabbos. Rabbi Zonnenfeld knew the proper goal -- to get someone to willingly keep Shabbos -- and he chose the appropriate actions to accomplish that goal. At one time I believed that those were also the goals of the people who protest in Jerusalem -- but I no longer believe so.
It's taught in Judaism that there are three days of Judgement. There is Rosh HaShannah, when we are judged for our actions over the previous year. Then there is the day of death, when we are judged for our actions over the course of our lifetime. Then there is the final Day of Judgement. One can rightfully ask, what's the point of the final Day of Judgement? It's not as if the person did anything different between the time of his death and the final Day of Judgement. He didn't do any additional mitzvos nor did he commit any additional aveiros. So, what's the point of the judgement?
I heard an answer (and sadly, I don't remember whose answer it was) that on the final Day of Judgement, we aren't judged only for our actions, but for any effect our behavior had on history. A rebbe may only teach one generation of children, but if those children grow up and raise Torah-observant families and part of the reason is because of that rebbe, and further generations keep the Torah and observe the mitzvos because of the actions of that rebbe, then he gets the benefit of that in the final Day of Judgement.
Sad to say, but I believe that when the final Day of Judgement comes around, not only are the violent protestors going to be held accountable for their own actions, but also for the fact that they pushed people (and, potentially, their children, children's children and so on down the generations) away from Shabbos observance (and Torah observance in general). At some point, they *will* be held accountable for the Chillul Shabbos that they have caused and will be causing for years and generations.
* And, yes, OTD, that goes for everyone, not just frum people.