I’m Charedi Too

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Emor 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

I’m Charedi too. Certainly I am. After all, what is a Charedi? A person who trembles [chared] at the word of G-d, who strives to keep the mitzvot, to learn Torah, to improve his character, to avoid evil and to do good. Surely we were all commanded about these things, and we are all called upon to fulfill them. That’s what is on the mind of every Charedi: to be G-d-fearing. Indeed, this is the ideal of us all, that we “desire to fear Your name” (Nechemiah 1:11). I didn’t say that I am already G-d-fearing, but I am amongst those “who DESIRE to fear G-d’s name”.
Obviously, there are a lot of types of Jews who fear G-d, or want to fear Him, or are trying sincerely to fear His name. Yet the common denominator of them all is: fear of G-d. And that common point is infinitely greater than all the elements that divide us. Indeed, it is very essential that all the various types of G-d-fearing people should recognize and feel that commonality. This will lead them all to cooperate. As it says in Pirkei Avot 6:6: “Bearing the yoke with one’s fellow Jew” is one of the forty-eight ways by which the Torah is acquired. One may not agree with one’s fellow Jew. One may even have some criticism for him. Yet we should still cooperate with him for the majestic common goal of undertaking the yoke of heaven.
One time a new student arrived at the Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, turned to him affectionately and said to him something along the following lines: “From now on you are a Charedi. From now on, you won’t be busy with hiking and going out to have fun at night, with work and hobbies. Henceforth you’ll be busy with Torah and mitzvoth. Henceforth you’re a Charedi!
What a wonderful world! This is a wonderful world that has sustained the Jewish People for thousands of years, and will continue to sustain them. This is a world that was built by the Men of the Great Assembly, who generated masses of Jews “who are set apart from the impurity of the nations of the lands” (Ezra 6; Nechemiah 10; Sefer Orot, page 110). And you can see the marvelous continuation to this very day of that same G-d-fearing, Charedi Jew. So much Torah! So much mitzvot! So much sterling character! So much familial contentment! So little divorce – and thank G-d for that.
Don’t expect to find anything else amongst those marvelous people. That isn’t their expertise. It’s not their mission. Don’t expect to find in them the rebirth of our nation in its land, in the Jewish State, and in the army. That isn’t their job. Each Jew has his own mission and task. Just as you won’t go looking for breakfast rolls in a hardware store. Among them, what you’ll look for is love and Torah and mitzvot, and that you will find.
Our master Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook warned in his famous Letter 378, published before the appearance of Orot Ha-Teshuva: “One must be careful to ensure that all the ideals of fortitude and valor, joy and rebirth, which claim so much relevance at present, not weaken our fear of G-d to the slightest degree. Quite the contrary, we need to have even more fear of G-d.”
Living together as a nation is infinitely more complicated than living as individuals. Thus, we have to have even more fear of G-d. G-d forbid that we should dispense with any of the fear of G-d of the Charedim. Quite the contrary, we ourselves have to be Charedim. We have to be more Charedi than the Charedim. We must build an additional level of marvelous piety. We need the piety of building the land, of the return to Zion, of the establishment of the State, and of Israel’s wars. Obviously, ours is not some new kind of piety, but an old type that was forgotten because of the Exile, and now it has to be reawakened, in accordance with Megillah 3a which refers to principles that were “forgotten and then reinstated”.
Yet all this is in accordance with that same fine, blessed piety that has existed for two thousand years. What, after all, is piety? It is the first levels of the book Mesillat Yesharim – avoiding all sin, alacrity to fulfill all mitzvot, being clean of the slightest hint of wrong-doing. All these are traits relevant to everyone. And the same applies to the higher levels: “purity” – acting with sincere intent; “separation” and “saintliness”, as we ascend further and further in holiness.
Fortunate is the person who trembles at G-d’s word. Fortunate is the person who fears G-d and walks in His pathways.