Differentiating between Good and Bad

The sins and mistakes of the youth who oppose their parents and teachers, despise those studying in yeshiva or serving in the army, and believe that the Eretz Yisrael can be redeemed only by settling unauthorized areas of the Land * The behavior of 100 to 200 hilltop youth has reached violent and evil levels * The majority of hilltop youth are basically good people, and some are even exceedingly righteous * Our Sages on the need to rebuke children in order to educate them successfully * Allegations of torture should be checked by reliable individuals * The disobedient youth should be given the best possible integral care, in collaboration with their parents


Various questions arise following the arrest, investigation and indictment of the youth suspected of committing crimes of violence and murder. The most important question is how to prevent adolescents of good families from deteriorating into bad and destructive circles.


To speak about the suspicion of serious crimes is futile, because it could turn out the youth are not guilty, and hopefully, this will be the case. However, it is possible to address what wedo know. What is clear is that among the residents of the hilltop communities there are youth who publicly humiliate the Torah and the nation. They supposedly love the Land of Israel, but hate all those engaged in its’ settlement, and in protecting the residents who live there by virtue of the State of Israel. In abstract terms and in theory, they purportedly love the Jewish nation, but in practice, hate the Jews.


They think that the Land of Israel can be redeemed only by building in unauthorized areas of the country. Thus, they are at odds with all the righteous settlers who are engaged in the construction and expansion of the communities, and who, with their very bodies and souls, fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land), a commandment equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined, and save our nation from the terrible danger of the establishment of a terrorist state allied with hundreds of millions of murderers in Islamic countries.


They despise their peers studying Torah in yeshivas and those serving in the army who protect the people and the land. In their stupidity and arrogance, they think that on account of their wild behavior the Arabs surrounding them avoid attacking them, when in truth, without the deterrence of the I.D.F. and the Shabak, they wouldn’t be able to survive a single day.


They presume to ascend the hilltop, but God is not with them, because the Ark of God’s covenant and Moshe are in the camp with all of Israel (Numbers 14).


He who Shows Disrespect to His Father and Rabbi


Regarding a person who secretly humiliates his father and mother, the Torah says (Deuteronomy 27:16): “Cursed is he who shows disrespect for his father and mother”. How much more so is this the case regarding one who publicly humiliates his parent’s views and beliefs by way of his actions and statements.


Concerning a person who contends with his rabbis, Chazal said: “Whoever contends against the ruling of his teacher is as though he contended against the Shechinahand whoever quarrels with his teacher is as though he quarreled with the Shechinah” (Sanhedrin 110a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 242:2). And here, these individuals question, resent, quarrel and oppose our teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook ztz”l and all of his students who, in effect, are their parents and teachers.


Various Levels


Among the thousands of Jews living in the hilltop communities, there are various levels. The numbers are difficult to estimate, but perhaps one hundred to two hundred of them are can act violently and wickedly. They are liable to reach the point of murdering Arabs, or even a Jewish neighbor, as nearly happened in one of the hilltops in Gav Ha’Har (Samaria) as a result of an argument over the founding of an additional synagogue in a location where they can barely maintain a minyan on a regular basis.


And then there are several hundred who, out of stupidity, wind up scorning and hating Judaism’s holiest values, but in their hearts they also have respect and love for Torah and IDF soldiers. They are liable to curse soldiers, brazenly shout “traitor” at senior rabbis or distinguished government ministers, and throw stones at police at demonstrations or at Arab vehicles. When they enter a synagogue where a class is being given, they prefer to talk noisily and in close proximity about what’s “really important”, for example, about their “holy” quarrels, or about “divrei Torah” proving that the whole world is wrong, and they’re right. If there’s no one to talk to, they are likely to read one of Rebbe Nachman’s books out loud, or complete ‘shtiy’im mikra v’echad Targum’ from the previous week’s Torah portion. The main thing is to disturb the rabbi’s class, make sure everyone knows they have their own agenda, and that everything anyone else has to say besides themselves, is insignificant. When the congregation is praying the ‘Silent Prayer’, they read verses from ‘Psukei D’zimra‘ out loud. But in spite of all this, if told they are disturbing someone, in a calm moment they will usually be considerate, because, after all, they don’t act maliciously.


The majority of those living in the hilltop communities are fundamentally good people. True, many of them have difficulty fitting into a regular framework, but they have good hearts. Some of them are truly righteous people who genuinely love the Torah, the people, and the country, yearn to redeem the holy land with all their hearts, appreciate soldiers, and show respect for all people.


Defining Good and Evil


The basic foundation of education is the ethical distinction between good and bad. Therefore, it must be said that the attitudes and behavior of the violent hilltop youth are immoral.


Sometimes, out of compassion or a lack of knowledge, we tend not to pass judgement about misconduct and harmful views. It’s not pleasant to label a violent adolescent as brazen or evil, especially when he claims that he is a ‘tsaddik‘ and is sanctifying the name of God. However, the educational consequences caused by the lack of characterization are significant. True, in education there is no guaranteed path ensuring one hundred percent results, and even the best parents are liable to face the reality of wayward children. However, the defining of good and bad is the most efficient way of increasing the chances of educational success.


‘Whoever Spares the Rod Hates His Son’


We learn this from ‘Midrash Rabbah’ in the opening of the book of ‘Shemot’. Yaacov Avinu merited a “complete bed”, namely, all his sons continued in his path. Our Sages explained this was because he ‘reprimanded his sons’ i.e., he rebuked them.


“And these are the names of the Sons of Israel that came into Egypt with Yaakov, every man came with his household – There it is written (Proverbs 13:24): “He who spares the rod hates his son; but he who loves him disciplines him in his youth”… this comes to teach that anyone who refrains from disciplining his son, in the end, causes him to fall into evil ways and will hate him. This is what we have found with Yishmael; because his father Avraham had a fondness for him and did not rebuke him, consequently, Yishmael fell into evil ways, Avraham hated him, and sent him out of his house empty-handed… Similarly: ‘And Isaac loved Esau’ (Genesis 25:28), and as a result, Esau went astray because he was not rebuked… Likewise, because David did not rebuke or chastise his son Avshalom, he fell into evil ways, seeking to slay his father… as well as many other endless sorrows… and David also treated Adoniyah in a similar fashion, neither rebuking nor punishing him, and therefore he became corrupt.”


‘But He Who Loves Him Disciplines Him in His Youth’

The Midrash continues and teaches: “‘But he who loves him disciplines him in his youth’,this refers to the Holy One, blessed be He; because of His love for Israel He heaps upon them chastisements. You will find that the three precious gifts which God gave unto Israel were all given after much suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Life to Come...


“But a father who chastises his son causes the son to have additional love and honor for him…We find that Avraham reproached his son Yitzhak, taught him Torah, and guided his ways … (and as a result of this, Yitzhak followed in his ways), as it is written: ‘And these are the generations of Yitzhak the son of Avraham’ (Genesis 25:19), this comes to teach that he was like his father in all things – in wisdom, in beauty, in wealth, and in good deeds. Know, that Yitzhak was thirty-seven years old when his father bound him on the altar, and it is written: ‘And Avraham was old, well advanced in years’; nevertheless, he bound Yitzhak like a lamb without resistance, and as a result: ‘And Avraham gave all that he had unto Yitzhak’ (Genesis 25:5)… Likewise, Yitzhak reproached Yaacov, teaching him Torah and tormenting him in his studies … therefore, he merited receiving a blessing, and inherited the Land. And Yaacov reprimanded his sons as well, rebuking them and teaching them his ways, and they were all righteous, for indeed it is written: ‘And these are the names of the Sons of Israel that came into Egypt’ etc., equating them all to Yaacov, for all of them were righteous as he was.”


Is This Terrorism?


The ‘Duma affair’ stirred a public debate in Israel about whether Jews who murder Arabs are considered terrorists. The debate is primarily a formality, for indeed “regular” murder suspects are allowed to be interrogated just by means of relatively mild measures, whereas murder suspects who operate within the framework of terrorist organizations are allowed to be investigated using torture.


Leftists, whose faith and religion maintains there is no difference between Jews and Arabs, adamantly claim there is absolutely no difference between Jewish nationalist criminals and Arab terrorists. Truthfully though, comparing the two is like comparing a mosquito to an eagle. Conceivably, one could argue that a mosquito is essentially a tiny eagle, however, the differences between them are so immense that to make such a comparison is infuriating.


However, regarding the damage caused to the State of Israel, according to several high-ranking defense officials accountable for Israel’s security, the damage is substantial, and extremely severe. True, this stems from discriminatory attitudes of various countries towards Israel, but in reality, this is the situation. Consequently, they believe vigorous investigation of such actions is vital, so as to terminate them completely. Based on this, it was determined to consider their actions as acts of terrorism.


Seeing as claims were voiced that excessive torture was used against the detainees, there is room to clarify and assess these claims by way of lawyers and reliable public officials, so as not to allow Shabak investigators to err in over eagerness and seize the opportunity to asume excessive powers with the aim of harming an entire ideological sector of the public, by investigating people who are totally unrelated to these serious crimes. If it turns out that the legal advisers or interrogators violated the law, they must pay the full price.


How to Deal with the Wild Youth


An offender of the law who is caught must be punished, because the law is the law. Punishment is beneficial both for the criminal’s personal atonement, and also for the welfare of the public, for without law and order, people would swallow each other alive. When these violent hilltop youth regret their actions, ask for forgiveness, and seek a way to correct them, it would be appropriate to consider easing their penalties, as is customary in such cases. At that time, it would also be appropriate to include as an argument for lessening their penalty the tense situation these youth faced, while mentioning the names of their relatives and acquaintances who were killed in Arab terrorist attacks.


However, one must not adopt a hostile attitude towards the rest of the unruly youth. Indeed, we must condemn their bad behavior and immoral views, but at the same time, it is necessary to provide them the best possible care of educators and social workers, with their parents participating in the educational and rehabilitation process. Financial resources should be invested, and new building permits should be issued, all with the goal of reducing their frustration, and allowing them to atone for their actions, and find positive avenues to channel their energies in construction of houses, agricultural development, and recruitment into the army.


This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including all his books on halakha in Hebrew (and a few in English) from his highly acclaimed series ‘Peninei Halakha’, can be found at the Yeshiva Har Bracha websitehttp://en.yhb.org.il/

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