Chukas: Connecting with your Flock

My wife was speaking to a friend of hers about the recent "shockwave" caused by Roe v. Wade being overturned.  My wife, while certainly not pro-choice, was pointing out some of the negative outcomes that will result from it.  Her friend was adamant that abortion was wrong under all circumstances, with the exception of the mother's life, and if there are issues, it's not our problem.  My wife, in turn, pointed out a source in the Torah which would hint otherwise.  A few hours later, her friend called back and said, "After speaking to my husband about this, I see that I have a very Christian view on abortion …"

It was disturbing to hear some of the celebrations that some in the frum world were making in the United States.  For me, from my little understanding, the Constitution does not protect abortion, and until Congress enacts a law, the federal government has no right to protect abortion-rights throughout the country.  So, for me, it's a matter of legality, not morality (I could be wrong on that, but I'm no legal scholar).  On the State-level or if Congress ever decides to do something about it, THEN it becomes a moral question.  But even so, from a halachic stance, the issue of abortion is NOT so simple and black and white as people think it is.

It scares me more and more what's going on in the States.  It's known that reform Judaism is simply the Democratic Party, but "Jewishsized."  However, over the years, many in the frum world are simply taking the Republican Party and "Jewishsizing" it as well.  The Torah view on abortion is not clear-cut and is a big question that if, G-d forbid, somebody might need it, they don't go to some local rabbi, they go to much bigger Torah scholars.  If anything, it could be argued that it's better for a frum person to have easy access to abortion then to live in a place where they have extremely strict rules, because the Torah might view abortion more liberally than Christians and some in the Republican party do.

Again, I'm not taking sides on this issue, it's not for people like you and I to decide.  And if you want to have arguments about the whether the Constitution protects such things, fine.  No problem.  But those are just legal arguments.  However, I'm a bit worried that some might be replacing parts of Torah with politics, and Jewish history is very clear on what happens when we do that…

"Listen you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?" (Bamidbar 20: 10).

This week's parsha contains the famous incident where the nation ran out of water, the people complained to Moshe, Hashem told Moshe to speak to the rock to obtain water, Moshe hits the rock and is punished by not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel.

There is an argument amongst the commentators on exactly what Moshe did wrong to deserve such a harsh punishment.  Some of which we covered in previous years.

The Ohr HaChaim writes that Moshe was punished for the harsh language he used when confronting the nation, calling them "rebels."

From this we learn the importance of how we speak to people when they need reproach.  Hitting hard tends not to bring people closer to your point of view.  Speaking with patience and respect, however, might just do so.

I'm familiar with a certain shul here in Israel.  When I first came to it, I saw that the rav was trying to strengthen his congregation in certain areas where they were being lax.  His language was a bit tough, but nothing too tough, and he was correct in what he was saying.  However, over time, I saw that nobody changed, nor did anybody really care for what he was saying.  I couldn't understand such a mentality.  After all, what he said was true!

After more time, I began to realize what was going on.  The rav was the rav.  How he became the rav, I don't know, however, it was clear that the rav had no real connection with his congregation, and in turn, his congregation had no real connection to him.  As one person told me, "He's less of a spiritual leader and more of a shul manager."

Since the rav could not "bring himself down" to make an emotional connection with the individuals in the shul, they in turn could not bring themselves "up" to listen to his words.  In the end, he became more distanced from them and they … continued to do what they wanted.

It's a sad story, really.  Had the rav shown that he cared for each individual, he could have made a real positive change in his community.  Instead, he remained "above it all" and affected nobody (at least for the positive).

This story is obviously applicable to everybody on their own level, whether as a teacher, parent, or friend.  If you want to help a person in their life, the only way they will accept your advice is if they know that you actually do care about them.  When they sense that you are simply angry about something, or you have a desire to correct them, so you feel good about yourself, in the end, they will not listen to you and your status in their eyes will only drop.

Hopefully, with this lesson, we can be better teachers, parents, and friends to others.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!