5 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bo
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Civil Unrest in America    

Civil Unrest in America

As riots and demonstrations rock America which has already been hard hit by Corona, everyone is asking: What is going on?


Following the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by police officers on May 25, 2020, riots, looting and civil unrest has rocked the US for more than a week now. There have been demonstrations in 140 cities across the US, with more than 25 of those cities also experiencing damage and looting, and millions of residents around the country under curfew every night. As of this writing, the National Guard has been deployed in 24 states and 1,600 army troops have been deployed in the greater Washington DC area. Besides being possibly the most costly riots to rock America (too early to call it yet but it seems to be on par with the Rodney King riots), they are the only riots that have ever spanned more than a single area. 

In Los Angeles, many Jewish businesses and four synagogues were looted and defaced. As you can see by picture, the comments clearly have nothing whatsoever to do with the racial wars in America. PLO flags were also flown along one of the biggest streets spanning the Jewish community. But as often happens, Jews are always specifically targeted when other things are going on, using the civil strife as an opportunity to reveal the underlying anti-Semitism. 


In New York, thousands of Jewish stores have reportedly been vandalized as well. That doesn’t surprise me much, since so many Jewish communities are located right next to African-American communities. That being said, clearly Hashem is trying to send a serious warning to the Jews of NYC. First, it was the hardest hit city in the US by far with Corona, and now it is suffering rioting, looting and public demonstrations.  


What are we to take from this?  


First off, this is clearly a repeat of the exact same lesson that Rabbi Arush has repeatedly made about Corona – we must honor every single human being. We just came out of the mourning period for Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who didn’t honor each other properly according to their high level of righteousness.  


Rabbi Arush discusses in The Garden of Emuna that people have a natural tendency to be cruel to others. Although this manifests itself any time that someone has power over someone else, for most people, the circle of people that are affected by this cruelty is relatively small and restricted to close family members etc. However, for people in positions of authority such as managers, government authorities and police officers – recognizing this innate trait and actively working to nullify it and act out of mercy and compassion instead is of utmost importance because so many people are directly impacted by their decisions.  


Rabbi Arush says that if everyone had emuna, the world would be a beautiful place to live in. Everyone would be at peace with one another, because they would know that ultimately, everything that happens is from Hashem. They would also treat each other with love and respect, knowing that their closeness to G-d is directly dependent on their closeness, or distance G-d forbid, to other people. Just imagine how different things would be if that police officer had learned The Universal Garden of Emuna…  Hence the incredible need to distribute emuna material to everyone we know! 


Rabbi Arush has also repeated recently the fact that all Jews need to love and respect each other. The delineations of “Ashkenaz, “Sephardic”, “Orthodox”, “non-Religious”, etc. are all a lie! We are all Jews, we all have holy souls, and even the supposedly “non-religious” are filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate.  


At Chut shel Chessed Yeshiva, we don’t see any differences – we only see Jews. Many people think that it’s a “Moroccan Baal Teshuva” Yeshiva, but it isn’t true. Only about half of the Yeshiva are Moroccan. Another third are Ashkenaz, including the Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Linder shlita who is a Karlin Chassid, Rabbi Yehoshua Cohen shlita the world renowned Gemara expert, and Rabbi Elgrod shlita, a world-renowned Posek. That includes yours truly (Yes, there ARE Ashkenaz Avrahami’s, although we are the minority), and one of my friends are Toldot Aaron Chassidim, not to mention the many English-speaking imports, including a young man from St. Louis. The rest are other types of Sephardic Jews, of which there are many. Moreover, many people are Frum From Birth and not Baalei Teshuva at all!  


Our schools have kids of every color, all learning together – black, white (those would be MY kids, they are the whitest in the whole school), yellow, olive, dark brown, and every shade in between. Heck, who even notices color?! My daughter’s preschool teacher is an Egyptian Jew, and her sister in law who is also part of the Yeshiva is a Spanish Jew. I couldn’t believe it when sitting next to me at an end of year party was a religious woman speaking English! Her daughter in law understands a little English – that I knew. What I didn’t know was that her husband’s parents made Aliyah 25 years ago from New York! We were a bit nervous that my son would be the only one with straight hair in his class. No worries, there is another kid with white blonde, stick straight hair along with him! Even among Rabbi Arush’s children, quite a few did not marry Moroccans or even Sephardic. 


My favorite story is Rabbi Arush’s oldest daughter, the principle of the schools. We were blessed to be invited for a Friday night meal. I was floored to hear her husband, who runs the Night and Zohar Kollel to keep the Yeshiva open literally 24 hours a day, recite Kiddush with a strong Yiddish accent. Turns out, they speak Yiddish at home and are actually ASHKENAZIM! The whole story is not for here (although it’s a great story of soulmates, the Moroccan Yiddish teacher marrying a half Sephardic of two different types, half Ashkenaz guy who speaks Yiddish and learned in a Breslev Chassidishe Yeshiva). I can say, that we enjoyed joking about our mutual love of warm gefilte fish and I enjoyed hearing my old favorite tunes from America being sung at the Shabbat table. We got home joking about the fact that if you lined up the two couples (us and them) and asked “Which one speaks Yiddish at home, and which one Hebrew?” I mean it would be a no brainer that you would pick my husband and me – and you would be exactly WRONG!