What is your view on the Agudah's protest against the Iranian president?

10/25/06

Dear Rabbi,

Shalom Aleichem. I am a chossid. What is your position on the demonstration yesterday by Orthodox groups, including Agudath Israel, against the Iranian president on his visit to New York?

Thanks, Nuchem

Dear Nuchem,

Here is a copy of the poster we hung up in advance of the demonstration:

Acheinu Bnei Yisroel! Heed the Call of the Gedolim and Do Not Provoke World Leaders!

The Iranian president is now visiting the United States to attend the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. This has aroused the anger of Zionists and secular Jewish organizations of all stripes, and they have planned a demonstration in front of the U.N. building this Wednesday at 12:00 noon, to "present a collective Jewish expression of outrage at the General Assembly's hosting of the Iranian leader".

Jews faithful to the Torah are pained by all the actions of the Zionists - their military campaigns and inflammatory rhetoric. But we are especially pained to see that some religious Jewish groups have openly joined the Zionists in this matter, and have called upon their followers to take part in the demonstration against the Iranian president. This will give the entire world the impression that religious Jews also condone this belligerent attitude of provoking world leaders. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth - the Jewish way throughout our 2000-year exile has always been to speak submissively and placate the anger of the nations. History has shown that demonstrating against them only serves to arouse their anger more and bring calamity upon the Jewish people, G-d forbid.

We therefore publicize the ruling of the gedolei hador shlita:

That no Jew should take part in any demonstration of any sort against the Iranian president, and that we protest against all who use these irresponsible methods.

Let us remember the words of the Chofetz Chaim, printed in Chofetz Chaim Al Hatorah, Parshas Devarim:

The Torah teaches us not to resist the nations even when they fight against us. We must follow in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu in his encounter with his brother Esav. As the Ramban writes in Vayishlach, all that happened between Yaakov and Esav happens to us constantly with Esav's children. We must adopt the methods of that tzaddik, to make the three preparations that he made: prayer, a gift, and escape through war, that is, to flee to safety. As long as we walked on that well-tread path, Hakadosh Baruch Hu saved us from their hands. But since we have strayed from the path and new leaders have arisen who chose new methods, leaving behind our ancestors' weapons and adopting the methods of our enemies, we have fared worse and worse, and great travails have befallen us.

And his talmid Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman wrote in Ikvesa Demeshicha:

In the Torah we find clear directives as to what should be the relationship of Jews towards the nations of the world during exile. If we do not follow the Torah's counsel, we bring Klal Yisroel into grave danger. Until recent times, Jews have built their politics on the counsel of the Torah. The Tannaim, before going to Rome to convince the emperor to annul his decrees, would study the story of Yaakov and Esav, and there they would find their instructions, as the Ramban writes in Parshas Vayishlach.

But in our generation, the honor of the Torah has been greatly lowered. Jews look to the Torah only for answers to questions about saying Kaddish, but political questions (i.e. questions that relate to the entire Jewish people) they have removed from the domain of the Torah and given over to politicians and newspaper writers. These have become the leaders of the generation. But the methods that work for nations that are settled on their own land do not fit the situation of the Jewish people. If we want to act with wisdom we must act according to our own situation; just as our situation is unique, so are our political methods unique.

These methods are written in the Torah, which foresaw and foretold all future events. Thousands of years have proven the correctness of the methods of the Torah. What are the methods of the Torah? "Hakadosh Baruch Hu made the Jewish people swear three oaths." (Kesubos 111a) One of the three oaths is: Jews must not be revolutionaries.

When we speak to the nations of the world, we must make requests, not demands. "A soft tongue can break a bone" (Mishlei 25:15). The Sages said in protest to a Roman decree, "Are we not the children of one father and mother? Why are we different from all the nations, that you pass harsh decrees against us?" (Rosh Hashanah 19a). Yaakov told his sons not to show off themselves before the children of Esav and Yishmoel (Taanis 10b). This is a warning not to put ourselves in a position highly visible to the nations, and not to give the nations an opportunity to talk about us. The less the nations remember us and talk about us, the better it will be for us.

This is a summary of the directives of the Torah regarding our relationship to the nations. The Jews followed these directives until recent times, when there arose new leaders who refuse to know the Torah and its counsel. They conduct Jewish politics in the exact opposite of the Torah way. "Jews must fight, Jews must make demands." Whom must we fight? "We must fight the most powerful countries in the world. We must boycott them and call gatherings against them, and shoot rhetoric at them in the newspapers. This will put fear into their hearts."

In these final days before the Yom Hadin, let us seek to increase our merits and not our sins, in order to be zocheh to a kesivah vachasimah tovah!

I hope this answers your question. Thank you for your interest.