Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Clarifying questions before offering answers…

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2014 at 10:16 am

When I was a yeshiva student some forty years ago, I remember a question posed by Rav Nosson Kaminetzky that caught everyone off guard. In many yeshivas it was the practice to set aside some time for a “mussar shmooze”–a talk dedicated to making students reflect on their spiritual growth. These talks diverted from normal Torah study, and their singular purpose was to inspire one to perfect his character both as a person, and as a Jew. Rav Nosson made the point that if these lessons fell on deaf ears, and did not affect real change in a person’s behavior, then they are a waste of time. The act of studying Torah at least results in the fulfilment of a mitzvah, even if it does not accomplish any other lofty goal. Why waste time on some ineffective “mussar shmooze” at the expense of Torah study? It’s funny that I remember the question, but have forgotten, or repressed, the answer.

Today, after reading Michael Oren’s op ed in WAPO, once again, that question emerges from my consciousness. Should this war be judged like Rav Nosson’s criterion for a successful “mussar shmooze”? In other words, that there needs to be a substantial change so dramatic that it justifies the expenditure of blood and treasure? Some like Ambassador Oren say just give us time to get the job done. While others counter that even when the job is done, it won’t be over, so you have accomplished little, or nothing. Just like the mussar shmooze that has no impact, it will be considered a tragic waste that will leave Israel emotionally and economically depleted not to mention, ethically compromised. Both sides of the divide are absolutely certain that their position is correct.

That means, nobody really knows.

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