Monday, July 28, 2008

The Genuine Zealot

Chazal tell us that the Jewish people challenged Pincha’s right to kill a prince of Israel on account of religious zealotry. Although in that case they were wrong, it is no simple thing to be a zealot l’shem shomayim. One of the cardinal rules of genuine zealotry is that the “kana’i” must be filled with real love of Hashem and concern for his fellow Jews. Otherwise, he is likely to merely be spewing hatred for his fellow man under the guise of piety. Although Rav Amram Blau, zt”l, was the leader of the “kano’im” of Yerushalayim, his ahavas Hashem and ahavas Yisroel was palpable even as he led protests. When he died, the very policemen who had opposed him so forcefully tearfully attended his funeral. When they were asked why they had come to their “archenemy’s” funeral they replied that they had all felt that he was pained by what he saw as the necessity of protesting and knew with absolute certainty that he loved every Jew. His protestations had been nothing personal; one never felt any spite or hatred emanating from him.
One of the great students of the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was also a very dedicated zealot. Throughout his mentor’s lifetime, he would always attend protests against various offenses and was a very formidable force within the ranks of the “kano’im.” He was clearly willing to die for the cause and the policemen who didn’t wish to actually kill the zealots didn’t have a permanent solution for this particular man. However much they beat him, he was back with new vitality at the next protest—once again clearly willing to die for the cause.
Shortly after the Maharil Diskin’s passing a protest was arranged. Although this man had definitely been present when the protest was announced, he did not attend. After the protest he was approached by the organizers who exclaimed, “Where were you? Your presence was sorely missed!”
“I will no longer be attending protests,” replied the student to the shocked group.
“But why?” they asked, clearly mystified.
“Until now, my rebbi the Maharil Diskin told me to attend, so I was sure that I was l’shem shomayim. After all, I was merely obeying my rebbi. But now that he is gone I can never attend…”
The man concluded, “Who is to say that my attendance is not merely a guise to vent my anger and hatred?”

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