Monday, May 27, 2024

My Take on the News

Davening at the Kosel for a Return to Normal

What does a Jew do during the Three Weeks, or at any time when he feels that his strength has deserted him? He goes to the Kosel, of course!

That is exactly what I did this week, as I was plagued by the sense that we cannot bear this situation any longer. In the wake of mounting reports about the second wave of the coronavirus and the resultant restrictions, I found myself heading toward the Kosel. The Three Weeks had already begun, and I couldn’t help but contemplate Chazal’s teaching that any generation in which the Bais Hamikdosh is not rebuilt is viewed as if they caused its destruction. My heart was filled with sorrow. Seeing the site of the Bais Hamikdosh still lying in ruins was incredibly painful, and that pain was compounded by the knowledge that our shuls and yeshivos may soon be closed again. This is a very real possibility, and no one knows what the situation will be when Elul arrives. It is a frightful state of affairs.

Getting to the Kosel was not easy, and it was also quite strange to walk between the “capsules”—the special partitions erected in the Kosel plaza—as the shouts of the security guards echoed in the background, vaguely reminiscent of the foxes that prowled the site of the Bais Hamikdosh. I had heard that the Ministry of Health had given its approval for the partitions to be removed, yet there they still were, effectively rammed down the throats of the mispallelim. Could that really be the case? Does it make sense for the Kosel plaza to remain divided by partitions when no one has actually demanded it? The fact that the buses did not drive through Shaar Ha’ashpot to the entrance to the plaza was also maddening; even worse was the fact that visitors had no way of knowing that the bus stop was not in service. I was waiting there along with another 30 or 40 people, until someone shouted, “Hey, the buses aren’t coming here! You all need to go to the bus stop below!”

At the Kosel, I noticed a group of young men who appeared to be completely disconnected from Yiddishkeit. They were wearing Beitar Yerushalayim scarves, and I assumed that they had come only to pose for pictures. It did not take long for me to learn that I was wrong, and that it is a mistake to judge anyone by their appearance. As the recitation of Kaddish began, they listened in respectful silence and pronounced every “amein” loudly and with enormous kavonah. They also recited several perokim of Tehillim with immense solemnity. And then they produced a handful of coins and began looking for tzedakah collectors.

Israel Losing Control

There is a general sense that the Israeli government has been losing control—if it is possible to control the coronavirus at all. For some reason, the public seems to feel that the government is not managing the battle against corona. Not long ago, Israel was counted among the countries that were succeeding in keeping the situation under control and crushing the virus, or at least stemming its spread. Now, however, Israel has sunk to the bottom of the list. More and more countries are blacklisting Israeli travelers. There was a time when Israel was closing its gates to visitors from “red” countries; today, Israelis are shunned throughout the world. There was a time when Netanyahu received many phone calls from other world leaders seeking advice on how to handle the virus; today, no one is calling.

The number of infections is steadily rising. To be fair, some have claimed that this isn’t exactly what is happening, that it is actually the number of coronavirus tests that is increasing, and therefore the number of cases being discovered is rising correspondingly. Still, even if this is true, there is a very large number of infections.

The Health Ministry has a new director-general, Chezy Levi, who served as the director of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon until taking this position. There is also a new health minister; Yaakov Litzman was replaced by Yuli Edelstein. The new minister has declared that, as far as he is concerned, a rate of 2000 new infections daily would be a red line. If that number is reached, he said, then the entire country will be placed under lockdown. “We are trying not to reach that point,” Edelstien added, “but it could certainly lead us into a general lockdown.” Professor Levi added that his ministry is making every effort to avoid a complete lockdown, which might cause irreversible damage to the economy, but if all of their efforts prove to be in vain, a complete closure of the country is a real option. “We are trying to deal with these things in ways that are easier for the citizens, and to impose closures only in places with high rates of infection,” he said.

Nonstop Incitement

This week, the Knesset discussed a motion of no confidence in the government submitted by Yisroel Beiteinu, which decried the “discriminatory and racist policies of the Population and Immigration Authority and the Interior Ministry toward immigrants from the former Soviet Union.” The director of the immigration authority responded that his agency does not discriminate against anyone, and that it investigates immigrants only if there is reason to suspect that their documents have been forged. Nevertheless, his arguments fell on deaf ears. I was surprised to learn from Aryeh Deri during a Shas party meeting that the ministry seeks to verify the documents of Israelis more often than those of actual immigrants. The children of an Israeli who lives abroad are automatically entitled to Israeli citizenship, but the ministry often demands evidence of their parentage before agreeing to register them as Jews. But to those who purvey incitement against the Israeli government, the facts make no difference.

On a similar note, Haaretz recently featured an article decrying the fact that the Israeli government is not permitting non-Jews who are married to Israelis to enter the country (due to the coronavirus restrictions). Putting aside the question of whether this is proper or improper, it should be noted that there is an inflammatory caption that reads, “If you were a yeshiva bochur, you would get in [to the country] with ease!” Now, this is completely untrue; non-Israeli yeshiva bochurim have not been permitted to enter the country even if they already possessed student visas. Aryeh Deri, as the Minister of the Interior, has managed to persuade the government only to admit married students to the country. But that particular caption is a textbook example of incitement.

This week, a member of the Knesset delivered the following monologue: “As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of the Interior closed the borders of the country to anyone who is not an Israeli citizen. On May 25, the Interior Minister permitted foreign students holding student visas to enter the country. One week later, on June 3, the Interior Minister announced that he was rescinding the governmental permission for unmarried students to enter the country, except those who were registered with the Jewish Agency’s Masa program. However, talmidim in yeshivos and students in seminaries are excluded from the Masa programs. Therefore, while other students are permitted to enter the country, yeshiva and seminary students are barred from Israel, meaning that they are facing twofold discrimination. This decision has a direct impact on about 8000 students, male and female, who are stuck overseas without a framework for study. This decision also causes direct harm to immigration, since those students would ordinarily come to Israel, study here, become acclimated and feel a connection to the country, and ultimately decide to make aliyah. Now, with the gates of Israel closed to them, they will remain overseas and we will lose potential immigrants. In light of the discrimination and the closure of the country’s gates to aliyah for those who are not registered in Masa, I would like to request an urgent discussion in the Interior Committee in order to devise immediate solutions and to determine consistent criteria for permitting foreign students to enter the country.”

For some reason, this MK ignored the fact that Deri fought valiantly for yungerleit to be permitted to return to Israel even if they were not Israeli citizens. Only the fact that single students have been barred from the country was decried as discrimination.

Closures on Chareidi Communities

This brings us to a topic of great distress to the chareidi community. The situation that I have been discussing—the general sense that the country is on a steep downward trajectory with no one at the steering wheel—has caused a sense of despondence throughout Israel. But there is another painful issue: the government’s rigid attitude toward the chareidi community in particular. For one thing, several neighborhoods and cities have been under complete lockdown since Friday, with hardly anyone permitted to enter or leave. One of those areas is the Romema neighborhood of Yerushalayim; I approached the area on Friday, and I was deeply pained by what I saw. Chareidi men and women were barricaded within the neighborhood and prevented from leaving. Believe it or not, all the neighborhoods under lockdown are chareidi communities, whether in Lod, Kiryat Malachi, or Yerushalayim. And the city that was placed under a complete lockdown was none other than Beitar Illit, a city with a completely chareidi populace. This certainly smacks of discrimination. And then there is the question of whether the closures are valid methods of fighting the disease or they simply increase contagion.

Is this really justified? Is there evidence of a major increase in coronavirus cases specifically in chareidi neighborhoods? The Ministry of Health has not published clear figures, and some professionals claim that the facts do not justify imposing closures specifically on chareidi communities. They have also suggested that the closures are not truly effective and that the chareidim are merely being scapegoated. The chareidi community is used to suffering in silence, and it is easy for the government to make a pretense of fighting the virus by shutting down those particular areas. If these claims are true, then the government is guilty of perpetrating a grave injustice and an act of pure evil.

The problems run much deeper than the impact of the closure itself. The selective lockdowns have created an impression that chareidim are carriers of the coronavirus and are responsible for spreading it throughout the country. This has naturally given rise to widespread antagonism against chareidim, and that antagonism has been translated into action. On Friday night, a security camera in Geulah captured a scene of an apparent unprovoked assault on chareidim perpetrated by a secular Israeli. This is the type of thing that should never be allowed to happen in a civilized country. There might be multiple reasons for the assailant’s hatred for chareidim, but one of them is undoubtedly the atmosphere created by the closures on chareidi communities. And there is also a reason that this person felt that he could take the liberty of assaulting innocent people: He has seen the chareidim of Israel turned into veritable punching bags by the police themselves. If the police are allowed to beat chareidim at will, then why shouldn’t an ordinary citizen do the same? If a scene of this nature had been captured on video in Germany, it would have horrified the entire country. (Incidentally, a wave of horror indeed ran through Germany this week, after the rov of Munich, Rav Shmuel Aharon Brodman, was assaulted by anti-Semites.)

Police Absent from Tel Aviv, Beating Protestors in Yerushalayim

This brings us to the issue of “selective enforcement,” which has infuriated the chareidi community perhaps even more than the lockdowns. It seems—although “seems” might be too charitable a term, considering the solid evidence that this is the case—that the police have a double standard with regard to many things.

This was especially evident on motzoei Shabbos. At that time, there was a protest against the government in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, attended by tens of thousands of people. The demonstrators claimed to be protesting the economic harm that has been inflicted on the country by the government’s reactions to COVID-19, but it was actually a political protest funded by leftist activists and primarily targeting Netanyahu. Some of the invective that was voiced against the prime minister is not fit to be quoted in print. During this mass protest, the police did not intervene, in spite of the fact that thousands of people were not wearing masks. In Yerushalayim, meanwhile, several hundred chareidim gathered at the intersection of Rechov Yirmiyohu and Rechov Shamgar to protest the lockdowns that have been imposed on their communities, and the police responded with unimaginable brutality. Videos taken at the scene show police officers dispensing vicious blows to protestors who had done nothing wrong. And even if a demonstrator had done something improper, it would not justify violence on the part of the police.

All this is added to the brutal behavior of the police in the enforcement of the requirement to wear masks in public. Now, it is true that the public has an obligation to wear masks, that the police must enforce that obligation, and that the Knesset even approved an increase in the fine from 200 to 500 NIS. But for one thing, the police should show some sensitivity. If a woman is in public with four children without masks, that does not make it correct for the police to issue a fine of 2500 NIS. Besides, sometimes it is permissible to forgo the fine altogether. Worst of all, though, is the double standard. In Tel Aviv, the police did nothing to enforce the law, even as thousands of people took to the streets without wearing masks. Even when the police chose to intervene, they did not issue fines; instead, they handed out masks to people who were caught without them. When they dealt with the chareidi community, on the other hand, they were rigid and merciless.

The lockdowns that began on Friday, coupled with the demonstration and violence on Rechov Yirmiyohu on motzoei Shabbos, added to our community’s sense that things cannot continue in this fashion. The police and the government seem to be relating to the chareidi community as if they lack the most basic of human rights. Of course, this is a trend that has been continuing for a long time. But the pattern of selective enforcement became so overt and pronounced that the leaders of the chareidi parties (Deri, Gafni, and Litzman) held a meeting with the Minister of Internal Security on Friday.

Gafni Threatens an Official Inquiry

On Friday, the cabinet released the following statement: “Today, at the request of Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana, a meeting was held with the leaders of the chareidi parties: Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Minister of Housing and Construction Yaakov Litzman, and MK Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. The meeting was prompted by the outrage emanating from the chareidi public over the excessive enforcement directed at the chareidi community with regard to the obligation to wear masks, as part of the national effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The party leaders conveyed the community’s feelings to the minister, and he listened attentively to their claims. The minister then instructed the police commanders to convey to every officer the need to act with discretion, to use wisdom and common sense with regard to enforcing the law, and to refrain from selective enforcement. The conversation indicated the need to designate a person who is intimately acquainted both with the work of the police and with the chareidi world to advise the Minister of Internal Security, to evaluate complaints received from the public, and, no less importantly, to serve as a bridge between the police and the chareidi community. Minister Ohana accepted this suggestion.”

Meanwhile, Moshe Gafni announced that he had asked the Knesset speaker to propose forming a parliamentary investigative committee to examine the pattern of selective enforcement and excessive rigidity toward the chareidi public. Gafni wrote, “Ever since the obligation to wear masks in the public sphere was instituted, the police have been carrying out heightened enforcement among citizens who do not wear masks. It has been discovered that selective and intensive enforcement have been conducted specifically in chareidi areas, including the use of unusual means that are not employed with other populations. This disproportionate enforcement has been added to other cases in which the police have used excessive measures and different tools or standards when dealing with problems that affect the chareidi public.” Gafni’s request was probably a ploy to exert further pressure on Minister Ohana to order the police to change their approach; it is unlikely that the proposal will actually be brought to a vote. On principle, the chareidim tend to oppose the use of investigative committees for any purpose; they fear that the same tool might be turned against bnei yeshivos or other matters of importance to their communities.

Ohana has already chosen the man who will serve as the liaison between the police and the chareidi community. At first, there was talk of assigning the position to Rabbi Moshe Gafni of Elad, who served until recently as the rov of the police force (not to be confused with the Moshe Gafni who is a member of the Knesset, who lives in Bnei Brak). On Monday, however, the position was officially given to Arik Yakuel, a resident of Har Nof and former commissioner in the police force, who was responsible for its logistics and manpower division. Perhaps I will write more about him at a later date; we are good friends.

A Policeman Dismissed for Striking a Chareidi

The chareidi government ministers and members of the Knesset have been informed of the public outrage and have viewed some of the disturbing videos of police brutality. They understand that the situation has become intolerable. In a recent cabinet meeting, Aryeh Deri demanded answers from the government; he insisted on receiving a detailed explanation for every lockdown and for the absence of lockdowns in communities with similar infection rates to those that have been sealed. In other words, he demanded the establishment of official criteria for the draconian measures. “Releasing detailed figures might avoid the impression of a double standard, especially concerning the chareidi community,” Deri pointed out. Netanyahu accepted his proposal and ordered the criteria published on the website of the prime minister’s office.

Deri also expressed his outrage over the selective enforcement targeting chareidim. “Last night, we saw two protests,” he said. “One was in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and was attended by ten thousand people, and the other was in Romema in Yerushalayim and was attended by dozens of chareidim. At the protest in Tel Aviv, the participants did not maintain distance from each other and did not observe the Health Ministry’s regulations, yet we did not see the police engage in violence against the demonstrators. In Romema, we saw a video in which a chareidi asked a police officer why he was not wearing a mask. In response, the police officer punched the chareidi in the face and then refused to allow him to receive medical help. This was deliberate violence on the part of the police against chareidi protestors, and it must stop. On Friday, we met with Minister Ohana, who was attentive to our descriptions of the ongoing violence. As a representative of a chareidi party in the government, I cannot make peace with the violence of police officers against chareidim. It must stop immediately.”

The officer in question was removed from the police force, but the police chose to be vague about the precise measures taken against him. One statement implied that he had been fired, while another stated that he was suspended from policing duties. A third statement implied that he was under investigation in the Police Internal Investigations Department. (It was also revealed that this was not the first time that he assaulted a chareidi simply because he felt like doing so.) It is possible that the police are whitewashing the incident; we will have to look into the matter. But regardless of what happened to this officer, the response seems to have sent a message to his colleagues.

Netanyahu is not a fool. He understood the outrage of the chareidi MKs, and he recognized that Aryeh Deri, who is a pivotal element of the government, was furious. It took only a few hours for the prime minister to announce that he would meet with the members of the Shas party on Monday morning at 9:00. The meeting would also be attended by Yuli Edelstein, the Minister of Health, and Amir Ohana, the Minister of Internal Security. Both of the issues that Deri had raised would be on the agenda: the restrictions imposed on chareidi neighborhoods and the violent behavior of police officers toward chareidim.

I have already mentioned that I believe we have reached a turning point, and that some positive change will take place this week. In fact, it seems that the process is already beginning. The police in Yerushalayim seem to have realized that the noose is tightening around their necks. On Sunday night, there was another chareidi protest in the area of Romema, and this time the police behaved admirably, even though the protestors themselves took the demonstration to an extreme. This seems to indicate that the police are capable of restraint—at least when there is a need for them to save their own skins.

The Alliance Begins to Weaken

Netanyahu has plenty of reasons to worry. Aside from the coronavirus crisis, there is also his criminal trial, which is scheduled to begin taking place soon, as well as his political alliance with Blue and White and its leader, Benny Gantz, which seems to be unraveling.

This week, it was reported that two of Netanyahu’s lawyers have decided to abandon him. This is an unusual move for a lawyer to make, and it does not seem to bode well for him. Are the attorneys abandoning a sinking ship, or did they simply leave Netanyahu’s legal team because he cannot afford to pay them? The latter is a real possibility, since the attorney general has ruled that Netanyahu is not permitted to receive donations to defray his legal expenses. If he wants to accept donations, Mandelblit said, he should leave his position.

Mandelblit has also barred Netanyahu from making appointments that affect the judicial system, such as choosing the next state prosecutor or police commissioner. The attorney general informed the Supreme Court that since Netanyahu has been indicted on criminal charges, he is considered to have a conflict of interests that prevents him from appointing officials such as an attorney general, a state prosecutor, or a police chief. It is hardly a pleasant situation for the prime minister, to say the least.

As for the erosion of the ties between Likud and Blue and White, the conflict began two weeks ago, when the Knesset prepared to discuss a proposal submitted by Betzalel Smotrich (Yamina) that would establish a parliamentary investigative committee to probe potential conflicts of interest of the judges on the Supreme Court. The Blue and White party announced that if the Likud supported the proposal, it would be considered an assault on democracy that would lead to the termination of their partnership. An equally fierce dispute arose regarding the state budget; Netanyahu wishes to have a budget passed for only one year, whereas Blue and White is demanding a two-year budget.

To give you an idea of the hostilities developing between the two parties, let me quote two statements that were publicized on motzoei Shabbos. One statement was released on behalf of Benny Gantz: “The alternate prime minister supports the protestors who have been harmed by the crisis. The citizens who took to the streets this evening [i.e., the protestors in Rabin Square] are expressing genuine, justified distress, and they have every right to do so. Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz has also reiterated his opposition to a one-year budget. ‘I informed the prime minister and the finance minister that along with supporting an immediate aid plan, Blue and White insists that a much broader budgetary policy be presented immediately, in order to encourage forward movement. We will not settle for a response that provides for only three months.”

Avi Nissenkorn, the Minister of Justice, made a similar statement: “The protestors are expressing genuine and justified distress. The aid package is a step in the right direction, but we must present a budget that will create economic certainty and engines for growth. A three-month budget will not accomplish that. We will insist that the budget must include provisions for 2021 and create a safety net for businesses, independent workers, and the unemployed. That is the only way that Israel can be released from this crisis.”

With all of his troubles, Netanyahu certainly deserves to be pitied!

A Politician Filled with Conceit

I have been listening to Yair Lapid’s speeches, and he seems to have reached new heights of evil, conceit, and cruelty. Lapid has no qualms even about excoriating his own friends. Last week, Minister Michael Bitton, who was a member of Lapid’s party until the recent split, responded on behalf of the government to a proposed law that would limit the prime minister’s term in office. Lapid himself then addressed the Knesset and said, “Minister Bitton, my sensitive ears noticed that you used the word ‘integrity.’ That word no longer applies to you. A person who deceived his voters, who lied in everything that he said to his constituents for an entire year, and who sits under a prime minister who has been indicted on criminal charges cannot use the word ‘integrity.’ Do you know, Minister Bitton, what you don’t yet know about yourself? Throughout your life, in your entire public life, every time you use the word ‘values,’ people will make a dismissive gesture. They will say, ‘Leave us alone; don’t talk to us about values.’”

“Everything that you have done in your life doesn’t equal what I accomplished in Yerucham,” Bitton retorted.

“The word ‘integrity’ has no connection to you or to your party,” Lapid deckared. “And that is why you will disappear as if you had never existed.”

These are the words of a man who believes that he is the master of the world and that he has every right to preach to others. He never learned a word of Torah, he did not complete his own matriculation exams, and his military service was sketchy; political guile is his sole expertise. Yet he has the temerity to disparage Michoel Bitton. He is highly reminiscent of his father, Tommy Lapid, who used to denigrate men and women in his television studio to the point that they would burst into tears, and who unleashed a scathing verbal tirade against Amir Peretz and his mustache from the Knesset podium. And on that subject, let us point out that it is actually Shinui, Tommy Lapid’s party, that has disappeared from the political scene without a trace.

The Cry of Shabbos

Carmel Shama-Hakohen, the mayor of Ramat Gan, recently announced that the “Shabbus,” a bus line that runs on Shabbos from his city to the beach and other recreational areas in Tel Aviv, will cease its operations. Due to the current situation, the mayor explained, the use of the Shabbos bus line decreased by 70 percent, and if there is no change in the situation, the bus line will not be reinstated.

Personally, I believe that the drop was probably even more dramatic than he has admitted. In any event, this bus line, which was a pure provocation and a show of rebellion against Shabbos, has died. Perhaps we should take this as a sign that it is sometimes better to let bad things disappear on their own.

I would also like to share another interesting tidbit concerning Shabbos observance in the public sphere. I recently listened to an interview with a particular social activist who decried the fact that certain government ministers voted against the Meretz party’s proposal to permit public transportation on Shabbos. He was disturbed not because he personally supported the law, but because he considered their votes to be hypocritical. “They drive their own luxury cars on Shabbos,” he pointed out. “They have no right to tell the average citizen not to travel on public transportation on Shabbos.”

“How do you know that they drive on Shabbos?” the interviewer asked.

The activist had an astounding response to that question. “We asked for a list of all the gas station charges of a certain senior minister in the government. We fought for it, and we won. We have a list of every time that he filled the gas tank of his government-issued car, and there were 47 times that he fueled the car on Shabbos.”

I doubt that the esteemed minister has ever imagined that his gas station bills would one day be released for public consumption. But everything he does—like everything that we do—is recorded in ways that we cannot imagine.

A Visit to Har Hazeisim

It has been many years since the last time I visited the tziyun of the Ohr Hachaim on his yahrtzeit. I have always been afraid to visit Har Hazeisim. This year, for some reason, I chose to make the trip; I thought the site would not be packed with visitors, on account of the corona situation. There was a small amount of congestion at the top of the road, and there was a police car stationed there, but they allowed me to pass. But when I emerged from my car, I discovered that the gate was locked and a soldier was preventing visitors from passing through.

As I walked in the direction of the kever, I noticed an elderly lady with a walker being accompanied by an even older woman. They were on their way back. “Ashreichem Yisroel,” I remarked.

Walking alongside me were two elderly men who were familiar with almost every grave. “Do you see that enclosure?” they said to me. “That is the kever of the Baba Elazar. His yahrtzeit is the 27th of Tammuz.” At the tziyun itself, in spite of the soldiers who had prevented people from passing, there were several dozen people davening with intense kavanah. I somehow managed to join them and to daven briefly, but then a group of police officers arrived and began shouting, “This is an illegal gathering! Anyone who doesn’t leave this place will be fined 5000 shekels!” We all cleared the area immediately.

I made my way on foot from there to the Kosel. As I left the area, I noticed several elderly chassidim standing and davening fervently as they gazed at the tziyun from a distance. “You call this visiting the tziyun?” I asked.

“It is written that as long as a person can see the tziyun, it counts,” one of them replied. From that vantage point, I could see that the area around the tziyun was empty. I also noticed a group of people who had managed to enter the cemetery and had tried to approach the tziyun, only to be rebuffed. It was a sad sight to behold. Who would have believed that the day would come when visitors to Har Hazeisim would be forced to leave?

Perhaps Hashem Will Have Mercy

Next Monday, we will mark Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv’s eighth yahrtzeit. Today, everyone is speculating as to what Rav Elyashiv would have said if he were alive today; how would he have reacted to the corona crisis. The members of his inner circle claim that he would have castigated people who disregarded the Health Ministry’s regulations.

I won’t presume to know what Rav Elyashiv would have said, but I will quote something that Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman wrote in the month of Shevat 5762: “Unfortunately, we are seeing that there is a great increase in suffering and that many people have become ill with very dangerous diseases, and people wish to strengthen their yiras Shomayim. We do not have the answers, and we live in a generation of Divine concealment, when none of us can know the reasons for Hashem’s anger. Nevertheless, it behooves us to examine our deeds, so that perhaps Hashem will have mercy and will not arouse His anger. First of all, the seforim state that a sin of bein adam l’chaveiro is more severe than a sin of bein adam laMakom, and a mitzvah between man and his fellow is expected of us even more. The Rosh states at the beginning of Maseches Peah that Hashem has a greater desire for mitzvos that also please other people than for mitzvos that are only between man and his Creator. From this, we can understand that we must first improve ourselves with regard to those mitzvos and examine our deeds in that area, for the interpersonal mitzvos are more stringent. Of course, a person must also improve his mitzvos bein adam laMakom, and the Torah states, ‘Your camp should be holy, and He should not see any immoral thing among you and turn away from you.’ It is very important to strengthen one’s tznius both in dress and in general, to live a life of modesty. It is also important to strengthen one’s pursuit of Torah and chessed very much, for they are the greatest defenses. In the merit of all these things, may Hashem have mercy upon us and order the destroyer to desist.”



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