(IsraelNN.com) “I have done justice and righteousness - leave me not to those who oppress me.”
For a long time, I stare at the words in my little Tehillim (Psalms) book. Something about them touches me.
Only recently I began to learn about the life and teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane. It was at a lecture last Shavuot, about the sanctification and desecration of G-d's name. The lecturer quoted from a book by Rabbi Kahane. At that point, about half of the audience suddenly got up and left.
This reaction fascinated me, so I stayed until the end and listened intently. Then, I scraped together all my courage and asked the lecturer to lend me the book. It was Listen World, Listen Jew. I've read some more of Rabbi Kahane's books since and warmly recommend them all, by the way.
Actually, that was not my first contact with the rabbi's ideas. When I converted to Judaism overseas, one day our teacher suddenly drove us to a shooting range.
There, he just said: "I will not let any one of you go to the conversion Beit Din unless you learn to shoot a gun first. You want to be Jewish, fine. A Jew has to know how to defend himself. And if you say you can't do this because you are afraid or a pacifist or whatever, I demand from you that you do it, for me and my family that was murdered by the cursed Nazis.”
I never forgot that lesson. Our teacher sometimes mentioned Rabbi Kahane's name, but, thanks to pressure from the synagogue's establishment, he never went into the details. Because of the establishment's reaction, I always thought that “Kahane” meant something unspeakably radical, a taboo topic beyond any range of normal discourse, something one best stayed far away from.
I'm glad that now, after my Aliyah, I got a second chance to learn more about the life and teachings of a man who literally gave himself to his people. He upheld Jewish pride into the face of a world that, for 2,000 years, had shamelessly persecuted and murdered Jews. He taught disaffected, lost teenagers that “Jewish is beautiful”. He fearlessly fought anti-Semitism and challenged anyone daring to harm Jews, from American neighborhood bullies to the Soviet Union and Arab terrorists. He went to jail again and again on behalf of his people; often enough jailed even by his own people. Could there be a more intensive way of living Ahavat Israel?
And Ahavat HaShem. For years, I had been saying the Sh'ma Israel prayer day after day, but I never really understood what it means when it says, “...with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources. Let these words that I command you today be on your heart.” It was only from Rabbi Kahane's teachings that I understood that this really means placing G-d's will above our own, to transform it into our own; that you can't keep anything for yourself because your life is not your property, but a deposit from G-d. Accepting Ol Malchut Shamayim ("the Yoke of Heaven") - I never before understood how beautiful this concept is.
Rabbi Kahane lived it. He loved G-d and held up the Torah uncompromisingly. He acted not out of personal considerations, but in order to fulfill G-d's will and to restore the Jewish people to their task as G-d's chosen nation on Earth, destined to live in a society of Divine holiness in Eretz Israel.
Last Sunday, on the 18th of Cheshvan, was Rabbi Kahane's 18th yahrzeit. I had the honor to attend the graveside ceremony held at Har HaMenuchot and the assembly in Jerusalem after that. At the assembly, Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, dean of the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, encouraged the audience to spread knowledge about Rabbi Kahane's teachings, especially his major work Ohr HaRaayon - The Jewish Idea. He said that “like there is a Chabad house in every city, you should make your house a 'house of the Jewish idea' wherever you are... and learn, even with just one study partner.”
Well-known right wing activist Baruch Marzel, in his speech, called out to the audience: “If Rabbi Kahane was with us today, he surely wouldn't want us to waste an entire evening on a memorial ceremony. He would get up and say what needs to be done tomorrow morning.” Marzel then did exactly this by reminding the audience of the urgent need to prevent the impending expulsion of the Jewish families living in the Shalom House in Hevron and announcing the planned march with Israeli flags through the Israeli-Arab village of Umm el-Fahm, which is scheduled to take place in about two weeks.
Rabbi Kahane's teachings live on among the Jewish people and what he did has left a lasting impact beyond the close circle of his followers. I'm convinced that many around the country feel that he was right and admire him, even if they don't dare to admit it openly. They are afraid. Given the hate campaign by the media and some government officials against the right-wing and the settlers of Judea and Samaria, that's no wonder. A huge, precious and dedicated part of our own people, and among them especially the followers of Rabbi Kahane, are slandered, harassed and even, absurdly, depicted as a greater threat than Arab terrorism. All this in order to embrace the real deadly enemies, for the sake of unrealistic peace accords and the next “disengagement” under the watchful eyes of America and Europe.
What if that's not how we want things to be? One aspect of countering this detrimental development is indeed education and outreach. Of course, it's not the only aspect, but it is important as a foundation. It is precisely the people standing outside, drenched in the “rain” of the left-wing media hate campaign who need to be reached. They need to know the alternative. Authentic Jewish values have to be brought back into the mainstream - and that's a task for all who care about Israel, not only the followers of Rabbi Kahane. It can succeed even by simple means.
If a single, well-prepared lesson on a few clear Jewish concepts worked wonders on me, it can work on others, too. Perhaps I'm too optimistic, but something inside me doesn't want to give up and doesn't want to return to obediently swallowing the media propaganda stew, and to silently watching Israel undermining it's very existence.
I look back at my Tehillim booklet, at the outcry of King David: "I have done justice and righteousness - leave me not to those who oppress me."
Let the voice that dared to speak the truth not be silenced. Rabbi Meir David Kahane gave everything for the Jewish people; may G-d avenge his blood.