How much more does God cry out if a person who is searching to find him is caused pain!
I call it my synagogue because if my friend's synagogue is vandalized today by anti-Conservatives, a religious Zionist synagogue can be vandalized tomorrow by anti-religious Zionists.
My synagogue was set on fire this past Saturday night, and the entire House of Israel should mourn.
I understand very well that there are those who would argue the necessity of crying out against infractions of Jewish law as they understand them, and even the importance of preventing such infractions whenever possible. After all, our Bible commands, "you shall surely chastise your colleague so that you do not bear his sin" (Vayikra 19:17). However, our rabbis have also insisted that "just as we are commanded to chastise those who would listen, so are we commanded not to chastise those who would not listen" (BT Yevamot, 65B).
If one chastises an individual who is not ready to listen, one will only drive him further away. This is probably the real meaning of the text in question, "you shall surely chastise your colleague" - but in such a way that you will not alienate him to an even greater extent - because then his added sins will only alight upon your shoulders.
Indeed, this is precisely how our sages have understood the responsibilities of the observant Jew. One of the most important Biblical commentaries and legal arbitrators of the modern period, the Malbim (Rav Meir Leibush, 1809 - 1879), explains the word "colleague -amiteha" to mean one who is committed to the commandments in the same manner in which you are; to attempt to chastise any individual who does not accept the same religious axioms as you do is an enterprise in futility and can only bear negative results. Hence, the eminent authority Vilna Gaon maintains that the commandment to chastise does not apply to any individual who clearly professes that he/she is not an Orthodox Jew (Arukh Orakh Haim 608).
It also must be remembered that as far back as 2,000 years ago, the great Rabbi Tarfon declared, "I would be amazed if anyone in this generation is worthy of chastising others. After all, if the chastiser insists, 'Remove the flint from between your teeth,' the chastisee can always respond, 'Remove the beam from between your eyes'" (BT Arakhin 16B). Now, if all of these sources relate to verbal chastisement, how reckless and irresponsible becomes an actual act of vandalism which purports to be "for the sake of heaven?"
The Talmud declares, "the entire world is brought to convulsions because of the transgression of 'Thou shalt not take the name of God falsely'" (BT Shvuot 39A). The sages are teaching us that while false and immoral acts are sinful and harmful to society, they can be forgiven once the wrongdoing is understood and atoned for; however, if the false and egregious act is somehow attached to the name of God, if the act of vandalism and arson is purported to have been perpetrated in the name of religious piety, then there is no room for repentance.
Are we not enjoined to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might, which is interpreted by our sages to mean: "to act in such a way which will cause the Almighty God to be loved by all the inhabitants of the world" (BT Yoma, 86A)? This is kiddush Hashem; what happened last Saturday night is hillul Hashem.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post [June 28, 2000]