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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The quality of mercy

[Editor's note - the talented journalist Yisrael Segal, who died recently, was at one time a leading light of the ultraorthodox world, which he gave up. His brother is the head of a noted Yeshiva]
The virtue of mercy 
Eyal Gefen

[Translated from Maariv 11/10/2007]
Eyal Gefen finds it difficult to accept the ostracism of the late Yisrael Segal, even after he died. A request for forgivess and words of parting.

I know that the air hammer doesn't stop drilling into our heads with the surrealistic story connected with the tragic death of the auther and journalist, Yisrael Segal. However, though he is written about endlessly,  I am incapable of understanding and accepting the behavior of the ultra-orthodox Jewish world, who are tragically returning us light-years into the past, to the days of the destruction of the soul.
The rabbinical ruling that Segal's ultra-orthodox family must not mourn him (sit shiva for him) because he became non-religious, casts a great deal of darkness on the little effort that everyone makes to live in some sort of understanding, and to advance a bit in the direction of the  light.

I would like to tell anyone who lives his orthodox life in the backmost yards of religion, and makes rulings in any way which might occur to him based on the book of books, that for me, a Jewish-secular fellow - it looks like a farce from a horror movie. I am embarrassed to the depths of my soul by the controversy between Yisrael Segal's brother and Rabbi Eliashiv.
I don't believe that based on a jot or a tittle, they ruled up there in heaven that it is forbidden to mourn someone and to respect the memory of a Jew who died, whether he is Israel or Segal.
It sounds delusional and so inhuman and unmerciful, but mostly it sounds vengeful. And I, who only know know of the Torah that it asks for mercy at every opportunity, listen to the the words of Rabbi Eliashiv and am stricken to the depths of my soul.
He was tortured by apostasy
The late Yisrael Segal, who was one of our more brilliant and insightful logicians, died in great pain. The man who tried, throught his entire life, to clarify his own real identity and ours,  was not afraid to use any means to say unequivocally what he thinks and feels.
The frankness with which he was ready to say his piece is considered exceptionally brave, for it was never gossipy or teasing. It was piercing and assertive and uncompromising.
More than once, his opinion made a lot of sense to me and sketched out not a few solutions, in many varieties of questions of life vis a vis religion and the way of life it offers. More than once he rescued one from this puzzle, which so tortures us and so separates between our religious and secular people.
He was so self-tortured in apostasy, he worked at it and busied himself with it every moment, and demanded complicated explanations from himself. In the last interview with Dov Elboim that I saw, they talked about the excommunicated apostate Spinoza. Yisrael's eyes were filled with tears, he was choking because of the ostracism, the insensitivity of people who were so important in his life.
Yisrael Segal was one of the frankest people, and the truest to themselves. It was a great pleasure to listen to him and to read his articles and books. His words were full of power whenever they touched on the seam that accompanies us, which doesn't know how to be healed, between belief and regular life.
Yisrael Segal has left us, in his death, a book case that will become a monumental example of sense. In this bookcase there are written and spoken words, and these words will soon become a composition of the utmost importance.
Begging Pardon only when it is convenient
Yes, it is true that there was a familial world-war and it is true that arrows flew from his direction and returned no less poisoned from the direction of his brother. But gee whizz, the man died in agony. Where is the least bit of pit that is so often mentioned in the pages of the prayers? To where did the requests and pleadings for mercy from the almight, blessed be he disappear? When are such requests to be made, only when it is convenient?
Moreover, on the day of the funeral, his brother and his household celebrated the fete of Beit Hashoeva. It is weird. Perhaps there is a halachic basis and from the orthodox point of view everything is hunky-dory. But what about a bit of forgiveness??? What about a bit of reconciliation? What about saving the soul of a man even in his lifetime, and certainly in the next reincarnation, which from your (religious) point of view is the only option?
Within each of us, ahead of the Kippah and the Tefillin and the Tzitziot garment, there is some bit of heart. There is some bit of feelings, that distinguishes us from the animals. With the greatest respect and without, heaven forbid, wishing to hurt anyone in any way, I turn to you, good people and ask you: open your eyes. We are human beings who live in a slightly more enlightened century.
Shabat Shalom,

Eyal Gefen


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