Thursday, April 9, 2015

Passover Interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 3 of 3: Influencing Public Values

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)


Influencing the values ​​the public

YBA Chairman, Rabbi Haim Drukman
 In the rabbi’s study in Merkaz Shapira, tables and benches are arranged in orderly rows. It is a small sanctuary in the eyes of the few students who have been coming to study with Rabbi Drukman for many years at the house; to be taught Torat Eretz Yisrael by their teacher, the positive attitude to the State and the words of Rabbi Kook. 

It seems that in recent years the religious Zionist youth have strayed a little away from these things. The emphasis has shifted to the individual, the personal. Hasidism is gaining wide acceptance, and the path of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook is less dominant. "I agree that there is more of a trend toward the individual today, the personal, and therefore youth are searching for these aspects," says Rabbi Drukman, adjusting his glasses on his face, "[But] one should see himself as part of society – this is the truth, and the need to educate to what is true. We shouldn’t under-estimate the value of the individual, but we have to see the individual as part of the whole. The correct way is for each individual to figure out how he can best help to benefit the whole of society and build on that. It is like the relationship between the hand and the body: Isn’t it unthinkable that the hand should speak for itself, as separate from the body? A body without a hand is crippled, but the hand without the body is worthless. When a person considers only himself, it may easier, more pleasant, but the truth is that he is part of the society. The individual does not become lost as part of the society: the individual takes on its real value as part of the society."

Is it still possible to educate towards these values?

"I think so. I try to learn from my mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who reiterated dozens of times the main principles that were important to him, and little by little they sunk in. He did it on purpose. He understood that values ​​have to sink in, to penetrate all the armor that person has. The values ​​have remained the same values, and we still need to educate toward them, but we need to change the means of doing so because we cannot ignore the place that Individualism is gaining. An educator needs to talk to the place where his students are at. If he ignores this rule, his words will not be heard. It can be compared to an adult and a baby who both want to drink. You give a glass or an open bottle to the adult, but for a baby you make a small hole in the bottle for him to suck on, otherwise he might choke. The same holds true with students. We cannot speak in a language that would not be listened to; you have to figure out a way to present these values ​​to the audience in front of you."

Once a week, Rabbi Drukman devotes an entire evening to the questions of first year students at his yeshiva, Yeshivat Hesder Or Etzion. For years he was the senior rabbi at the Association of Hesder Yeshivot. But despite the fact that new Hesder Yeshivot have opened everywhere, many teens today are preferring to enroll in pre-IDF Mechina (preparatory) programs. "The Hesder Yeshiva [track] is by far the best path," said Rabbi Drukman, "but I supported the establishment of the pre-IDF Mechina academies because not every youth is inclined to attend a Hesder Yeshiva, and a year of Mechina before being drafted will strengthen him very much. There were those who thought that the Mechina programs would hurt the Hesder Yeshivot, because they might attract some boys who are on the border and could also be appropriate for yeshiva. But I do not think this is the right attitude. We have to worry about all of them."

But a high school senior can say to himself: I will go to a Mechina, learn for a year, or a year and a half, get stronger and then serve for a full three-years in the army, like everyone else. What need is there for Hesder Yeshivot?

"The purpose of Hesder Yeshivot is not to strengthen the guys so that they can succeed in keeping their religious identity in the army. This is a very important goal, but it is the goal of the Mechina programs. The Mechina programs do not pretend to give rise to scholars. The role of the yeshiva is to train scholars. Those who go to the Hesder Yeshivot contribute to the security of the whole of Israel, its physical security and its spiritual security. Our mission is to grow scholars who also serve in the army. Can we accept a situation in which Torah sages will grow only from those who do not go to the army?"

But most Hesder Yeshiva graduates do not continue into the rabbinate.

"Our sages long ago taught us ‘A thousand students make one teacher.' In order to produce one exceptional scholar, we need to have a thousand students studying the Torah. Moreover, even those not involved in the rabbinate, but instead chose to go into other areas, still should be Torah scholars. Is there not a qualitative difference between those who learn Torah for one year and those who study diligently for a few years? I very much appreciate the Mechina academies and think they are doing a great thing, but you can’t come out a scholar after just one year in a preparatory program. There is a great need for Mechina programs, but there is an even greater need for more Torah scholars, and its the yeshiva's role to cultivate them. "

Turn away from evil, do good

It is doubtful that Rabbi Drukman imagined that his nomination as Israel Prize laureate would bring back an old and painful affair: the sexual harassment charges against the YBA Netiv Meir Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Zev Kopolovitz. A few days after his nomination, there were calls for the Minister of Education to revoke the award decision. A group of YBA Netiv Meir graduates sent a letter to the Minister of Education, which claimed that Rabbi Drukman knew of the criminal deeds of Kopolovitz - for which was sent to prison - but did not contact the police, allowed him to continue teaching in the institution and tried to cover up the story. "That's a false and fabricated story," thunders Rabbi Drukman, while sailing in his memory back to those days. "At the beginning of the affair I was told that he was retiring as head of the yeshiva because of health problems, and I regretted it. After a while he returned to his post, and I understood that his health condition had improved. Four years later, after I had become Chairman of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, I heard rumors about what he had done, and on the same day I suspended him from his position. Truthfully, I did not know that I had to report it to the police. In those days, 12 years ago, these things were not as salient as they are today. It's not true that I knew and covered it up; that's a complete lie. I knew nothing. And when I learned of the rumors, I suspended him from his position immediately. Indeed, it was wrong that I didn’t report it to the police, and I regret that. "

How do you think the religious community should treat sexual harassment in the community? What about solutions such as the Takana Forum?

"Our public should treat sexual harassment like any other public: through the police. We must not, God forbid, ignore any such phenomenon or the need to deal with. I do not think that the religious community is any different from the general public in any way." 

Rabbi Drukman in his study
The conversation with Rabbi Drukman goes on and on. It is interrupted by phone calls from people wanting to wish the rabbi well for the holiday;  his loyal assistant brings the rabbi documents to sign, including updates on what's happening in the rabbi’s many areas of responsibility. Rabbi Drukman expertly juggles all these tasks; recalling a quote from an old book, and knows exactly where to quickly find the quote among the thousands of books that line the walls of the room.

You cannot ignore one of the largest endeavors of Rabbi Drukman, one in which he has been involved since ancient times: the Bnei Akiva youth movement. He was a member, and a leader in his youth. The movement has undergone major changes over the years - some would call them "extreme." Drukman has called them "positive strengthening". The rabbi is happy to address the subject and sets his eyes on the changes brought about by the Bnei Akiva movement in Israel: "Of course there is tremendous progress in Bnei Akiva compared to what it used to be. Naturally, since the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network was founded, which built high schools and encouraged youth to study Torah, religious practice has been strengthening.

We always knew in the Bnei Akiva youth movement that we are part of the people of Israel. We understood that one cannot say 'I saved my soul,' but rather we should take care of all the people. We understood that our job is to educate, and the matter is progressing on an upward spiral. We understand the need for patience and forbearance, even today. You can’t be anxious. We have to understand that if you want to educate the people of Israel, it is necessary to be patient, and we must not think that everything happens quickly. So it is with education. Do not give up; believe in the big ideal and say, God willing, we come to it."


Towards the end, as if not enough words had already been spoken, I ask him what message he would like to deliver to today’s religious Zionist youth. Rabbi Drukman pauses a moment, thinking. "You must know that you are the future of Israel and the State of Israel," he says, "It is very important that you do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country. You should be filled with values and identify more and more with who you are, be role models in every way and try to ‘Love for the Sake of Heaven.' God asks us to love simple things: learning Torah, good behavior and speaking graciously to others. These constitute Love for the Sake of Heaven. You must always think about how you can bring heavenly love to people. Just as we see great progress in our people, we see also a thirst for True Judaism. You can help promote this process: the process of returning the nation to its natural roots. This our mission today.”

Go to AFYBA Website

No comments:

Post a Comment