Cause or Effect
When one observes the link between hatred of observant Jews and a total abandonment of religion which is so pronounced in one sector of secular Israeli Jewry, he cannot help asking himself which is the cause and which is the effect.
The answer lies in the commentary of Rashi on one section of the Torah portion which will be read in the synagogue this Shabbat. In two passages (Vayikra 26:14-15) the Torah describes the spiritual degeneration of Jews which leads to a Heavenly response of suffering and exile. Seven categories of sins are listed and one sin, explains Rashi, inevitably leads to another in the following pattern:
"If one ignores the study of Torah he stops performing the mitzvot. He then despises those who are observant and follows this with a hatred for the Torah scholars. His next step is to prevent others from being observant. He follows this by denying that G-d ever commanded us to perform His mitzvot and ends up denying that there is a G-d."
A careful analysis of this pattern will yield any number of profound insights into human nature, especially in regard to the urgent need of the sinner to justify his spiritual weakness by turning so viciously against those who remain loyal to their tradition and how this causes him to eventually deny the very basis of this tradition. When we watch with wonder how an anti-religious political party is capable of using its power as a member of the government coalition to wage war against government aid to Torah institutions and to suppress religious life in any way it can, we understand which is the cause and which is the effect.
The success of such a party in gaining so many Knesset seats in the last election is frightening when we hear the Torah warns us of the grave consequences of the seven steps of spiritual degradation which threatens the security of Israel forever.