Jan 18, 2012

Eli Yishai Appointed God's Spokesman

Eli Yishai has taken today's role as God's spokesman and explaining why things happen, and in the process upsetting many.

Whenever someone claims to know why something happened, and attributes it to blame other people for not doing something you would have wanted them to do, it understandably upsets people.

Yes, we believe our prayers help, can move mountains, can overturn heavenly decrees, can persuade Hashem to help us. The issue is not whether or not Eli Yishai is right or wrong about the efficacy of prayer, though sometimes we pray and don't necessarily get the answer/response we hoped for. The issue is how dare Eli Yishai assume to know what spiritual reason caused a physical action, and blame that on other people. One can always look at a failure and take a spiritual lesson for himself (or herself) on how to improve, for example, one's own prayers or charity. The problem is when someone has the gall to look at the failure and explain how someone else is at fault, and ow someone else has to improve.

What did Eli Yishai say?

At some sort of conference, organized by Rav Reuven Elbaz, Yishai spoke and said
In the Six Day War all the Arab countries fought against Israel. For every Jewish soldier there were at least hundreds, if not thousands, of [Arab] soldiers. For every tank there were hundreds of tanks. For every plane there were hundreds of planes. And see what great miracles and wonders there were. Then we were the weakest army in the Middle East. We did not have a chance to win. Suddenly everybody ran away and Israel won.
In the Second Lebanon War we were the strongest army in the Middle East, not like during the Six Day War. The strongest. There was no Egypt, no Syria, no Lebanon, No Iraq, no Yemen, no Lybia. Just 2000 "Hezballonim". And look what happened in the Second Lebanon War.
Do you know what the difference is? In the Six Day War every Jew that went to war and went to the front lines, lifted his eyes to Heaven. But in the Second Lebanon War we said "Kochi V'Otzem Yadi" - we are powerful and strong. So Hashem said to us you are so strong? let's see how that works out for you.
Gentlemen, this is a tremendous lesson - when all the Arab nations oppose the Jewish nation, what saves the Jewish nation is those who learn Torah and serve the public and bring people back to Torah."
Eli Yishai might be right about what the reason the Second Lebanon War was not a resounding success, to put it mildly, or he might be wrong. I do not know. Either he is simply a demagogue, giving the crowd exactly what they are looking to hear, or he is a fool.

The first question to ask Minister Eli Yishai is with so many more yeshiva students learning and davening in the time of the Second Lebanon War than the number that existed and were doing the same in the time of the Six Day War, why were the results so vastly different, skewed in favor of the Six Day War?

The second question to ask Minister Eli Yishai is who's job is it to pray and learn for the success of the army? Sure, the soldiers (religious and non-religious alike) can/should offer their own prayers, but they are supposed to be fighting. the self-professed argument of the yeshivas is that the soldiers fight, and we are the division that protects via prayer and learning Torah. If there was not sufficient prayer in the time of the Second Lebanon War is that not something to criticize the yeshivas about more than the army?

Yishai could have used his analysis of the failure and exhorted them, those who came to hear him speak, to improve their prayer, or to strengthen their own faith, to learn more or better, to give more charity. Instead he simply spoke about how other people did not do enough.

I would recommend that in the future we look at failures, and successes, analyze them, and apply the [spiritual] lessons first and foremost to ourselves and to our communities, and not point the finger at other people.


as a result of the ruckus that this issue made, Minister Eli Yishai said his words were misconstrued and misunderstood. he said:
Haughtiness is the worst crime. In the Six Day War we saw tremendous miracles. How could such a simple text be turned into a political axe? Unfortunately, they quoted portions of a Torah lecture in order to present me as a public enemy.

At a drasha in front of baalei teshuva from yeshivat Ohr HaChayim, all of whom have served in the army, some of whom served in elite units, I spoke about the calamity of haughtiness.... I added that when we, the people, lifted our eyes to heaven. to hashem, we merited great miracles and salvation. The Six Day War was proof of that. These are basic concepts that every Jew understands. The army itself established a prayer for the soldier for when he goes out to battle.

As someone who served in the IDF, and as someone who's family is one that is part of the bereaved families, it is shocking to me that words of faith that are so basic have been turned into an axe.

As I evaluate my words, I am shocked from the partial quotes, and especially from the added commentary and the misleading headline [that led the article]. Still, because the announcement hurt some bereaved families and those who serve, I wanted to express the pain I feel and explain my words.


I add, the words quoted above are what he said - Yishai's explanation is that the headline used by Channel 10 to present the article, and their commentary along the way about it, were what caused the misunderstanding of what he meant.


  1. Rafi - your second to last paragraph is cut off in middle.

  2. I have long though that Eli Yishai is an embarrassment to himself and his party and a source of laughter and mockery to Israel's enemies.

  3. its a shas thing.


    (go to the site after the blackout finishes).

  4. When I read what you quoted, I didn't quite understand what was wrong with what he said.

    Everyone knows the haughty sports team loses the game.

  5. Rafi, I respectfully disagree. I believe it's OK to take guesses at G-d's rationale. Otherwise, we will never learn any lessons from anything.

    Yosef's brothers did so when they were in trouble with Yosef:

    וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו, אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל-אָחִינוּ, אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ, וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנוּ; עַל-כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ, הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת.

    Of course, no one nowadays can say anything with certainty, but taking guesses at G-d's rationale is not only Mutar, but praiseworthy - in order to better one's middot.

    Minister Yishai wasn't saying that he knew anything with certainty. That's not the way he - or any other frum Jew - would talk. He is using logic to take an educated guess at it. And it makes a lot of sense.

  6. Yaak - notice that in the passuk you quote they were guessing the rationale but they were then blaming themselves. not other people.

    I have no problem with people making cheshbon nefesh and guessing Gods working, if they apply their lessons to improve themselves. guessing Gods workings to lay blame on other people is where it gets dodgy.

    To paraphrase a rav (I dont even remember who) who once said this to me - people are concerned about their own gashmiyus and other peoples rucniyus, and that is the source of our problems. People should be concerned about their own ruchniyus and other people's gashmiyus,.

  7. But I think Yishai's statement was inward-looking. He was referring to society as a whole. He wasn't speaking like a politician, automatically blaming the leader of the other party - he was blaming everyone, whether frum or not. We all needed to look upward toward heaven - not trust in our "powerful" army.

  8. The thing is nowadays there is so much more emuna than what was in 1967. Back then no prime minister would say "b'ezrat hashem" nowadays it is common. "Mi sh'mamin lo mefached" sang by Eyal Golan is a very popular song among Israelis in this day and age. Back in '67 "Nasser Mechake L'Rabin" was a popular song before the war broke out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTtJjLtjxdQ) full of what Yishai would call "kochi v'otsem yadi". IMHO the problem with the Lebanon war is the same problem the US had in Vietnam. It's one thing to fight armies another is trying to defeat gorilla warfare.
    But anyway who cares about facts. Yishai knew his audience was a bunch of dumb sefardim who would just nod their heads in agreement.

    (BTW I am Sefardi too)

  9. But I think Yishai's statement was inward-looking. He was referring to society as a whole. He wasn't speaking like a politician, automatically blaming the leader of the other party - he was blaming everyone, whether frum or not. We all needed to look upward toward heaven - not trust in our "powerful" army.

    Comments such as Yaak's are but one of the reasons that Life In Israel makes such compelling reading!

    Well done all of you! Your thoughts, as expressed here, make life on this island of Jersey much more pleasant, definitely more intellectually stimulating - and often a great topic of conversation with my neighbours, Jewish and Gentiles alike.

    !עלו והצליחו

  10. "The thing is nowadays there is so much more emuna than what was in 1967."

    I think the opposite is true. Those random phrases you said are not said in ernest, but just to fit in socially and make a certain sector vote for you.

    In 1967 Israel and the Jewish people had real faith, where they silently prayed to Gd and thanked him for the miracles.

    You can see this clearly in the increase in aliyah during that time.

  11. Sorry Anon, I disagree. You can argue about today but in '67 Israel was run by a bunch of atheist socialists.


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