“Mi l’Hashem elai!” In every generation, there are those who respond and take a stand for Hashem
When I was 18 years old, I spent five months at the infamous Kibbutz Mizra, in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, between Afula and Nazareth. And yes, I mean infamous. As in one of Israel’s only producers of nonkosher meat, most notably pork. As in being the very embodiment of treif for Israel’s religious public.
Four years later, I’d been studying in Neve Yerushalayim for about a year, when my friend Gail and I headed to Tel Aviv on a day off. The afternoon found us at Dizengoff Center, a shopping mall in the middle of the city, at a large kibbutz fair featuring produce and crafts and products from hundreds of kibbutzim from all over Israel.
Including a booth from Kibbutz Mizra, selling pork products, smack in the heart of Tel Aviv. Smack in the heart of Eretz Yisrael. Hitting me smack in the heart.
It was a heart that hadn’t yet heard of Pinchas.
A heart that didn’t yet know the significance of being a bas Kohein, and carrying the blood of the only tribe that not only refused to worship the Eigel Hazahav, but who, under the rallying cry of “Mi la’Hashem elai!” killed those who did.
But I’d single-handedly disrupted a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the middle of Boston. And the more I heard anti-Semitic remarks, the more prominently I wore my Magen David.
So here we were at Dizengoff Center, and there they were, my kibbutz alma mater, selling pork.
I was aghast, and yes, naive. I thought everyone would be and should be as horror-struck as me. And I was appalled that they weren’t.
“We have to do something!” I told Gail. “Is there an art store here? I’m going to buy markers and tagboards and make protest signs!”
But there wasn’t an art store in the area, and I was becoming increasingly frantic as more and more people got on line to buy.
I started to go up to each person in the line.
“You know this is pig, right?” I told one person.
“They’re selling pig in Eretz Yisrael,” I told another.
“For thousands of years, Jews chose to die rather than eat pig, and now they’re selling it in the Land of Israel, and you’re lining up to buy it,” I pointed out to another.
“You’re old enough to have lived through the Holocaust, and now you’re buying pig in Eretz Yisrael?” I demanded of an older woman. She blithely told me it wasn’t for her; she was buying it as a special treat for her grandchildren.
“You’re buying pig for your grandchildren?!” I couldn’t believe it. “Would you give poison to your grandchildren? You’re buying them poison. And will you buy them a non-Jewish spouse as well, and have non-Jewish grandchildren?”
After having been at Kibbutz Mizra and not at all bothered by their pork factory, I had now quite literally come full circle. I wasn’t just spiritually outraged; I was in physical pain.
I tried a new tactic.
“How much will it take for you not to buy this? Here, you’re planning to spend 100 shekels? I’ll give you 200 shekels not to buy it….”
I offered every person on that line double what they were willing to spend on the pork, if they’d agree not to buy it.
At this point, the Mizra man behind the counter, seeing what was going on, yelled at me to get out of there.
I ignored him and continued to speak to everyone on line.
He then grabbed one of the longest sausages on display, a two-foot-long frozen salami, and storming out from behind the counter, charged me with the sausage, and threatened to beat me with it.
Was this yeihareig v’al ya’avor? I was pretty sure keeping other Jews from eating treif, though noble, didn’t necessitate my getting run through with a frozen pork sausage. Loud, angry words were exchanged as we both unashamedly let the other know what we thought of them.
Gail, standing on the sidelines and barely daring to look, later told me how she was wondering what she would do when I a) got clubbed unconscious by the sausage-wielding pork seller; b) got arrested for disturbing the peace; or c) a combination of both.
And also how proud our rav back at Neve, a real kanoi, would be of me.
The entire line listened to the angry words.
Some agreed with him and yelled at me.
Some agreed with me and yelled at him.
I didn’t get arrested or clubbed. I don’t know how many potential customers, if any, I persuaded to not buy pork.
But I also didn’t stand silently by.
I stood up for Hashem and His Torah.
I put myself at risk to call out, to myself and others, “Mi la’Hashem elai!”
And that’s what counts.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 770)
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