How will we be judged?
And now they have gone. They appeared like an apparition, they unnerved and unsettled us, they angered and frustrated us, and as suddenly as silently as they arrived, so they have disappeared. Our streets of are devoid and they have returned to somewhere. The Breslovers have left our community and I for one, am left wondering as to what just happened and how we fared.
It has been a period of rumour and smoke, of sting operations and wedding crashes. A period of car chases through our neighborhoods, of accusations of aiding and abetting and of harbouring fugitives. We have gossiped and been haughty, we have scorned and we have turned away. I have no idea if we have falsely accused. Certainly their leader’s release in Amsterdam has me a little perplexed.
They arrived on our doorstep ahead of Pesach 2014 and we were caught by surprise. They became the community’s concern and we discussed and pondered, debated and argued, and continued to do so as we were thrown a set of circumstances in which we had little experience. Was it our problem to deal with the indigent and the hungry when the burden of responsibly is already straining our community’s limited resources? What about the criminal accusations, Interpol lists, child brides, border crossing and other activities we heard about?
We became used to the garbed and the anachronistic walking through the streets of our neighborhoods and we didn’t know how to react. The “other worldly” nature of their attire and approach embarrassed us and all we wanted was for them to go away so that we could continue as we had always done. I have to say that for some reason I was comforted by their presence as if for that brief moment that they were with us, a piece of Israel, with all its eccentricities belonged to us too, here at the tip of Africa. Either that or it harkened back to times gone by – something I had never experienced.
We couldn’t decide what to do
So we couldn’t decide whether to nurture and feed and look after and take them in, or not. Some did and others got angry. To support is to encourage and no one wanted that. We were afraid and a bit confused and I think it is important to think about why.
Was it because we have a very delicate balance in our community between the observant and non observant, between those that are more vocal in their support of Israel and those who are less so. Is it because we simply could not carry the burden, or were we simply afraid of the otherness of the group and maybe, perhaps, a little xenophobic in our response. Was it because we sought guidance from the pulpit, who clearly were also somewhat ambivalent?
I do think that it is important to separate the criminal allegations of their leader, from the approach to his followers. And whereas I certainly believe that they should never have been encouraged to travel around the world with children who will no doubt be hungry and in need of education and medical care, as children are, my intention is not to focus on their responsibility but on our reaction to their presence. For we know that first and foremost their responsibility is their own. But I am not convinced that when we look back on this period that we will do so with pride.
I for one did nothing to support them, and now that they have gone there is little that I can do. I happen to feel a little uncomfortable with my own behaviour and my own lack of involvement not in the cause and not in the debate as to innocence and guilt but only, only as it pertains to our visitors. And as we stand before God in the weeks to come, I hope He understands that it was all very confusing. Really it was.