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Is Everything a 10?
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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One of the techniques that I have found most helpful when mediating disputes between rebellious adolescents and their parents, is to give the teenager six or eight index cards and ask him (her) to jot down a request or concession that he would like his parents to grant on each of the cards. Then, I ask the teen to stack the index cards in priority order – with the most important request on top. Finally, I have him assign a value from 1 to 10 for each of those requests, with 10 denoting something that he would consider of paramount significance and 1 representing a matter that is not terribly important. I then hand a similar number of index cards to the parents of the adolescent and ask them to do the same. And while this exercise is certainly not a miraculous cure for friction between teens and their parents, it is often helpful in establishing healthy dialogue and effective problem-solving in a strained relationship.

With this in mind, I wish that someone would gather the Orthodox Knesset members who purportedly represent their observant constituents in Eretz Yisroel and ask them to assign a value from 1 to 10 regarding the importance of ‘changing the clocks’ from Daylight Savings Time weeks before the rest of the civilized world.

For those who live in the Diaspora and may not be familiar with the yearly tempest in a teapot, here is some background: Most countries in the Western world move their clocks back from Daylight Savings Time around the end of October. However, a number of years ago, religious Knesset members in Israel introduced legislation to implement the clock change a week or so before Yom Kippur in an effort to ‘shorten’ the fast day for Israelis. Not surprisingly, this issue provokes resentment among non-observant Israelis year after year as they complain about losing an hour of afternoon sunlight during the beautiful fall season. This is compounded by the fact that due to the brutal summertime heat in Israel, some of the nicest weather days are in the fall. These are now shortened by the clock change, with people around the country returning from their offices after dark in part of September and all of October.

So I ask our Orthodox Knesset members; is this matter really a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10? Is it even a 5? Don’t we have more pressing matters on our communal agenda than this one? Why are we adding yet another point of contention in our already strained relations with our secular brothers and sisters?

There are certainly other solutions to this ‘problem’ that do not require wholesale changes that affect the entire country for weeks on end. We could change the clocks in our shuls and homes if we should wish to do so for the day of Yom Kippur, just like sleep-away camps in America do during the summer months, when they operate on Eastern Standard Time to allow for night activities after dark and for the children to go to bed earlier. We could start prayers an hour later on Yom Kippur. Or we could simply not change anything and ‘deal with it’ as the kids say. My wife and I were vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer and we fasted on Shiva Asar B’tamuz until nightfall, which was at 11:15 p.m. So, again I ask: why are we needlessly provoking enmity over this non-issue?

One need not be a secular Jew to resent the early onset of winter that the change of clock brings. Our youngest daughter is celebrating her Bas Mitzvah this coming Sunday, and to get a jump-start on the festivities, I surprised her by picking her up after school yesterday and taking her to dinner in a restaurant. After we ate, the two of us spent a glorious afternoon and evening in a local park. We were having such a wonderful time that we stayed long after sunset – until we could barely see where we were walking due to the darkness. Now, imagine how resentful I would have been had our day ended an hour earlier? (FYI; sunset in NYC was 7:02 p.m. yesterday, while it set at 5:42 p.m. in Yerushalayim).

What concerns me most is that this particular issue of the clock change is indicative of the ‘everything-is-a-10 mindset’ that some or many in our community maintain. Certain issues are indeed a 10; and we rely on the daas Torah of our gedolim to guide us as to which they are. But in all other non-essential matters, we should practice the concept of darchei noam, ‘paths of pleasantness,’ and be sensitive to the wants and needs of others outside our community. Keep in mind that no one was ever brought closer to Hashem by force. And even if we don’t practice tolerance for its own sake, we ought to do so strictly for pragmatic reasons. There is no doubt in my mind that sooner or later (probably sooner) there will be a colossal push-back from secular Israelis who are resentful at their growing perception that observant Jews are not only appropriately lobbying for the right to practice religion as they wish to, but are imposing their will on the broader community.

We went through this a few short years ago when Tommy Lapid and his Shinui party garnered 15 Knesset seats by tapping into anti-charedi feelings. Then, there were terribly painful cuts made to yeshiva and family subsidy support, some which have not been reversed to date. Well, just because Tommy bungled his mandate and slid off the political radar, the feelings of those who voted for him did not diminish over the course of time.

We would be well served to maintain our perspective on non-urgent communal issues and start acting as if we do not have a limitless number of cards in our deck to needlessly squander.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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