Following News of the Holy Land
Rabbi Y. OliverEarlier we quoted from the Rebbe concerning reading the newspaper in general. However, the question then arises: what about reading the news concerning the goings-on in the Holy Land?
In my humble opinion, it depends. Some read the news with the desire to be “up with the latest,” in order to demonstrate to others how cultured and informed they are, and how well they can hold their own in a political discussion or debate; because they don’t want people to think less of them because they aren’t informed; and worst, for its entertainment value. In these cases, following the news is definitely not serving any constructive purpose. A Jew’s life should be focused on learning Torah and serving Hashem, and all these things only serve as a distraction from that (and worse), as explained in the post linked to above.
In contrast, for a Jew who feels a genuine desire to share in the sorrows of fellow Jews, and reads the news about his brethren in order to know what to davven for, and to arouse himself to Teshuvah when appropriate over a feeling of personal responsibility (see here) for what has occurred, then perhaps reading these news reports from time to time would be appropriate. (However, for this it would seem that one need only know the general situation, not every minute detail.)
How indeed does one discern whether his desire to listen to the news stems from a pure or impure motive? I propose (loosely based on the sicha below) that this can be determined from his response. If after reading about the latest brutal Arab attack or expulsion of Jews from their homes by the Israeli government (may G–d save us), the reader feels distressed and moved to davven for the plight of these Jews, or energized to increase in his Torah study, davvenen, and performance of Mitzvos, in order to reduce the power of the enemy within and without, this shows that his time was well spent. But if he reads with a sense of detached intellectual curiosity, then perhaps his time would be better spent in other pursuits that he is certain are constructive.
... Although it is always the right time to discuss strengthening Torah and Mitzvos, starting from teaching Torah to Jewish children, there are times when it is of even greater importance. When there is a tumult in which the gentiles challenge the Jewish people [referring to UN condemnations of Jewish actions in the Land of Israel], we know that G–d will surely protect us, [as it is written]: “Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled; conspire a plot, but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us” [Yeshayah 8:10].
But we also know that then we need to strengthen “The voice is the voice of Yaakov” [i.e., Torah study—Bereishis 27:22]. Since “the hands are the hands of Esav” [i.e., hostility against the Jewish people] has increased, we need to increase manyfold in “The voice is the voice of Yaakov,” and with even greater intensity than at a normal time [see Pesikta to Eicha Rabba, 2].