Op-Ed: Why Do They Look Like That?

Yidden planting a tree in the Shomron

By Shmuel Sackett – I have spoken in over 500 Jewish communities in the USA and Canada. Once – at a hotel in the Catskills – a young woman gave an introduction to her question by asking a pre-question: “Is it okay if I ask something that might offend you?”

By Shmuel Sackett

I have spoken in over 500 Jewish communities in the USA and Canada and love the Q&A session that follows my presentation. This is where people get to ask what is truly bothering and/or confusing them.

Once – at a hotel in the Catskills – a young woman gave an introduction to her question by asking a pre-question: “Is it okay if I ask something that might offend you?” My answer was simple and to the point; “Of course you can… ask whatever you want… but is it okay if my answer offends you?” She decided not to ask her question. Oh, man! I was actually looking forward to that one.

While I can literally write a book about the questions I have received – and the answers I gave – the one that stands out, and wins the “Most Unexpected Question Award” is when a gentleman asked; “Why do they look like that?” My answer was, “Huh? Umm… can you kindly explain your question?” The fellow then clarified his unclear words; “Every time I see a picture of settlers in the West bank, they look weird. Long payos, a gigantic kippa and sandals with no socks. Why do they look like that?” Yup, that was his question.

I want to share the answer I gave with as many people as possible, since I have a rule: If someone asked a question, it means others have the same question, they just didn’t have the chance (or chutzpah) to ask. Here’s the answer.

Those Jews are the best ones on planet earth today. They are connected to everything that is important to the Jewish Nation – HaShem, His Torah, His Mitzvot, His Land and His Nation. They are filled with incredible love for HaShem and they are willing to sacrifice themselves for His honor. The “mesirut nefesh” these guys have is “off the charts” and nothing – and I mean nothing, stands in their way. They deal with every challenge that arises, never complain and have no fear of the enemy. Their faith and trust in HaShem is similar to stories you read about great Chassidic Rebbes, and… they are always b’Simcha.

  • L-R: Shmuel with Shalom Dovid Manne, a farmer and winemaker from Chavat Gilad (near Shechem)

These guys have no materialistic dreams. They live in very simple and modest homes, many of which they built themselves! They do not own televisions, have no idea what Netflix is, and their cars are something you would never drive. Most of these guys have no air conditioning in the summer nor heat in the winter. Simply put; their dwelling places are not important to them because they live the land itself. They farm and have sheep… you know, like some other Jews you might have heard of. What are their names, again? Oh, yeah – Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Dovid, Rabbi Akiva… Unlike many of us – myself included – these heroic Jews don’t just read/learn about these great Jewish leaders – they follow their examples perfectly!

The reason why they look the way they do is because they are not connected – in any way – to the modern, Western world. They are 100% Torah Jews, through and through. They learn “Do not cut off the hair on the sides of your head” (Va’Yikra 19:27) so they just don’t touch it. They learn about covering their head, so they choose kippot that do just that, as opposed to those who are more concerned with the kippa matching the design of their suit. Finally, they wear sandals because – believe it or not – that is what our forefathers wore. Sorry, guys… but when HaShem told Moshe “Take your shoes off your feet” (Sh’mot 3:5), Moshe removed his sandals, not his Air Jordans…

In short, yes, these guys look different but if they seem weird to you, it’s because you are not used to looking at kedusha (holiness) and because you’ve never met nor spoken to them. Here is what I recommend: Next time you come to Israel – or if you’re here now – let me know when you have some time, and I will connect you to some of these amazing Yidden. You will meet young men and women with incredible Emunah, outstanding Middot and who are as courageous and brave as Yehuda ha’Macabee. I promise that you will leave highly motivated and super-charged. These heroes are the “salt of the earth” and deserve our full endorsement and support.


Shmuel Sackett is the founder and director of the Am Yisrael Chai Foundation and the popular Yerushalayim Dream Raffle

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