And Moroccan Jews kept Shabbat happily. It held enjoyment & meaning for them.
Living within a traditional Muslim society also meant belief in one God stood as the norm.
Religious customs, regular sessions of prayer times throughout the day, modest dress & behavior for both men & women, hospitality...this gave the Moroccan Galut a platform to embrace the fundamentals of Jewish tradition.
The moderate climate also enabled abundant harvests of a wide variety of fruits, legumes, and vegetables, which thus enabled a tremendous amount of generosity in feeding the poor.
Even when the secularizing French influence infiltrated both the Jewish & non-Jewish societies of Morocco, it lacked Eastern Europe's rabid craze for the destruction of everything religious.
Making Room for Religion
For example, during the blessing said during a bris milah, you'll see very secular-looking Sephardi women suddenly cover their hair out of respect for the blessings.
When attending religious weddings—including the not-terribly-religious weddings, even the most secular women make some attempt at tsniyut, whether it's being technically covered up with long pants & long sleeves, or a longer-than-usual skirt.
Normally bare-headed men don a kippah.
In fact, in a wedding with a lot of bare-headed guests, kippahs get passed out to anyone who needs, and everyone dons one. No considers it religious coercion.
In fact, I recently attending a wedding on my husband's side in which the bride's gown showed an appalling lack of tsniyut (as did most of the female guests)...but the initial dancing hosted by the secular-looking DJs featured a mechitzah smack in the middle of the dance floor!
And everyone respected the mechitzah (for as long as it lasted).
BTW, the mechitzah (pleasantly) shocked me because when I first came to Eretz Yisrael around 30 years ago, the solid dati-leumi committed to weddings with separate dancing, but no mechitzah.
So all the more so with this family, a very tepid dati-leumi, I felt sure there would be mixed dancing all the way.
But much to their credit, the first part of the wedding not only featured separate dancing, but also a mechitzah on the dance floor.
When I expressed my joyful shock, one of my older kids told me this has become the norm; most weddings among this crowd feature a mechitzah on the dance floor.
And frum pop songs blared out from the speakers, including chassidish ones.
And everyone loved it, singing along & raising their hands prayerfully to shout, "Hashem Melech, Hashem malach, Hashem yimloch l'olam va'ed!" (Hashem is King, Hashem has always been King, Hashem will remain King forever & ever.)
As another example of mixing: In the slideshow of the new couple projected onto the walls, posed next to his really nice yet extremely immodest kallah stood the chatan...wearing long thick tzitzit.
And a kippah, of course.
(In case you're wondering how the chuppah ceremony is conducted with such a revealing kallah at these secular-religious Sefardi weddings, the kallah usually wears some kind of covering under the chuppah only. Or her veil remains long enough to cover—even if it's a see-thru veil. And the rav acting as mesader kiddushin takes tactful care not to face her.)
Wait a Minute...WHO was Throwing Rocks Again?
I wondered how it all went together back in Morocco's religiously devoted days of yore.
So I very nicely & sensitively asked my mother-in-law whether there were Jews who transgressed Shabbat in Morocco when she lived there.
"Yes," she said. "A few. But only inside their home. Never publicly."
"So there was never public desecration of Shabbat in Moroccan?"
"No," she said firmly.
She also indicated that the minority of Shabbat transgressors didn't want to take their Shabbat transgression to the street.
In other words, they weren't unhappy living amid a shomer Shabbat society, even if they did not believe it for themselves.
Intrigued by this complete (and correct) reversal of today's norm, I said, "What would have happened if they'd violated Shabbat on the street?"
"They'd throw rocks at them."
Oho, I thought. So it's not just those "fanatic charedim"...or so I assumed.
"Really?" I said. "In Morocco, the Jews threw rocks at Sabbath violators?"
My mother-in-law's eyes widened & she went speechless as did a double-take. "No!" she said when she'd recovered from the apparently shocking insinuation. She managed to stammer, "Not the Jews—the Arabs."
Now it was my turn for a double-take. "What—the Arabs?"
"Yeah," she said.
"Wait, let me get this straight," I said. "In Morocco, if a Jew would have violated Shabbat publicly, the ARABS would throw rocks at them?"
"Yeah," she said.
"Because they knew the Jews shouldn't be doing that."
If a Jew in Morocco walked out of his house smoking a cigarette or getting into a car on Shabbat, his NON-Jewish society would stone him on the spot.
The connection between obvious transgression & negative consequence back then & there was obvious to all.
In fact, even if you don't personally approve of it, it's hard to label that as Jew-hatred or antisemitism because the goyim in that situation were davka making sure Jews observed Judaism...as opposed to so many other times throughout history when the goyim tried to force Jews to violate Judaism.
And in addition to the basic respect these Shabbat-transgressors had for their Jewish society, the threat of stones zooming their way also kept their desecrations from crossing into the public sphere (a dynamic that ultimately weakens everyone & brings harsher judgement on a populace).
What Might These Nasty, Sometimes Lethal Hits be Hinting?
The surrounding nations are a type of polishing-sifting mechanism for Am Yisrael.
Only rarely do the surrounding societies remind us to return to the framework of halacha in such an obviously pro-Torah manner, as the Moroccan Muslims did when they attacked Jews who publicly desecrated their own religion of Judaism.
Usually, it's much less targeted & much more anti-Torah than that.
(For example, throwing rocks at Jews for doing things like living in Eretz Yisrael or going to daven at the Kotel.)
It doesn't mean we cannot defend ourselves.
It doesn't mean the haters are blameless. They're wicked & will face harsh consequences for their Jew-hating actions.
But it does mean we should also look beyond the stick (even as we struggle to dodge or fend off the stick).
As we find ourselves hit once again by a wave of attacks by Yishmael, we can look at what might be going on beneath the surface.
Once again, the attacks come as hits from behind or from the side—unexpected, short & to-the-point, yet lethal (or almost lethal, depending).
One thing that comes to mind is the nasty little barbs people sometimes shoot at others.
While the offender usually minimizes the nasty barb as "cute," "clever," "funny," or "S/He deserved it," the victim often feels slapped in the face, gutted, humiliated, enraged, etc.
With comment sections & social media, nasty little comments have reached an all-time high, spreading faster & farther than ever—before an audience of hundreds, thousands, or even millions—and staying there theoretically forever.
Another message might be about all the seemingly "little" breaches people make in halacha.
The skirts that are just a bit too short, the shirt that's just a tad too tight. (Men shouldn't wear tight pants either: https://dinonline.org/2016/02/26/tight-clothes-for-men/.)
The hair-covering that's not completely appropriate (because, hey, the main thing is covering the hair).
The one little look at something online not completely appropriate or even absolutely forbidden.
How many men glance at something online when they could be glancing at something in limud?
And as sincere & heartfelt as one's simple love of Hashem may be, all the "little" breaches mentioned in the weddings above are as appalling as the sincerely observed mitzvot in those same venues are meritorious.
(Probably, there are also other ideas I'm not thinking of.)
In so many situations, the Yetzer Hara comes through the back door, sneaking up from behind or to the side of a person looking the other way.
Then the Yetzer delivers that stab, that bullet.
Needless to say, I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else. I also struggle with all sorts of stuff.
Of course, as far as practical protection goes, normal security methods should be implemented & strengthened.
But throughout Jewish history, our greatest Sages have always emphasized the need to invest in good soul-searching & teshuvah when faced with Jew-hatred.
The Beautiful Rose Garden that is You
We should feel GOOD about seeking out what we need to strengthen.
And taking baby steps in the right direction is absolutely fabulous. Generally, you don't need to make grand gestures unless you really feel willing & able to do so.
It shouldn't be depressing or "Oh no, not this AGAIN..."
It should be like weeding a beautiful rose garden.
You are the rose garden in all your glorious beauty—and you just need to do your lovely gloriousness a favor by pulling out a few pesky weeds.
If even that's too much (and for some people, based on their personality & traumatic experiences, it really might be too much), people are also free to dance & sing songs of praise to Hashem as a response.
Simply davening or saying Tehillim are also wonderful responses.
And that's it.