Thursday, May 29, 2008

Exposing the Fanatics among Us

When I see the type of comments made by a certain segment of the Charedi world as was the case in one comment on my last post - it reinforces my views that there is something definitely wrong with wide swaths of them. They are perhaps even more dangerous than the hooligans who commit the crimes. They are the supporters – the ones who justify it and cheer them on. Though they will vehemently deny it, but they are the fanatics who sympathize with the criminals. I can’t remain silent in the face of the sheer folly and arrogance of that mindset.

It is not the arrogance of the many. I truly believe that the vast majority of Orthodox Jewry including the vast majority of Charedim are not arrogant. They reject the abhorrent ideology expressed by some in that world. It is the arrogance of the minority. And as a percentage they may be relatively small. But in numbers, I am coming to believe that it is quite large.

It is an arrogance derived of the absolutist mindset that is the hallmark of the black and white world of Charedim… where everything is either good or evil. But there is one segment that takes this mentality to the extreme. To them one can either be Charedi and holy or modern Orthodox and unholy. Every time I read what they write on certain issues - trying to pass it off as intelligent thinking - it either makes me laugh or it makes me angry. Usually both.

In my last post I lamented what I see as a certain level of tolerance of Charedi juvenile delinquency by the Charedi leadership. I demanded that there be a more effective response to it. Most people agreed with this. And those who didn’t - for the most part still felt that setting dumpsters ablaze as a protest is wrong.

But some actually believe it is right. They defend this behavior and condemn those of us who condemn it. This clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding about what God wants of His people. It also illustrates the level to which some people will sink to smear - not only me - but an entire segment of Torah Jewry - NOT with would we did. But with what they assume we would or would not do.

They seem to think it’s appalling that we expressed no outrage about autopsies and yet expressed outrage at burning dumpsters. Why are we outraged at burning dumpsters? After all, as one of them said in a comment - look at the bon fires on Lag B’Omer! No one got hurt there.

Right. Lag B’Omer. Let us examine this.

Those bon fires were legal - mostly planned and controlled. There was no acrid smoke. They were not done in the middle of a shopping area by a mob and forced upon an unsuspecting public.

And what were those burning dumpsters protesting? A possible autopsy by a police crime investigating unit. The police were doing their jobs. They are not religious. They don’t understand the importance of Kavod HaMeis- honoring a corpse. Or perhaps they even do, but they feel that an autopsy for the purpose of determining the cause of a crime is worthwhile. They certainly did not intend this as a challenge to Torah. They don’t know Torah. That autopsy may not have been Halachicly permissible, but it was hardly malicious in intent. Certainly it is not the same thing as say - stealing a corpse and mutilating it for nothing.

Halacha may forbid desecrating a corpse either way. But one can’t blame an irreligious Jew for not knowing the Halacha.

This is a Bein Adam L’Makom Halacha. It is between the violators and God. That religious Jews try to intervene and prevent it is a praiseworthy. But not by means that can harm innocent people, destroy property, and desecrate the streets of Jerusalem. Not by acting like a violent mob. And yet these people support them and say they are right and we are wrong. We do not protest autopsies enough and do not realize severity of the sin.

Let me be clear. We know the severity of this sin. And we support the petitioning the government to prevent non Halachic autopsies. And I must ask why they ignore a Bein Adam L’Chavero crime that can result in illness and injury. Acrid smoke in the middle of a densely populated shopping area in one of the most Charedi sections of Jerusalem can kill even the healthiest people if they breathe it for any significant amount of time. Elderly people and those with any kind of respiratory ailment could easily get seriously ill if they are anywhere near it.

This thought never enters their minds. To them, it’s Lag B’Omer!

Well, it is not Lag B’Omer. It is Charedi juvenile delinquency. People in the streets were not warned. A Group of Chasidic looking hooligan adolescents who live in that area came out in force almost as though they were ordered to do it and created a public fire hazard in area of mostly Charedi Jews.

This is praiseworthy to this type of Charedi. These young people care little about the welfare of their fellow Jews… even their own fellow Charedim. What is important to them is that they are going to teach the government Kavod HaTorah! Whatever it takes!

And their supporters have the gall to say it is modern Orthodox Jews that have a broken moral compass?! As long as there an autopsy prevented, the means are justified? To them it is the modern Orthodox brain that is fried – as one commenter put it.

And then the ultimate insult from a commenter: Comparing an autopsy to the holocaust. They claim we would have opposed burning tires on the lawn of the White House in protest of that. Yes, this is what one of them said.

Well there were Charedi leaders around at that time in America. Let us examine their response. Did a group of mostly Charedi Rabbanim who tried to speak to the President at that time riot and burn rubber tires on the front lawn of the White House when their plea to speak to the President was rebuffed? And their plea wasn’t Nivul HaMeis. Jews were being systematically tortured and murdered to the tune of 6 million. Was their moral compass broken too? Or perhaps the holocaust doesn’t rise to the level of desecrating a corpse.

This is exactly the attitude of a significant segment of Charedim - a few of whom comment on this blog. They actually believe that this is Daas Torah. And that’s one reason acts like burning dumpsters in Jerusalem are perpetuated!