Monday, August 11, 2008

Making Judaism Look Stupid

When someone is a Gadol BaTorah - that means his knowledge in Torah is so great that he has few peers on this earth. But is that enough to be a leader? Is Torah knowledge enough to make decisions that affect all of Klal Yisroel?

This is a question that keeps coming up every time a new and controversial edict is made. The way things are going lately indicates that Torah Knowledge is not enough. At least if those edicts were actually made by the people they have been attributed to.

Of course Torah knowledge is the most important factor in being a leader of the Jewish people. One must know Torah first. But that is not enough. Aside from knowing many other things one must also have common sense.

This is why I am skeptical about the following story. I refuse to believe that the Gadol BaTorah mentioned in it actually made the comments attributed to him. In fact I’m beginning to doubt that the accuracy of just about any statements attributed to any Gadol BaTorah published in the Yated. Here is what the latest edition of the Internet Yated said:

A delegation representing the Rabbinical Committee for Transportation Matters was received by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita at his home and received his blessings for success in the efforts to protect travelers from immodest entertainment on airplanes.

During the visit the delegation demonstrated their new folding mechitzoh designed to hide the main cabin screens from view in order to protect people from seeing inappropriate images.

After erecting the mechitzoh — which can be folded to 25 cm (10 inches) — on HaRav Kanievsky's table, the delegation members asked whether it appeared bizarre and would be liable to cause chilul Hashem, but he allayed their concerns, saying "it's a kiddush Hashem!"

They also asked him about non-Jewish travelers sitting behind them who complain the mechitzoh obstructs their view of the screen, but HaRav Kanievsky dismissed these concerns as well.

At the end of their visit HaRav Kanievsky said he was pleased with the solution the delegation presented to improve modesty on airplanes and blessed them for success.

The Rabbinical Committee for Transportation Matters?!

What in heaven’s name is that?! Who are they? Who appointed them? When did they pop up? Are they the one’s quoting Rav Kanievsky? Are they quoting him accurately? I’m not so sure. But they obviously agree with the sentiments attributed to him.

I think I know why they feel that way. They truly believe that such Mechitzos are a Kiddush HaShem. Showing a high level of modesty - they will say - is a Kiddush HaShem. These Mechitzos will clearly demonstrate that.

But will they? To go to such lengths to avoid seeing women dressed in G rated clothing or behave in a G rated manner on a movie screen will not make a Kiddush HaShem.

Why? Because - Yotza Schoro B’Hefsedo. The message of modesty will be entirely lost on others - Jew and non Jew alike - who will instead see weird behavior that will at best be snickered at and ridiculed. And at worst the people using those Mechitzos will generate resentment and even anger on the part of those passengers whose view of the movie will be blocked. How this adds up to a Kiddush HaShem truly escapes me.

It isn’t like there is any real Arayos displayed in a G rated movie (which is how all in-fight movies are edited). True – the standards of Tznius are not the same as ours, but they are well within the limits of what one encounters in the public square. No Posek has as of yet said that one may not walk in the public square - at least not that I’m aware of. It’s not like they would see anything on an in-fight movie that they haven’t seen before, unless they’ve been locked in a cave all of their lives.

And no one is forced to look at an in-flight movie screen anyway. For one thing there is hardly any incentive to watch a movie that has no sound. If one does not put on the earphones provided by the airline they will not hear the movie. If one is of the type to use such Mechitzos, they will hardly be of the type that would put those earphones on. The silent G rated images will then hardly draw anyone’s attention.

If they don’t want to see the silent images of a G rated movie, they don’t have to look. They can look in a Sefer or a Yated, or take a nap, or have a nice conversation with their wives or their children, - or they can put on a blindfold. That may look weird but at least it won’t get people angry.

I just don’t see this device as having any value except to make Jews look stupid, foolish, and insensitive to others. Instead of setting an example of modesty they will be making Judaism look ridiculous and getting people angry in the process. What Kiddush HaShem is there in that?

Is there anyone who actually thinks this is a good idea? Is anyone going to even buy one of these things - let alone use them on a plane?!