Friday, October 30, 2009

Arrogance Versus Respect

The following is a letter I received yesterday from a regular reader of my blog. Aside from the very flattering things he says about me – for which I thank him, I think one can see that he is an observant Jew and serious about his commitment to Yiddishkeit - Torah U'Mitzvos, and Eretz Yisroel. And yet he feels pain about how other serious Jews see him.

His concern is something about which I often post – respect! Or more accurately the lack of it on the part of certain Charedim. In their arrogance they reject the views of other serious and observant Jews - and their leaders. I agree with his perceptions. Most people who read this blog regularly know this.

I am obviously not alone. I think his is an important message to those who think that only their own views matter - and therefore look down upon the rest of observant Jewry. I present it here unedited except for some personal things which I deleted. The rest is verbatim and intact. As requested his name is being withheld.

Dear Rabbi Maryles,

I am an MO American-Israeli who reads your blog 'religiously'. Your ability to combine loyalty to Torah and Mitzvot while candidly dealing with the many problems in the Orthodox communities (including my own) is an inspiration (at least to me). It has helped me keep faith knowing there are people like you out there, that not all Chareiedim are fanatics.

In many of your posts, you discuss the hatred-contempt-derision that many Charedi leaders direct towards MO's and DL's. I would like to share my perspective from "the other side of the fence". Believe me when I say that my experience is not an isolated case, and many others have reacted in a more extreme fashion.

The Shulchan Aruch brings an extreme case to demonstrate how far the Mitzva of Kibud Av Va'Em goes. Even if the son is a Rosh Kahal, and his father spits in his face in front of everyone and tears his clothes, the obligation still stands.

Now, imagine if the father did this to the son day in, day out, finding new and interesting ways to insult and humiliate him, destroy his reputation and make his life a living hell. I'm sure you can agree that even if the son was the most devout, loving person on earth, he would be hard pressed to be mekayim this mitzva bekavana mele'a.

This, Rabbi Maryles, is how many of us committed MOs and DLs feel on a daily basis. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard of our Gedolim and major Rabbanim being humiliated, our principled halakhic stands derided by both Gedolim and the various lower-level Rabannim of the Charedi world.

You cannot begin to understand the level of rage, humiliation and insult I feel every time I hear someone talk casually talk about "JB" or "airbrush" certain Rabannim like Rav Kook and Rav Herzog, neither of whom were anywhere NEAR MO-lite, out of "official history". These are only the "lighter insults", I'm sure you know, and have mentioned much worse.

Like the proverbial Rosh Kahal, I have long since passed the point where "kibud talmidei chachamim (Charedim, that is)" has any real meaning for me beyond a formal halachic requirement. I cannot show respect when I feel none whatsoever, only shame and hatred. There are only so many times I can be spat on before I stop complaining about the rain. I am only human.

In their effort to constantly assert their superiority in the most insulting and degrading manner, Charedim who hold this attitude not only create a serious Chilul Hashem among secular Jews. They have caused people like me to wonder how on earth it is possible that people can learn Torah for so long and yet have so ridiculously little to show for it. Being able to come up with brilliant sevaros for Gemara sugyot is in my mind worthless if you don't know how to act like a mentsch. I'm sorry, but that's how I feel.