Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where Are We Headed?

The Gemarah (Sanhedrin - 98a) tells us that Moshiach will eventually come - either sooner in a generation when the Jewish people are fully deserving (Dor SheKulo Zakai) or later in a generation when they are fully undeserving (Dor SheKulo Chaiv).

The difference being that in a Dor SheKulo Zakia, we will all champion and herald the arrival of Moshiach in a peaceful and joyous way. In a Dor SheKulo Chaiv – Armageddon! That is the war of Gog and Magog that will kill off all those who are completely unworthy of Moshiach (most of us – I guess) in not so pleasant ways!

What about the idea of forcing Israeli Jews to become more religious. Is that a step in the right direction or the wrong one? Does that really work? Or does it undermine the very thing they try to achieve?

There is a short blurb in the Associated Press (AP) about Israeli government partially shutting down the internet on Yom Kippur. The ministries that are in charge of doing something like that are controlled by the Charedi political parties.

On the surface one might say this is a perfect piece of religious legislation. After all, Yom Kippur is the one day that almost every Jew in Israel observes in some way. If I recall correctly most Jews in Israel fast on that day. Virtually no one works and the majority spend at least some part of the day in Shul.

Even those who are completely secular tend to not publicly violate the sanctity of the day. Of course there are those who purposely and publicly do violate Yom Kippur, but they are a very small - even if significant - minority. And even for them it is not the worst thing in the world to have one 24 hour period where the internet is partially shut down.

But it is still a bad idea. What is accomplished with that? Most people won’t be using it anyway. But for those who would - it will just make them more anti religious. And what about non Jews in Israel? There are plenty of those, including Muslims, Christians, and others who will want to use it to pay a bill but won’t be able to. There is no Halacha that forbids a non Jew from doing that on Yom Kippur. Why create an inconvenience for them?

Will this legislation help bring Moshaich? I think it will hinder it. Forcing people to be observant via legislation by the religious parties doesn’t work and usually creates animosity instead.

I sometime wonder which direction we are going. On the one hand we see a major increase in both Mitzvah observance and the size of the population that observes it. We have also experienced an unprecedented increase in Torah learning - beginning in the 20th century and continuing exponentially into the present day. It has been accomplished through the development our own mass educational system.

There are entire cities both here and in Israel that are almost entirely observant! Their populations are growing and new cities seem to be on the horizon.

There has also been a major increase in the numbers of secular Jews becoming observant in part due to Israel’s ascendancy after the 6 day war.

On the other hand we have an unprecedented numbers of Jews going Off the Derech (OTD).

We have seen high profile Jews who have created a massive Chilul Hashem in one way or another. There seems to be an increasing number of ‘religious’ Jews who have been accused or convicted of sex crimes – many against children.

There have been religious Jews accused or convicted of various financial crimes including fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and various other crimes including drug use and drug dealing.

Agunos (women who have not been granted religious divorces by their husbands) seems to have multiplied in our day.

The Shiddach crisis seems to be more of a problem than ever.

The Tuition crisis stands to bankrupt us.

There is a relentless perpetuation of a Hashkafa that has caused the most severe poverty crisis among the largest and exponentially increasing segment of Orthodoxy - in my lifetime .

We have seen violent protest in the streets of Jerusalem in the name of Kiddush HaShem that instead has been a Chilul HaShem. There seems to be been more acts of vigilantism and general law breaking than ever. Both here and in Israel. And there has been plain old fashioned ‘religious’ gang activity – like beating up women for violations of narrowly defined Tznius standards and similar reasons. These are people that claim to be the most religious among us!

There has been besmirching people of other Hashkafos, name calling, belittling and ostracizing them.

There are many corrupt religious courts.

There are incidences of ethnic and racial prejudice.

There has been belittling of the Baal Teshuva and the Ger. There has been political corruption and stories of rape all the way up to the highest (ceremonial) post in the land of Israel.

There have even been some ‘religious’ Jews who have joined forces with Hitlerian dictators like Ahmadinejad in common cause against the state of Israel.

The list goes on.

There are some things about which we can do very little. In others we may be able to change things for the better. In this season of repentance, I wonder if any of those of us involved in some of these things negative things have considered what they have done. I don’t expect the extreme fringes among us to repent. But there are many in the broad middle part of the spectrum who can and might want to reflect on their actions. Did they accomplish their intended goals? Or did they accomplish the opposite?

And what about the rest of us? -…those of us who stand on the sidelines? Does God want us to defend ‘religious’ white color criminals? Does it sanctify the Name of God to spit on a reporter during a protest in Jerusalem or to defend those who do?

Does going to absurd lengths to proclaim the innocence of an accused child sex offender please God? Or fighting legislation that would give victims of sex abuse a way to better deal with what has been done to them? Is that what God wants from us? Is that the kind of generation that will become Kulo Zakai? Or is it the kind that is going towards being Kulo Chaiv?

Which direction are we going in? I don’t know but frankly I’m worried.