Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Thursday Night Cholent

The sure way to entice people into craving something is to ban it. There are countless example that corroborate that statement. Nothing skyrocketed book sales for Rabbi Natan Slifkin more than banning his books.

Mishlei tells us: Mayim G’nuvim Yimtaku – stolen waters are sweet. I can’t think of any ban that wasn’t observed more in the breach than in adherence. The best example of that is the ban against the internet. That ban and others like it have been virtually ignored by great numbers of Charedim.

Simply put, bans don’t work and are often counterproductive. Even when they are mandated with the best of intentions. I am therefore opposed to virtually all bans - even if I might agree with the underlying reasons for them.

For example, I have said many times that I completely agree with the reasons of those who have banned the internet. The problems they describe are very real. But just as I agree with their reasons I am at the same time convinced that banning exacerbates rather than solves the problem. Wholesale bans means banning the good along with the bad. The rationale is Yotzah Scharo B’Hefsedah - loosely meaning that any good is far outweighed by the bad thus justifying the wholesale ban. This ‘all or nothing approach’ is the typical way that the Charedi establishment in Israel (and increasingly in America) try and solve any and all of their problems.

I have instead always supported alternative methods of solving the problems that bans deal with. And the same thing is true on the latest ban by the Eida HaCharedis in Israel. VIN reports the following:

Restaurant owners in Meah Shearim are reeling after the Badatz Eida Chareidis, which provides mehadrin kosher certification to many establishments, ordered all restaurants closed at 10:30 Thursday nights, according to a report published today by Israeli news service Maariv.

With numerous yeshivos in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood and its surroundings, the practice of going out for cholent after night seder on Thursday night has grown in popularity, with throngs of bochurim hanging out till all hours of the morning, a practice that Rabbonim in the area say “causes disturbances in both ruchniyus and gashmiyus.”

Eateries that fail to comply with the new ruling will forfeit their kashrus certification.

Leading the call to end the late night practice, timed to coincide with the end of night seder, is Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Yisroel’s Mirrer Yerushalayim, whose many students are among those who enjoy a taste of Shabbos on Thursday nights.

Now I happen to love Cholent – the hot overnight stew created just for Shabbos. But I do not love creating a hangout for Yeshiva Bachurim – even if it is after the official time for learning. I agree with Mir Rosh HaYeshiva. He has every right to forbid his students from acting in a manner that is unbecoming of a Ben Torah. He has every right to demand a higher standard of conduct from them. Hanging out in restaurants all night pigging out on Cholent is not the way of a Yeshiva Bachur.

I don’t mean to say that there is anything wrong with the actual act of eating Cholent on a Thursday night. But when it becomes a weekly ritual that includes hanging out to the wee hours of the morning - it demonstrates that for the most part these Bachurim are far from being true Bnei Torah and should not be taking up space in the Mir Beis HaMedrash.

What I absolutely do not support however is the Eida HaCharedis ban on those restaurants. My guess is that some of the boys who frequent these establishments are at risk of going OTD. These restaurants may be providing a ‘Kosher’ outlet for them to vent their frustrations with the system or with life in general. If they can’t find a Kosher place to do that they will find an unKosher place. And if they can’t eat Kosher Cholent they may end up ingesting other more harmful substances.

There is a Thursday night Cholent restaurant in Boro Park. But instead of banning it, a group of dedicated rabbis who realize what is going on has reached out to those boys to help them find their way. That is what the Eida should be doing. Instead of ejecting them from their midst by banning Thursday night Cholent - they shout be using it as a tool for outreach. Wouldn’t that make more sense?