Sunday, November 01, 2015

What is… ‘The Derech’?

by Guest Contributor

Is this image (a Chasidic Rebbe burning Chametz) how we inspire our youth?
As often happens, I received a private communication about one of my posts. This one was about Friday’s post on the Agudah , the Internet and Going OTD. It was from a prominent Charedi individual whose name would be recognized by many. I don’t usually publish such communications. But occasionally the wisdom expressed is such that I feel it ought to be disseminated. This is one of those times.

I was given permission to post his comments on condition of anonymity. I have therefore edited them to eliminate any identifying features and to eliminate material not relevant to the post. 

This post should not be dismissed just because it is anonymous. I rarely publish anonymous posts. But I know who the author is and if you trust me I can assure everyone that he is someone worth listening to on a great many subjects. Not only do I respect him, he is widely respected in the broader Orthodox community, and certainly by the Charedi community.

The fact that this individual is clearly Charedi is what makes this an important post. It shows that there is independent thinking that does not necessarily follow the politically correct Charedi line… and may even be at odds with it.  My belief is that the views expressed by this individual are not unique to him and are privately the views of a many more Charedim among the mainstream. His words follow.

OTD means Off The Derech, which implies that there is a derech.  I question that.  What is this Derech?  This is a far reaching question, and drives right to the core the deepest philosophical questions that impact on our lives in every way. 

Just to list a few things, here goes.  Let’s start with שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד.  This is not accomplished by flashing color photos of every Rebbe, Rosh Yeshiva, etc. burning chometz, reciting birchas ilanos, receiving a kibud at a Simcha, sitting on the floor saying kinos on Tish’a B’Av, strolling on vacation, performing hataras nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashana, etc.  Our gedolim and leaders are here to provide us with the direction to serve Hashem better.  When we deify them, we challenge the early years of JC.  Now, that’s trouble. 

Making certain expectations the norm, and those who cannot make the grade are ostracized.  Our chinuch system has corrupted itself, with the emphasis on the external, the obsession with conformity and compliance, the making mountains out of true trivia, the free handed and poorly calculated use of discipline, the murderous expulsion practices, and the myth of the “learning boy” with the commensurate sentence to kollel life.  Again, these are only a few of the symptoms…

I am not oblivious to the dangers, and I do not advocate or support the unbridled, frivolous, or unfiltered use of the internet.  I’m unsure of the effectiveness of many of the takanos, not because I oppose them.  I do not oppose them, but I have yet to see much benefit from having them.  But we have busied ourselves with the preaching about the evils of the internet.  And I believe this focus is reversed. 

We should be campaigning for the beauty of Torah and Mitzvos, and for the structuring of our lifestyle to be based first and foremost on fulfilling Ratzon Hashem.  The asifos are the parallel to the negative campaigning that sickens us in the news in politics.  If we cannot succeed in making Torah and Mitzvos tasteful, all the preaching against the internet is wasted.