Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Mindset of the Extremist Charedi

Extremism. In the context that I am about to use it, I do not mean violence. I mean attitude. There is nothing more indicative of this extremist attitude than what is represented by the following comments by two individuals. Ironically they were both responding to a Talmid Chacham who is also Charedi - but one who is hopefully more mainstream. He understands the problems in his community and constantly addresses them. He never defends bad behavior.

In one case a Charedi individual reveals a rather tolerant view of defrauding the government. Not that he condones it. But that he views it as – not so terrible. When he was challenged by his fellow Charedi on that issue - this was his response:

I wasn't aware that defrauding the government was one of the three cardinal sins. My bad.

This statement is very telling. It tacitly and cavalierly acknowledges that defrauding the government is wrong but - that it’s not a cardinal sin – a Yehoreg V’Al Yaavor - the way murder, adultery, or idol worship is. In point of dry fact he is right. His subliminal message is – it’s not so bad..

Not so bad? What category does he put Chilul HaShem into? Chilul HaShem is also not one of the three cardinal sins. So when a prominent Chasidic rebbe is caught defrauding the government, what does he say? Not so bad. Not a cardinal sin. The real guilty party- he will say - is the informant. Very little about the crime, criminal, and the attendant Chilul HaShem. What is far more troubling to this type of Charedi is the fact that a young Israeli woman who is ignorant of Halacha has taken off her clothes for a magazine cover.

Doing that is not a cardinal sin either. Yet he treats it like that. Even though what she did is a Chilul HaShem as well, it was done by someone who does not know any better. Can we say that for a Chasiddic Rebbe, who is supposed to be a role model for Jewish behavior? Which is the bigger Chilul HaShem? To the extremist Charedi the answer is obvious. The poor Jewish girl’s crime is far worse. It is tantamount to adultery!

In the second example, another Charedi individual demonstrates how far they will go to divert attention from their own problems. The same cannot be said for the same Charedi Talmid Chacham who whose challenge above elicited the following response from this fellow:

There are plenty Israeli chilonim invovled in massive ge'naivos ALL over the world. it is well known that not many Israeli Chareidim leave eretz Yisroel (the true zionists)! Yet Israelis have terrible reputations all over the world. And you want to claim chareidim are dishonest. This shows a terrible bias which is frankly just anti-semitism, when it is stripped of all its euphemisms.

What this Charedi fellow has done is indicate that when a religious Jew criticizes his own instead of secular Jews - it is anti-Semitism. Why? Because secular Jews – in this case secular Israeli leaders - do it too and they are even worse! That remains to be proven. But even if it’s true, what difference does it make?

How many times must I repeat the obvious? When a religious Jew who is supposed to have a higher standard of ethics and adherence to the Torah does something wrong, it is far worse than when a secular Jews does the very same thing . A secular Jew is known not to be observant. How much does that behavior then represent Torah Judaism?

But a Chasidic Rebbe caught defrauding the government is an individual that is supposed to represent the highest levels of Torah Judaism. He has instead besmirched it in the most public of ways. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t think he would get caught. That is just plain stupidity. He committed a fraud! The world now knows it. And it was a huge Chiulul HaShem!

Nobody is going to blame the Torah when a secular Jew - who happens to be a political leader in Israel - does the same thing. They can’t. He is not observant of the Torah. How does this reflect badly on the Torah?

It may still be a Chilul HaShem because after all is said and done they are identifiable Jews whom the world – secular Jew and non Jew alike – see as Jewish leaders and in some way tied to the Torah. But in point of fact they are not. The Chilul HaShem of Chassidc Rebbe who is tied to the Torah is far worse.

This my friends is what makes these people tick. I don’t know what to do about it except to keep hammering away at them until they realize how foolish their thinking is. Or at least to make the rest of the world (at least those who read this blog) realize that there are observant Jews like me, this Talmid Chacham, and the majority of religious Jews who comment on this blog are nothing like them.