Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Their Eyes Are on the Prize – of Torah

In contrast to my criticisms of Charedi society yesterday I thought I would offer the other side of the coin.

So what’s so good about Charedi society? It is their devotion to God. It is the level of dedication to Avodas HaShem - the purity of commitment and sacrifice. That is their hallmark.

If knowledge is power than Charedi Knowledge of Torah is Torah power - a spiritual power that has no peers. A true Charedi cares little about material things. He only wants to walk humbly with God and do His will. To that extent he will dedicate his life to learning how to do that via studying His Torah. This means studying it in depth and in breath. It means studying it with a level of dedication that surpasses the highest levels of learning in any university on any subject.

Charedim love God and take joy in knowing His Torah. That is their desire.Their lives are fulfilled when they feel they are doing the very best they can in service to God. The only material benefits a true Charedi seeks are those necessary to sustain them and their families. New cars, beautiful homes and furnishings, the latest electronic gadgets, expensive clothing - all have little meaning to them.

In service to Torah ideals many great Chesed projects result. A true Charedi cares about his fellow Jew. Charedi Chesed organizations are legendary. Gemilas Chesed funds abound. They are created and designed to help those who need it with interest free loans. And are generously contributed to by many Charedim of mostly modest means. Maaser Kesafim (tithing of income) is scrupulously adhered to no matter what their income is. As are all the Mitzvos in the Torah.

Mitzvos are done B’Hidur and not baseline. They want to live their lives in the highest level of spiritual purity and are willing to back it up with money. Money is not spent on better material goods but on doing Mitzvos better. It is all about more Ruchnius and less Gashmius.

Their attention to detail in Mitzvos is without peer and stems from a sincere desire to serve God in the best way possible. They try to avoid all negative influences their lives so that they can stay away from sin and focus on a pure and Torah filled lifestyle.

Happiness to a Charedi is seeing a young son learn an entire Seder Mishnayos and then making a Siyum. It is seeing a daughter get married and begin building her Bayis Ne’eman. And seeing many grandchildren following in those footsteps. The highest from of happiness is the Nachas a parent sees from a child. That is what true happiness is. It is something that lasts and is permanent. Poverty is no impediment to that kind of happiness. Money is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Ideally learning Torah is their career. Those Charedim who are able to do that spend countless hours at it. They spend their time spanning the plumbing the depths and breath of Torah knowledge. The scope of Torah learning in a Charedi Yeshiva like a Lakewood or a Mir by the majority of their students is vast. There is no other segment of Jewry that does it on this scale.

True - there are individuals who are not Charedi that do it too, but not as a group. In most non Charedi cases - no mater how committed they are - there are things that get in the way of that kind of dedication – legitimate though they may be.

It is only the Charedi Avreich that has that kind of commitment to ‘knowing’ Torah. As a group - they have a love of learning that few others possess. And that is to be envied. As Chazal tell us - learning Torah brings one to do Mitzvos. The better one knows Torah the more accurately those Mitzvos are done.

The more one loves God the more likely one will love serving Him. That is their greatest joy. Thus as a group Charedim will do generally do things like Tefilah with more Kavana than the rest of us.

The fear of heaven is also greater to a Charedi then it is to the rest of us. They will go to the ends of the earth to avoid sin and be sheltered from it. They may not always succeed. But there is no doubt in my mind about the sincerity and the level of commitment to those goals which enable them to live a pure and holy life.

They live their Judaism in the fullest sense of the word. Torah is their number one priority and they revel in its institutions. A Siyum HaShas, a Pesach Seder, a Bris Milah, Nachas from a child who excels in his Torah learning - are examples of the high form of true happiness they can achieve.

Watching a Charedi dance on Simchas Torah is truly an inspiring sight. The level of joy that comes across – the energy that is spent celebrating God’s law rivals any joy - or expenditure of energy on it - in the secular world - like cheering at a sporting event. The joy a Charedi has in Torah stays with him forever. The joy of one’s home team winning the World Series is momentary and fleeting.

This in a nutshell is the positive side of Charedim. Like my previous post on Charedim - this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Here too I just wanted to paint a picture. And we can all learn a lot from them.