Friday, October 02, 2009

Friends Like These

Every once in a while I feel the need to explain what I do here. This is one of those times. A large percentage of my posts have to do with areas of the Torah world that need improvement. This includes my own Centrist world as well as Charedi and the left wing Modern Orthodox worlds. Admittedly a majority of those posts are about events which take place in the Charedi world.

This is not because I enjoy bashing them or want to 'lord it over' them ... to 'show them up, and thereby prove that I am better than them. Far from it - although I know it seems that way to some people.

I write about Charedim the most because they are the ones who generally are the subjects of the news media reports - including their own Charedi media. (Who else is the Charedi media going to discuss?) That means that the world's picture of religious Jewry is almost exclusively what they read in the print media and see or hear in the electronic media.

Rabbi Yosef Shubert of has an op-ed that deals with this issue and is critical of what bloggers like me often do. Here is an excerpt:

The elementary mistake that these and other people make is that rather than Gaining the respect of the secular or non-Jewish communities for owning up to a supposedly Faulty system, these very religious people and their articles are quoted by Outsiders who say, "See? We've always said the Chareidim are Crooks. We've always said that they are ethically corrupt and hypocritical. We've always said that their black coats and religious dress Belie the corruption and Deceit that they Personify. "

I understand that this may in some cases be the result of focusing on Chilul HaShem - if only reported upon the way the secular media does - without the appropriate Mussar and reprimand .

But I can not disagree more with the importance and over-all impact of a public protests of bad behavior by fellow Orthodox Jews. It is the protest that is important, not the report of the bad behavior. Left unprotested - Rabbi Shubert would be right. The world will say religious Jews are all primitive savages or crooks. And we would just be adding our own testimony to that.

It is the Orthodox Jew who needs to make the loudest protest of all - and show that we are as fully upset by this kind of behavior as non Jews and secular Jews are - more in fact! Most non Jews and a huge number of secular Jews especially outside Israel do not see Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews as separate entities. We are all religious Jews to them. A Kipa Seruga and a velvet Yarmulke are the same. Check Spelling

My purpose is often writing about it is therefore twofold.

First it is a form of Hochacha ... reprimand with the intent to improve the behavior. I include reprimand even to those of us who excuse bad public behavior. We all need to examine what we do - especially in public. If there is any chance that doing something in public can be perceived as denigrating to the Torah in any way - we need to stop doing it and change our ways.

Sometimes what we think is a mitzvah is in fact an Aveira - a sinful act. One of my early Rebbeim - probably in elementary school - used to call it the Fruma Yetzer Hara. This is a technique whereby we convince ourselves that what we do is actually a Mitzvah. Like proclaiming publicly to the world that Hadassah Hospital perpetrated a 'Blood Libel' to a poor innocent Jewish mother just because she was Charedi. We convince ourselves that we are protecting the honor of an innocent member of the community. But instead we are creating a Chilul HaShem. Non Jews and secular Jews see us as primitive Savages and laugh at the Torah when they see us comparing one of the most respected hospitals in Israel comparable to Czarist Russia at its worst!

This brings me to my second - and perhaps more important reason for posting about Chilul Hashem in the religious world. I want my readers many of them secular and some of them even non Jewish - to know that there is at least one Orthodox rabbi who Rejects this behavior and labels it for what it is - a Desecration of the Name of the Lord!

If I and others like me were to just let it pass and focus only on the good - then there will be no Orthodox Jew Protesting seen as a Chilul HaShem.

This blog is not about patting ourselves on the back. Sure - we have lots to be proud of. As a religious community we have accomplished a great deal since the Holocaust - both in the United States and in Israel. And indeed there are many flaws in the system that I harp on which I sincerely believe need to be fixed if what was accomplished is to remain that way and not crumble. This is also one of my goals here. But one can not ignore - or leave it to the secular media alone to point out bad behavior by 'religious' Jews. We must fully Acknowledge it - and fully Condemn it without any apologetics.

Rabbi Shubert criticized Charedi bloggers. I suppose that although not Charedi I might be included in his criticism. There are enough secular critics of the Charedi world without us, he says. He charges that Charedi blogs and websites (and perhaps my blog as well) do a disservice to the Torah world in constantly Harping about our flaws. In other words - 'With friends like these, who needs enemies? "

This is my response to Rabbi Shubert. I understand his point but he is wrong. We can not stand idly by and let ... more than a few bad apples make the Torah world look bad. Instead we must all protest as loudly and publicly as we can. Friends like these are exactly what is needed.