Sunday, January 24, 2021

An Olam HaSheker

Police raiding a non compliant Yeshiva in Jerusalem (TOI)
One of the things that was constantly drilled into my head as a young student by my religious teachers is that we live in an Olam HaSheker – a physical world built on lies. And that the Olam HaEmes – the true world is found in the world to come which our souls will finally encounter posthumously. 

There are many factors that contribute to the Olam HaSheker in which we live. What is becoming increasingly obvious to me is that certain Chasidic sects are as guilty of contributing to the Olam HaSheker as is the so-called ‘outside world’. They flaunt the law and public health by having huge weddings and illegally opening up schools during a lockdown.  Their contempt for the law has been articulated in the form of a number of violent protests. Protests incited by a leadership that apparently believes in their own lies.

It is one thing to believe a lie. But to react violently in defense of that lie... or to approve of the violence... or even to not condemn it even if they don’t fully approve - is unconscionable. 

This isn’t just about violently protesting the draft laws, which is despicable enough. At least their defiance of that law does not spread disease and death. The current violent protest actually hurts others. Including their own people – some of which might get sick because they participated in those protests. 

There is another lie that - even though not as deadly - is nevertheless even more insidious. This one extends beyond the Chasidic world. A lie that has been perpetuated since the advent of Religious Zionism.  A lie claiming that only their own Charedi Hashkafos can produce the pristine form of Jew they believe the Torah intended for us to be. 

This lie allows them to treat Religious Zionist Hashkafos like the most dangerous poison Charedim can encounter. Asserting that Religious Zionists might seem to be God-fearing and learned - but in reality are sinful and unlearned. To be avoided even more than secular Jews because of the ‘pretense’ of being religious. Which helps explain why Religious Zionist Jews are treated as though they don’t exist. So young Charedim will not to be lured into their world where their Yiddishkeit will suffer.

The Charedi world had been pretty successful in transmitting that message to their young. But as  I recently discussed that lie was put to rest by the pandemic when students from both camps were thrust into the same quarantine hotel after being exposed to COVID. The big lie was shattered by the physical interaction between Charedi and religious Zionist students. The Charedi students saw the same level of Torah study and Yiras Shamyim (fear of Heaven) they have.  They ended up studying together at the same level of intensity and scholarship as they had with their own - pre-quarantine. Only this time with Religious Zionist students. What they also saw was that some of their fellow Charedi students slacking off in a variety of ways by the distractions available in hotels.

This of course did not sit well with some (if not all) of the Charedi leadership. They characterized that experience as spiritually dangerous without really explaining why. 

Although  I am not surprised, I can’t begin to describe the depth of my disappointment with this reaction. Instead of acknowledging that they might have been wrong about religious Zionism caring only about Zionism without emphasizing the importance of other Mitzvos and Torah study, they doubled down on their lie. Asserting that those quarantine hotels are a spiritual danger that  should not be allowed to continue. 

If that is not contributing to the Olam HaSheker, I don’t know what is. 

Are there no responsible Charedi leaders that will stand up to that kind of thinking and label it the lie that it is? My gut tells me that there are none. 

The question is whether they agree with them or not. Because if they don’t and they say nothing, that takes them out of the category of leadership. A true leader cannot stay silent in the face of the perpetuation of a a boldfaced lie. Because by staying silent they contribute to it.