Friday, January 06, 2023

Frumkeit is Not at All What Judaism is About

Orthodox singer Bracha Jaffe -  banned by UK Charedi leaders (Jewish News)
I’m beginning to include more of the Charedi world into the category of extremists. This time it is the mainstream leadership of the Charedi world in London.

Needless to say the extremists in Israel that one typically reads about in the media who are responsible for the destruction of  property and injuring innocent bystanders - sometimes seriously - falls easily into that category. And I suspect that there are a lot more of the these people than  mainstream Charedim realize there are -  or are willing to admit.

The typical response from mainstream Charedim about extremist violence is that they are a tiny segment of that community that the mainstream completely rejects. As do their rabbinic leaders. And that we should not paint the entire peace loving Charedi community with the same broad brush of evil that applies to those few  extremists.

That is what they’d like the rest of us to believe. Or perhaps they naively believe it themselves – oblivious to the number of times and the variety of places in Israel where this type of thing happens.  They might also add that while they sympathize with their goals they do not approve of their methods.

Not buying it. Although I still believe the majority of Charedim  are peaceful, those who are not are a lot more than a tiny minority.

But extremism is not only about violence. There is also a much subtler form of extremism masquerading as enhancing spirituality.  Which is evident from the following story in the Jewish News of the UK: 

Strictly-Orthodox girls in London have been warned by religious authorities to stay away from a women-only concert being performed by an Orthodox Jewish female singer because it may cause “spiritual harm”. a statement issued by email and posted to synagogue noticeboards, the UOHC (the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations) said it “endorses and supports the decision” of Charedi girls’ schools such as Beis Yaakov Grammar School for ban girls from attending (an all female) concert.

Referring to “the concert for ladies and girls”, the UOHC said it “may cause spiritual harm in Ruchniyus and Hashkofo CV (Chas VeShalom) and one should therefore not participate in such an event”. 

Honestly..? This make me sick! 

While I don’t agree with it, I can understand why some  right wing Charedi leaders oppose going to a concert that has both men and women in attendance - even if they are separated by a Mechitza. However, banning a concert for women by women for reasons that it may harm them spiritualty is so ridiculous that I believe that those who issue such a ban ought to be ‘defrocked’ (...even though there is no mechanism for that in Orthodox Judaism). In my view they lose the right to call themselves rabbis. It is their task to guide the Jewish people. Not to misguide them in pursuit of Frumkeit - apparently their ultimate measure of Judaism. 

I am so sick and tired of  these ‘holier than thou’ rabbis deciding how far beyond the letter of the law one must go - how many Chumros every Jew must observe in order to achieve spiritual perfection.

In this case denying a perfectly acceptable form of leisure (by any measure) has now been deemed to cause 'cause spiritual harm in Ruchniyus and Hashkofo'.

They completely ignore the therapeutic value of music on the human psyche. They completely ignore the necessity of social interaction with other like minded human beings  They completely ignore the fact that music can be a spiritually uplifting human experience. 

What in the world  are these extremist Charedi rabbis thinking?! In what possible way will a concet by women for women harm them spiritulaly? How much inspiration do these ‘rabbis’ think the girls will get from this ban?

In fact if I were a young teenager who was having difficulty with my Emunah, this would surely push me in the wrong direction. 

This kind of thinking is increasingly creeping into the Charedi mainstream. Their rabbis are increasingly finding ways to make life as difficult as possible for young people for reasons of Frumkeit. Issuing a ban against girls attending a concert by women - which is perfectly permissible - is only the most recent example of this nonsense. 

This is the kind of thing Rav Aharon Rakeffet has called 'Falche Frumkeit - fake religiosity! 

It’s hard enough trying to observe all the Mitzvos in the Torah properly these days.  A  lot of sacrifice goes into that. Making things unnecessarily difficult on people does not help that effort. It harms it. No one should be told that their spirituality will be harmed by things which are perfectly permissible.  

This is just the latest in a string of non Halachic bans in the name of Frumkeit issued by extremist Charedi leaders. There have been plenty more. Like the one issued against lace Shaitels (wigs). Which is why I say, ‘Thank God I am not Charedi!’