Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mis-God-ed Haredi Values

haredi god values
Sir, - Rabbi Berel Wein succeeds in presenting us with a most insightful and robust analysis of some of the important tensions and contradictions that plague the Lithuanian Haredi community. He succeeds in doing so by employing satirical humor and thus is able to some degree soften the portrayal of the often very sharp conflicts that exist in that very distinct community. He is further aided in his coherent analysis by a sensitivity that stems from a sense of identity (since he identifies himself as belonging to this community) which serves to endow his critical remarks with not only a profound sense of poignancy but also with the ring of truth and accuracy.

He correctly points to some of the crucial matters in which the Lithuanian Haredim have adopted customs that intensely highlight the dissonance between their present communal practices and the desired righteous path expounded by our Prophets and prescribed by our sages. The dignity of labor that enables economic sustenance and the avoidance of becoming a burden to others, alongside the proud participation in a military that defends the Jewish people and the state of Israel, are two of the most important of these divisive issues. The ambiance within which these pivotal attitudes find expression is pervaded by a deeply felt sense of distrust of the entire Zionist enterprise and of all its institutions based on an attribution of illegitimacy to any major development in the story of our people that has not yet won the imprimatur of those who see themselves as God's spokesmen. This is especially so in their view of the fact that many of the State's founding fathers were visibly secular.

Unfortunately, their extreme misguided and mis-God-ed outlooks have also succeeded in influencing and misshaping the values of other segments of the Haredi community. The former Poale Agudath Israel, with its healthy positive outlook toward the nobility and importance of labor, and favoring of the full participation in the economic and military life of Eretz Yisrael within a framework of diligent observance, has slowly witnessed the erosion of those values and their substitution by a separatist orientation. The former Shas MK Rabbi Chaim Ansalem has bemoaned the negative and alien inroads made into the mores and values of the traditional Sephardic community regarding attitudes toward the Zionist program and the necessity to maintain a vibrant work ethic and a vigilant security structure.

The story related by Rabbi Wein about the Haredi professional engineer who sought his counsel about making a trip to America in order to "schnorr" funds for a child's wedding, when questioned if it was not more desirable to work in his profession rather than go begging, replied that in the milieu in which he was living a father who worked (and did not spend his full time learning) would have a negative effect on the Shidduch prospects. This extreme anecdote, while inviting both pity and revulsion, also serves to illustrate the extreme problems within the Haredi community.

Above all, one would expect from those who claim to value Torah to be first in their ability to discern the Divine Presence that accompanies Jewish History and that endows the life of Am Yisrael and its reborn sovereign State with distinctive majesty and eminent religious significance.

Petach Tikva