Monday, August 11, 2008

Because of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza was the House Destroyed

With regard to my earlier post about We Are Not Judging Him, We Are Judging You there was somebody who I respect deeply who called me to task for overstepping the boundaries. This post was originally the email response that I sent. Most of the text is unchanged, but I have ammended it a bit for the purpose of this forum:

Thank you for your concern and your advice. I understand your message and I will tell you that I do not do things like this on sheer ("Shear") impulse. I admit that I do not really have a mentor in my work. There is a big problem with this kind of confrontational work (and I am sure you encounter it yourself) that the people we look up to are conservative in nature and when we ask them for "approval" it is more than "is this right or wrong" but also "can I blame you for it". You are also involving them in it and throwing on them achrayos which they do not seek or need (or deserve to be burdened with). I would not really expect a mashpia that I respect to approve of me maintaining a blog to begin with (I have mixed feelings, myself - see this post). Much more so, a post on a confrontational issue. I have determined to, for the most part, ride my conscience - and on this, my conscience is clear. No, I do not feel that I am giving G-D advice - nor did the dramatization go so far as to "pass judgement". It stopped short of that.

I have a lot to say with regard to this post and my entire project. And I don't think that I can do justice in an email. I do not know how much of my book you read. Trust me, it is not (solely) for my personal satisfaction that I keep urging you to read it.

To understand where I and my work is coming from, note that the entire premise of my book is this: The true definition of a sincere chareidi is one (any Jew whatsoever) who subscribes to and lives up to "Im bechukosai telechu". When extended, it is paramont to Rabbi Grylak's definition of "a Jew who pledges full allegiance, with no reservations, to the Halacha as determined by the Shulchan Aruch and a consensus of its commentators". In short, a chareidi is one whose life is focused on "doing my job" or "doing what G-d wants".

The emotions that motivated me to write my book were out of growing up in an atmosphere, and then coming to Israel where it is even more pronounced, where so many "frum" "religious" "Mitzva observant" "Shomer Shabbos" Jews actually berate chareidim IN PRINT for the crime of ---- DOING THEIR JOB!! And my Torah education led me to the conclusion that most of these crusaders were basically ignorant of what the Shulchan Aruch and Shas say is our job to do. They live and breathe Western standards.

We all acknowledge that there are those among us who don't know properly how to do their job, and some miscreants who exploit the Shulchan Aruch and pervert its meaning for selfish motives. But, this generally occurs on an individual basis, not a communal one. And those who do the criticizing are generally those who do not even attempt to do their job with full allegiance to Shulchan Aruch.

My task is different than yours. Yours is to improve the image of the Torah world in the eyes of those who are not connected to it. I think you do a terrific job. Mine is a lot harder. It is to improve the image of the Torah world in the eyes of those who claim to uphold it, but have not really invested the requisite amount of input to truly understand it. Most of these people simply do not think. I was pleasantly surprised when Rabbi Leff agreed to write a haskama for my book. And do you know what he told me why he liked it? He said, "It forces people to think."

So, many frum people are afraid to think because they kind of know in advance that they may - Heaven forfend - reach the same conclusions as those who spend their time thinking.

Now, let's discuss this incident:

95% of the population are mindless robots who don't take schar v'onesh seriously and don't really look at what happened. And if they don't look, they don't see. But schar v'onesh means that we will all face a din v'cheshbon. Meforshim say "din" is what you did - was it the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. "Cheshbon" is what you could have done instead and also an accounting of what came out of your actions. We are judged for what we have done and what we could do. The other guy is not our concern.

Here, I see a woman who, by her own admission, willingly parked herself down in a part of a bus which is normally occupied by the men. This, when the women on the bus were already congregated in one general area in the back. She did this with full knowledge that this is typically a men's section and that she should expect to be asked to move. It has resulted in altercations in the past - though, up till now, not with such "violent" repercussions. She knows full well that she is trampling the sensitivities of those who try to uphold Even HaEzer 21:1 just by sitting down there. And her explanation for doing it is: "I don't feel like sitting in the back". Also that it is a public bus, which means that she should fight to maintain the standards of the secular public even though she is (a visitor, no less) in an environment that does it's utmost to uphold Shulchan Aruch.

My question: Did she do the right thing or the wrong thing?

I hate to say it, but I cannot see any justification for this action from a religious person of any stream whatsoever.

Will she get a medal from G-D?

Not according to the Torah that I follow.

Now, comes along a man and instructs her to leave the men's section for the men and join the other women.

My question: Did he do the right thing or the wrong thing (hint: nobody did any spitting yet)?

Again, I hate to say it, but I see him in perfect compliance with Even HaEzer 21:1 and truly and sincerely expect him to get a hearty Yashar koach from the Boss. He was doing his job!

At this point I can clearly see one thing. She sat down in that area looking for trouble. She as much as said so in her Rosenblum interview where she said that it was during the "brouhaha of the gay parade" episode. I am very unsympathetic to her rationalization. I am also very skeptical about how she always managed to be in the middle of every "battleground" (she must have Press credentials). But I am really taken by this quote, "The most I expected were some heated verbal exchanges. I honestly did not believe that frum men would beat up on a woman on a public NON-Mehadrin bus over the seating arrangement." She knows what kind of bus this is and she "knows" that chareidim can get a bit physical when ticked off. Why start up with them? And what kind of a mitzva is it to get into "heated verbal exchanges" at 4:30 in the morning (or any time)?

This is a hero??

I have no doubt that she was looking for trouble. It wasn't that she was "not [going to] capitulate to anyone – even over a seat". She chose that seat. And she knew better. But I have a very hard time assuming that any man gets on a bus at 4:30 in the morning on the way to the Kotel HaMaaravi saying to himself "Oh, I sure hope I can find some unsuspecting innocent lady to beat up this morning. that will really make my netz davening have so much more meaning..."

Next, she refuses to comply. Is this the right thing to do?

If anybody ("anybody" means a religious person who has ever set eyes on Even HaEzer 21:1) thinks it is, please explain to me why.

What happens next? According to her statement, he spat at her. Was he doing his job?

Remember, this guy is not carrying bleach or acid. He is going to the Kosel for netz. He is NOT interested at spitting at women. Most likely he is not anglo-saxon and, if my hunch is right (and knowing the population of Har Nof who go to Netz at the Kosel by bus) odds are better than even that he is a Sefardi.

You called it "an assault'. But I am not so sure. All I will concede is that it is a situation that should never have reached this point that got out of control. Here is how I read it. The guy didn't know what to do. Whoever would think that a frum woman wearing a snood could even conceive of refusing to sit in the women's section? In every function that people call themselves "Torahdig" even where they don't call themselves chareidi - even in Efrat and Beit El, every kiddush, every bris, every vordt, every kinus (that is not already uni-gender) has a men's section and a woman's section. Would you ever think of a frum woman indiscriminately parking herself in the middle of the men's section at a kiddush? It's not a shul!

Ironically, if she was dressed like a prutza, he very likely would have left her alone - what should he expect her to understand? But this? He expects a little yiras shamayim from a "modestly dressed" woman.

I am sure his blood boiled. Mine would too.

Now, why did he spit at her?

It may be because he felt personally affronted at her insolence. He did it for the sake of his own self esteem.

If so, it was a mistake.

But, believe it or not, we are not talking about a 15 year old hooligan. It may have been because he was truly hurt at this flagrant breach of tznius and chillul hashem (when I say chillul hashem, I mean before he spit at her) and this was his reaction for the breach of Kavod shamayim. In this case, the spitting was more reflex than aggression. And, if this is the case, then I honestly do not see why this is different than Pinchas. If Pinchas gets a Yashar koach for stabbing somebody who is promoting pritzus in public, I think she may have got off easy by being spit at.

He was DOING HIS JOB - He deserves a medal!

Most of the people who have written about this episode do not think such a person can exist. This is because they certainly cannot be one themselves. I, however, have a little more faith in the sensitivity of Torah Jews.

Everybody, you included, is rushing to judge this unknown guy by our liberal Western standards. Are we entitled to? But this lady who undeniably instigated it all, is the victim. Like all those poor Palestinians who have to wait at the roadblocks.

Then what happened? She called him a colorful epithet (did she not already expect that as part of her expectation of heated verbal exchanges?) and spat back at him. from which point, all bets (and snoods) were off. I don't know who hit first and, at this stage, it doesn't really matter. Here it is no longer a question of whether these actions were justified or not. They can only be justified if the actions that led to it were l'shem shamayim.

What inspired me to write this post at this time was when I saw this issue reignited in the JO which was understandably exploited in the Emes VeEmunah blog. But, perhaps it was min haShamayim that it came out 2 days before Tisha B'Av.

In the post I alluded to the Kamtza / Bar Kamtza incident. What happened there? Bar Kamtza is shamed in public. So what does he do? He denounces the Jews to the Romans and brings about the churban habayis. Who was right and who was wrong? Alright -the one who shamed him was certainly wrong and probably does not occupy such a grand place in Olam HaEmmes.

But what about Bar Kamtza? Does anybody think that just because he was on the receiving end of the shame that he is the biggest tzaddik for denouncing the Jews and bringing about the churban? Was he ushered straight to the Kisei HaKavod?

Is Bar Kamtza anybody's hero?

I have yet to see the commentator to think so.

I think this incident is a bit like Kamtza / Bar Kamtza. Bat Kamtza certainly reacted the same way to being shamed. She publicly denounced all the chareidim to the world!

But yet I see a small difference between Bar Kamtza and Bat Kamtza. Bar Kamtza was invited to sit where he did. Bat Kamtza wasn't.

I wrote this post and the one about geirus and my whole book to get people to think. Judasim is no game. We are not only answerable to what we do, but we are answerable to what comes out of it, even if it was "the other guy" who made it worse.

Quit blaming the other guy. If nobody is entitled to judge you, you are certainly not entitled to judge him. Besides, you may just be blaming him for doing his job.


Open Responses to some of the more Critical Commenters:

To Shaul Behr:

Thank you for your reference to Choshen Mishpat -whatever it was. It throws me a bit because this is an issue of Even HaEzer.
In terms of Halacha vs. chumra, it is more than clear from Even HaEzer 21:1 that men and women must distance themselves from each other wherever it is possible and practical. This sure looks to me like Halacha. Rav Moshe Feinstein is known to have teshuvos regarding public transportation in goyish places where such separation is neither possible nor practical. In that environment, there are certainly grounds to be lenient. There is no reason to apply this in a situation where the prescribed separation is in actual practice such as the Netz #2 bus. And the idea of taking a situation where it was being applied in practice and deliberately disrupting it is unconscionable and unjustifiable.

To anonymous:

Yechezkel is the Seer who beholds the Chariot of Glory.
In terms of myself, I am a self-appointed preacher and a preacher is, by definition, condescending.
I'm doing a great job, aren't I?

To M.D. from Pravda Neeman:

Is that the best you can do?

To Garnel Ironheart:

Pardon my feeblemindedness, but I do not see the connection between my post and child abuse. Can you please explain it to me in easy words so I can understand?

If you have trouble understanding how the Heavenly tribunal works, it's really very easy. They go over your life and they take you to account for your actions. I have to explain this idea to my kids all the time (when they come before the parental tribunal).

I get this from Pirkei Avos 3:1 and 4:22 plus certain gemaras in Rosh HaShannah, Yoma, and Sanhedrin and countless mussar sefarim.

To all,

As Yoda would say: Condescending I am. Apologetic I am not.



G said...

Here it is no longer a question of whether these actions were justified or not. They can only be justified if the actions that led to it were l'shem shamayim.

Just to be you're saying that context does matter?..and, to take it even farther, that intentions matter as well?

--are we also saying that once the original act is deemed incorrect everything from that point on is tinged from said act..."fruit of the poisonous tree", so to speak?..and that the reverse is also true, that if the original act (or overall goal) was a correct one it tinges all that follows from it..."ends justify the means", so to speak?

Yechezkel said...

See Comments Rules.

G said...


Now what?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I think he mean the rule about not always responding to comments personally.