Thursday, December 11, 2008

From my Inbox: Clarification on Why Chareidim are Hated and Shunned

The following is an excerpt of an email I received off-line concerning my earlier post: Preview to Book II. The writer formatted the email with numbered paragraphs. The text in black is the original letter from the sender and the text in blue is what I responded:

Thank you very much for your letter. I do appreciate your taking out the time to write. I don't know if I can address all of your questions, but I will do my best:

1. It could be that some hate comes from a desire to control, but that does not necessarily mean that all desire to control is hate, or that all desire to control is negative. A teacher stands before the class - he wants to control his students. Does he hate them? If they are out of control, does that mean he hates them? A kiruv worker want to convince someone to keep shabbat, is his desire to control the persons behavior (to influence his behavior) hate? He wants the person to do what he thinks is best because he believes that he knows what is better for the person than what the person himself thinks is in his best interest.

I can understand how I may have been unclear in my writing. I never meant to say that the definition of hate is "the desire to control". What I meant to say is that hate is when Peter holds other people (let's say Paul) responsible for what is missing in his own (Peter's) quality world. The desire to control Paul's behavior is only an outgrowth (a symptom) of Peter's negative feelings toward Paul. It means that Peter refuses to change anything about himself because, in his eyes, he is A-OK. The reason he has "problems" is only because of Paul. Paul doesn't want to do things the way Peter wants him to. Peter thinks that Paul has to do the changing to conform with his own (Peter's) quality world. Paul won't do it, so Paul is the "bad guy".

It's not an easy concept to absorb.

Believe it or not, there are many secular and MO people who believe it would be better for haredim to work and serve in the army - better for the charedim and better for Am Yisrael. Is any attempt to influence the haredim to change their lifestyle = hate? Maybe its love!

An attempt to influence is not control. Influence means getting the other person to want to do the same thing you want. That's OK. Control is an attempt to coerce the chareidim to "work" (they already do, incidentally) or serve in the army (such as by supporting a stupid government policy that if one does not serve in the army, he is not allowed to work) when you have failed to influence them and they still don't want to do it. That's not love.

2. A lot of the negative feeling towards haredim comes from the opposite - the feeling that the haredim are trying to control the other people. What do I mean? Recently, a person we know suggested that they pass a law in the knesset that only people who do either army or sherut leumi will have the right to vote. People protested that that would exclude most of the charedim. This man made a good point - does it make sense for a haredi person who doesn't serve in the army and whose kids aren't going to serve in the army, yet he gets to decide the fate of the soldiers who DO serve in the army - by electing a government that may initiate a war, etc. etc. This man's sons are now army age, and he is very bitter. It's very easy for the charedim to complain loudly that Israel should send troops into Gaza, etc. etc., its not their sons who are going to risk their lives! So why should they get to help make the decisions any more than Jews who live in america or england, etc. and they don't get to vote in Israeli elections.

Here you present a story of a non-chareidi person who is trying to coerce the chareidim to change by denying them the right to vote (which is impossible in a democracy, by the way) - i.e., external control - and you call this "chareidim trying to control other people".

Can you explain this to me??!!

3. Another source of negativity comes from the air of superiority that many charedim have acquired - something that is the exact opposite of the humility that the Torah advocates.

The non-Jews hate all Jews because of the air of superiority that all Jews have acquired. The Nazis hated all the Jews because they are the "Master Race" and they cannot tolerate the "Chosen People" which suggests an air of superiority. I remember hearing some Arab spokesman on radio explaining that "we can surely have peace with Israel if she would only remove her arrogance". (He was not talking about the chareidim.) According to you, they were justified.
If not, what is the difference?

On the one hand, there is the scorn of people who work, but I see it doesn't stop them from complaining bitterly about how inept and inefficient everyone who works is - the city workers, the bus drivers, the politicians, etc. etc. I see this even in positive newspapers like Hamodia - which we subscribe to.

I don't subscribe to HaModia.

My question is: If you don't like how things are being handled by the masses of secular/dati-leumi, why don't you all roll up your sleeves and help run the country better, instead of saying that its "bitul Torah" to work yet complaining bitterly about how lousy all the workers are?

If they would only let us.

4. Another source of negativity comes from the fact that the haredim have a increasingly narrow definition of what Torah encompasses. In the haredi world, Torah has been boiled down to Torah study, and all the breadth and expansiveness of Torah as something that permeates every aspect of life has been cast aside. It is as if the kippah sruga man is enjoying gazing at the wonders of creation - a beautiful view of chessed, haschagah pratit, family life, spirituality, etc., and the haredi guy next to him glues a few dapim of Gemorrah onto his eyeglasses! If the most important mitzvah is to learn Torah, then why do we have any other mitzvahs at all?

The last Mishna in Makkos asks your question. Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya answers that it is to bestow merit on those who aren't up to learning Torah. I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book called Getting to the Heart of the Matter.

Why weren't men given the mitzvah to learn Torah, and women could have been given all the other mitzvot! Why did Hashem create a world beyond the beis medrash? The whole world could have been one big Bet Medrash! Its time to appreciate the whole world that Hashem created! The haredi rejection of the world leads to the non-haredi rejection of the haredim, middah kneged middah!

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos say that "This world is a vestibule for the World to Come." The chareidim "reject" the world because they are busy earning a more substantial (preferrable) World. Hashem created this world for those who think that this is "it".

If the haredim want more people to learn more Torah, they should emphasize that people should learn Torah as a preparation for taking action in the world, contributing to the world, making a kiddush Hashem in the world. Torah is a tree of life (the Torah expands and reaches out and upwards in the space of the world) -it is not a substitute for life! It is something that constantly grows and expands, it is not something that contracts further and further into itself.

Fine with me. Whatever works.

A week ago in Hamodia newspaper there was an article about chedarim that besides keeping the boys from daybreak to late at night during the week, are now having learning sessions every shabbat afternoon, "so the parents can sleep and learn"! Another reason, is so they won't get into fights with their siblings or other children. Why, if they are learning Torah all week long, they are not able to take a few hours on shabbat afternoon to APPLY what they have learned - honoring parents, mitzvot ben adam l'havero (not fighting with everyone!), not doing other averot. ? Why? And is the answer to this problem, to prevent them from having any free time during which they will have an opportunity to overcome their yetzer hara? In other words, keep them sitting in a classroom without a break from the time they are 3 years old till the time they are 18, so they never are tempted to do anything wrong! Maybe it would be better to let them be tempted and try to overcome the temptation! This is what I mean when I say that Torah study should not be a substitute for life! The Torah study during the week should be the preparation, and the TEST should be when you see how they behave during their few free hours on shabbat afternoon!

I haven't read HaModia but, in any case, nobody is forced to participate in these programs. It's for people who want them. So, why do you have a problem with it?

Hope I cleared up some details.

Hatzlacha Rabba,


1 comment:

Julie said...

The good thing about being a writer seeking to document how the Chareidim are hated and shunned is that you're unlikely to run out of material any time soon. Some helpful soul is sure to send you a screed about how loathsome the Chareidim are.

"Recently, a person we know suggested that they pass a law in the knesset that only people who do either army or sherut leumi will have the right to vote."

This person undercuts his own argument by including sherut leumi. Why should he consider sherut leumi to be as valid as serving on the front lines?