I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
We are well into the days of foregoing the osso buco in favor of fettuccine con alfredo, when the ancient miracle of the Bais Mikdosh, “Omdim tsfufim umishtachvim revuchim” repeats itself in kosher pizza parlors, and the tenor of Reb Yeedle Verdyger is replaced by irritating clapping, banging and barking from every CD-player branded with the prestigious stamp of revered Kosher cetrifications.
Only one thing goes unchanged: our steadfast conviction that everyone not belonging to our clan is either a certified sheigets, a fanatical extremist, or both. In either case, it’s people like them who caused the destruction of the Bais Mikdosh, and it’s because of them that I’m not allowed to take a good hot sauna in a luxurious SPA. And to think that I have to endure this torture punkt when the kids are out of school! A shande, mamesh a shande!
But the kids may be better off out of school. After all, imagine the embarrassment of a rebbe if he were to be confronted with an unruly five-years-old’s innocent question of what exactly is sinas chinom? For it sure cannot be the indoctrination of such youngsters with proper identification of kosher Yidden and treif Yidden, can it?
And since we are already big kids, responsible and reasonable, and we all know well that it isn’t right to relate to our brethren according to hat shape and hairstyle, -exactly the way we do-, we shall actually ask the question: what exactly is sinas chinom? For among the scores of halachic terms that are discussed and disseminated and investigated at length, the aforementioned kleinekeit somehow fell between the cracks. Not Chas VeSholem trying in the least to insinuate that the subject isn’t getting enough attention, -it’s being plenty lectured about- it’s just never really defined, and so the practical implementation remains rather vague.
The gemore in Yuma (8 A) mentions that the Second Temple was destroyed because of Sinas Chinom. The Gemore in Gittin 55/56 elaborates a little more, and tells the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza, two people who constantly fought each other; one was mistakenly invited to the other’s celebration and thrown out despite the presence of prominent rabbis, who remained silent. He then took revenge by bringing a slightly blemished altar offering from the Roman Emperor, which he knew wouldn’t be accepted. The rabbis then started to deliberate about the course of action: either accept the offering in spite of the blemish, or bring down the traitor. Rabbi Zecharia Ben Avkolas objected to both solutions, and Bar Kamtza indeed reported to the authorities, who burnt the city in revenge. But the truly amazing thing is, that in sharp contrast with the story’s opening line that “The temple was destroyed because of sinas chinom”, it is concluded with “Rabbi Yochanan said: the humility of Rabbi Zecharia Ben Avkolas has burnt our city and destroyed our temple”. So which one is it that actually caused the destruction?
We can look at another incident that occurred a few hundred years earlier, when Gedalia Ben Achikam refused to take heed to the accusations against Ishmael Ben Nesania, and was indeed murdered by him as a result.
It seems that this tendency to prefer righteousness in the immediate, simplistic sense, at the community’s detriment, is in itself a form of sinas chinom all too common in most Orthodox circles.
So while mourning the lamb rosemary between the pasta primavera con pesto and the vanilla fudge, we shall ensure to omit from our nine-days recipe any thought about how our children are educated in our schools, and why kids as young as five are experts on all the latest developments in each Hassidic court, which dress apparel indicates a “sheine yid” and which one doesn’t. While we invest untold amounts of money, blood, sweat and tears to establish new yeshivas, schools, mikvahs and so on, we are reluctant to educate ourselves on basic decency, honesty, - plain mentschkeit. While we take great care to examine each leaf of lettuce for bugs, we refuse to see the bugs in our midst. For rather than having a bug with the neighboring kehilla we conveniently look the other way and pat ourselves on the shoulder for our wonderful mosdos.
Unfortunately, it is exactly this behavior that bred the most vile, pervert, degenerate and repulsive tendencies in far too many communities. That man is vulnerable, weak and prone to fail is well-known; that is why we have the Torah and leaders. But when entire communities accept, adopt and abet this kind of behavior, we become Sdom and Amora.
Because each group wants to be independently organized, they all have their own institutions (Yeshivas, shuls, girls’ schools, mikvahs, kollelim etc.) The amount of tax-exempt properties and institutions relying on government-funds rise, while tax-generating properties decrease. Taxes rise, tuitions rise, and ehrilche yidden collapse.
Fraud, embezzlement, fiscal misconduct, deceptive accounting practices are ubiquitous in far too many orthodox establishments. The fact that the situation is similar in secular establishments is no excuse, not to mention the chilul hashem that is created and what it reflects on Orthodox Judaism.
Entire towns and villages live off a wide array of social services, many men don’t work, the businesses employ illegal immigrants instead of providing jobs to dropouts, families are larger than they possibly can afford and educate, while their children are outfitted with $300 apparels apiece, late-model cars and fancy houses are standard. When is the last time a rabbi explained that it is impossible –and forbidden- to have it both ways: not to work, having thirteen children and spending more dishonestly acquired money than one has?! When is the last time since the halahic status of fraudulently acquiring government funds has been discussed? Did anyone bother to clarify whether widespread and calculated reliance on those entitlements - coming out of our pockets – are considered moiser momon Yisroel b’yad Akum?
The groups most involved in such activities are also the most adverse to others – viewing them almost as non-jews, yet they come for donations in the communities whom they describe as “rashaim”, “treif” and “shkotzim”. And those communities, with naïve benevolence or other reasons, by contributing to their “charities” (read: ”hacnosa kala”) are encouraging this behavior and become accomplices.
Although some groups apparently cannot control fraud, embezzlement, welfare abuse, domestic abuse, inappropriate behavior, divorces and agunahs, they seem to have full control over family growth. Couples keep reproducing despite the fact that they can’t, and don’t want to cope with their children mentally, physically and fiscally. Two direct results are inappropriate education and an out of proportion rate of mentally ill children, especially in communities that promote cretinism. In turn, proper glatt-kosher frum institutions are built, as a mentally ill child would no doubt disrupt the harmony of a sixteen-child strong family. Besides, if the government hands out extra money for such noble purposes, why not benefit from it, especially since the CEO who can’t speak a proper English sentence makes a six-figure salary in the process?
When NYC cops were viciously attacked by a savage mob of promoters of the “obvious and well known halocha” prohibiting rebellion against other nations, Molotov cocktails were thrown, police cars damaged and fires lit in the streets. Yet not one condemnation by the rabbis was heard, not a peep in the frum media.
Is this your idea of “mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh”???
If you believe that it is possible to destroy, you must believe it is possible to repair, to paraphrase rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It is not easy, but it is possible. Acknowledging the problem is half the solution, or so the saying goes. We first must stop burying our heads in the sand. Then we must stop the Jihad-style education for hatred. The honest and pious people who learn Torah in simplicity, and earn an honest living should be touted as our ‘national heroes’. There are plenty of examples, such as the Monsey bike repairman who learns most of the day and is an accomplished scholar. Or the eloquent speaker-rabbi who owns a small store, and learns every free minute. Or the rabbi who lives in a small basement, in greater poverty than his poorest kollel student. Many educational institutions must be consolidated and provide adequate attention to students at all levels. The shidduch-craze must stop as well. We must start loving each other again – and not only in times of dire.
If we work together, instead of against each other, we may find more and better solutions. Unity is the key, and unity is possible.
We just have to open our minds – and practice what we preach.
© Joseph Izrael 2006