Sunday, August 12, 2007
Hell Bent For Leather
There's many who tried to prove that they're faster
But they didn't last and they died as they tried
- "Hell Bent For Leather", Judas Priest (Killing Machine, 1978)
Every time the Charedi rabbis dare voice their opinion, be it a takanah, psak, or advice on any matter imaginable, the Jewish blogging world goes bananas: the haredi-haters bellow out in rage “how dare they! Down with them!” while others criticize respectfully. The common denominator is that they attribute the rabbis’ attitude to overprotectiveness, their desire to further cut their community from the world, and their utter resistance to technical advancement. While there might be some truth to this, there is something that they fail to see, either willfully or unwillingly.
With all the rage and criticism hurled at them, we should keep in mind that Kollel students are a minority of Charedim, Charedim are a minority of Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy is a minority of Jews, and Jews are a minority in the world. Yet it seems that for one reason or another, many among us have a fixation with Charedim and Kollel people, and can’t refrain from endlessly debasing them. Although there is, unfortunately, a strong basis for the criticism against them, and against Charedim and Orthodoxy in general, there is certainly no justification for the virulent hatred ubiquitous in the so-called Jewish literature, media and websites. And sadly, that’s the way it was for centuries – the only change is that many who claim to be genuine, authentic Jews have joined our enemies. Or at least they sound all too much like them. Is there any wonder our rabbis have become overprotective and defensive? In a world where everything goes, where the “call of the wild” is literally omnipresent at every corner, animosity from many angles, the immense antagonism of the culture and lifestyles surrounding us, there must be a set of strict rules to do the utmost to preserve the little that’s left of our social makeup and its core beliefs. In this day and age, living up to the belief that life down here is just a strange illusion, and that we’re preparing ourselves for the real world, where our entire personality, our mere being will be our bodyless self, the soul, is not any easy task at all.
This is why there are “official” guidelines, such as opposition to higher education, minimizing the contacts with the outer world, its cultures and lifestyles, internet ban et al. Unlike what the skeptics may want you to believe, these rules have many exceptions, especially when one asks for them individually. In addition, many of these “bans” are issued with the full knowledge that they will be mostly ignored or circumvented one way or another. Many roshei Yeshivos will advise individuals to take this or that course or to go to learn in a college, etc.
The fact of the matter is, that despite any and all protective walls, outside influence cannot be kept form everyone. Man’s natural desires and urges crave what secular society has to offer, and that society is at hands’ reach. The fact that many had contact with that society at this or that level and were left unscathed –or so they believe- is no guarantee that other won’t be affected by it. Leaving a world of leisure and pleasure behind for the sake of bending over a gmora and living in relative poverty is no easy feat for anyone. And it is certainly more dignified than shaking your pelvis with slush in one hand and cell phone in the other. The small and fragile core of such ‘fanatic zealots’ must be preserved at all costs. After all, despite the fact that some may be loathe to admit it, they are the core of Yiddishkeit, with all their imperfections. Those surrounding them are like protective layers around it, often supporters, having in turn another ‘layer’ between them and the secular world. Why would one hate them so much is beyond me, but I suspect that for certain people an ‘ehrliche yid’ –and especially a not-so ehrliche one- who gives up worldly possessions and pleasures for the sake of Torah is as much a reproach as any Jew was, for the past 2000 years, to those whose god he refused to accept.