Monday, May 05, 2008

Hotel California

An article strongly criticizing the trend of going to a hotel for Pessach upset Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz. His main objections were calling the trend ‘the greatest threat to Yiddishkeit’ and rebuking too harshly. He pointed out that there are scores of other grave problems afflicting our communities, and it would be far more beneficial to concentrate on those problems.

It seems to me that Rabbi Horowitz forgets a fundamental principle. I'm sure there are millionss of legitimate reasons to go to a hotel for Passover. Maybe it is true that declaring going to hotels as the ‘greatest threat to Yiddishkeit’ is exaggerated. But maybe we should not take this statement so literally after all. Maybe that fire and brimstone thundering rabbi meant to say, in a broader perspective, that letting modern western culture – a euphemism for unbridled materialism and hedonism – to become part of Yiddishkeit, is indeed an existential threat.

When a kid goes on drugs or off the derech, when a child is abused, it is a tragedy. Not only a personal tragedy of that individual and his family, but a tragedy of all Clal Yisroel. Nevertheless, it doesn’t endanger Judaism.

The Torah warns us, numerous times and in no uncertain terms, that when we start sinking in gashmius, we forget G-g, we rebel, and all hell breaks loose. When every kind of lust and desire is available in a glossy, fancy, Glatt Kosher Veyosher package, rubber-stamped by several corrupt narcissist “rabbis” who buy new Cadillacs yearly, do shidduchim exclusively with rich businessmen, and no one says a word, than Yiddishkeit itself is sick, from head to toe and down to the marrow.

Rabbi Horowitz accuses the author of being too harsh, instead of using soft, fatherly rebuke. Rabbi Horowitz is absolutely right – fatherly, gentle rebuke is indeed necessary. But since it has been missing in the past thirty years, it’s high time someone finally slams his fist on the table and calls a spade a spade, a fat slob a fat slob and a fresser a fresser. How can we go on whining about at-risk kids while we are the ones putting them at risk? We learn about mesirus nefesh, self sacrifice, yet all our kids see is lip-service Daf Yomi and Micha/Maariv –if at all-, in sharp contrast to the true burning love for fancy-shmancy houses, cars, designer clothing and gourmet restaurants.

Too many children are practically raised by Mexican cleaning ladies, barely see their parents, their fathers and mothers never sit down with them to learn some gmora, to do homework, to talk a bit, to read a book, even to play a board game. Then they go to a lavish Hotel for Pessach, – not Tu Bishvat, Chanucah or summer break, but on our Chag HaCheirus!- that’s a tragedy and a serious threat to Yiddishkeit. When our glossy kosher frum magazines boast nauseating adverts for these fressathon hotels side by side with divrei mussar, our kids sense the circus and mockery full and well. The tatte drowns in the schmorg, the in-house lecturer is all smiles amid the miniskirted chassidishe mames, and a week later the kid starts learning Pirkei Oves פת במלח תאכל, מים במשורה תשתה ועל הארץ תישן. Yeah right! Do we really expect little Moishi to take this charade seriously? We oughtta be real surprised when he tries pot, or when he switches mommy’s Cosmopolitan for Playboy, I guess.

Had those in-house lecturers more self esteem than a $2 prostitute, they’d turn down all invitations to such hotels. They could explain, on a gentle, fatherly tone, that if someone is absolutely constrained to spend Pessach in a hotel, it is his responsibility to prepare for the seder and holiday to the best of his ability, but such vacations are anathematic to Yiddishkeit, especially on Pessach.
Housing, clothing and food can all be explained away and justified with klotz teirutzim – but vacation in a spa is pleasure and sloth for the sole purpose of pleasure and sloth. That’s מבזה את המועדות deluxe. Something tells me that when Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reminded that the time for קריאת שמע has come, they weren’t at the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas. And something tells me also that no one in a hotel would ever be caught telling Yetzias Mitzrayim at daybreak…

© Joseph Izrael 2008

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