Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Calling All Real Chareidim

One of the problems with having English as one's first language is forgetting that Hebrew words actually mean something.  I mean, we say "Beit Shemesh" but never think about visiting someone in the "House of the Sun".  Similarly there are millions of Jews who call themselves Chasidim but aren't especially pious.  The title comes with the outfit and lineage, not personal middos.
It's especially important to remember that Chareidi is a real Hebrew word as well, meaning one who trembles, as in one who trembles before the Lord and His Torah.  Like chasid the term has ceased to be used appropriately and has now become an ethnic designation for a specific group of Torah-observant Jews.  And like chasid one doesn't have to actual tremble before the Lord, just wear the right outfit and swear loyalty to the right rabbonim.
Having said that I am well aware there are countless members of the Chareidi community that are actual chareidim as well.  However it also follows that one can be chareidi and not a Chareidi.  How many folks in the Dati Leumi community, especially among the followers of Rav Kook, spend their days learning and performing mitzvos with a keen awareness of the Ribono shel Olam just like their Chareidi brothers?  Why there might even be a few in the Modern Orthodox community who fit such a description, folks for whom pleasing God is the number one priority in life even if their approach doesn't fit the prefab model presented by "the Gedolim".
Perhaps this is the answer to the question of achdus amongst us.  A person who is sincere and honest in his desire to fulfill God's will in This World will seek out like-minded individuals regardless of how they look or talk.  We all know of the stereotypical Chareidi, the one who looks at a non-Chareidi observant Jew and automatically dismiss his legitimacy.  Let's get past that.  Yes there are lots of narrow-minded individuals among the Chareidim but there are also many decent ones for whom a common love of Torah trumps an interest in what kind of hat one wears.  It's those that we should be reaching out to.
How do we reach out?  There is only one legitimate answer: through Torah study.  After all the words of ahavas Yisrael and talk of charity and good deeds there is one primal mitzvah that defines us as observant Jews: learning Torah.  If we non-Chareidim wish to be taken seriously by "open minded" Chareidim then we must take Torah learning seriously.  It's not enough to say "We're Orthodox too!"  The proof of one's Orthodoxy comes with the desire to learn Torah.
There is a famous story of how the Satmar, back in the 1920's, was asked by his allies to go to Israel and try to argue with Rav Avraham Kook, ztk"l.  He refused reputedly on the grounds that he was worried that Rav Kook, far from being convinced he was in error, would convince the Satmar he was wrong! 
This approach to Torah is exactly the one we must oppose.  A position which is maintained by ignoring, avoiding or shouting down any genuine opposition is weak and not worthy of being observed.  The best Torah observance is one that demands its practitioners' full willingness to defend it from opposing points of view.  It is only this form that thrives, provided its adherents with proper spiritual satisfaction and can stand up to pressures from the outside world that seek to distract us from our holy path.
Let us then consider approaching those Chareidim for whom honest belief in Torah trumps blind ideological loyalties and see if ties can be built that will heal some of our schism.

3 comments:

Adam Zur said...

There is an aspect of chilul Hashem in Orthodox Judaism. There is a degree that people can excuse bad behavior by, "No one is perfect."
But there is a point that Orthodox rabbis do so much damage to people's lives on such a vast scale that it is simply impossible for people to open up a Gemara after that for twenty years.

While it is true what you are saying that everyone should learn Torah. But there is a true complaint about people that set themselves up and except to be supported by their positions as representing the best of Torah when in fact they often represent the lowest levels the human race can sick to.
I have been saying for a long time that people should not take morally challenged rabbis as indicative of what the Torah and Talmud are saying.

What makes my statement hard to believe is the when rabbis do evil--even great evil--there is no sense of outrage except towards the victims.

Anonymous said...

I don't know your source for the anecdote relating to the Satmar Rov, but in the date frame you used he probably wasn't the person involved. It was probably a Litvishe or Yerushalmi. Regardless you are unaware of the nuances of Rabonishe speach. first off no Rav or particularly a Rebbe would seriously say they were afraid that they would be convinced otherwise. (The Talmudic story of the Tanur is a completely different animal). This is a polite way of saying it would be a futile gesture and at the same time not demeaning the other party.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

A few points:

1) See the Intro to Bereishit by the Ntziv in HaEmek Davar where he states that sinat chinum (which I translate as 'purposeless hatred') which was the cause of the destruction of the Second Temple, originated with scholars defining those who disagreed with them as heretics and not abiding by the concept of eilu v'eilu. If this is so, it would make the application of respect for divergent Torah views as most significant. People on both sides must respect people on the other side.

2)Discussion, disagreement and debate are not bars to relating but, based on T.B. Kiddushin 30b actually foster love. We are called upon to properly disagree. Advocating a monolithic perspective is contrary to Torah

3) The story regarding the Satmar Rav that Garnel mentions is found in a recent biography, in English, written by a Satmar Chassid. I forget the name by think it may be called The Rebbe.

Rabbi Ben Hecht