Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The real question is: WHY? What the riots really show!

Of course, there is always the journalistic question of whether this article correctly portrays the truth -- but based upon these facts, the problem is pretty apparent and this article in the Jerusalem Post presents a most powerful challenge. See:

Doesn't the term Chilul Hashem come immediately to mind? Can there be any justification for this behaviour? What, though, really is going on? It would seem that these rioters could not possibly have any connection to Torah; it must be that they are ascribing to some other system that is absent Torah values. Yet, here we have individuals who define themselves as adherents of Torah -- in fact, devout adherents of Torah -- acting in this manner. It is easy to dismiss them, to criticize them -- but that does not get to the root of the issue. The question is: what are they thinking? How could they possibly act in this manner yet declare that they are adherents of Torah? It must be that they actually do not see themselves as violators of Torah but the issue is even more bewildering. They actually see themselves as upholders of the values of Torah and that through this behaviour they are promoting Torah values, that through their behaviour they are actually demonstrating their adherence to Torah values. This is an even greater problem. It is one thing if someone is acting contrary to Torah but knows and admits that he/she is doing so. We may wonder how criminals can still do what they do and, furthermore, still live with themselves -- we may specifically wonder how Bernie Madoff or a religious child molester could live with himself -- but, at least, they are not declaring that what they did was in fact correct and a fulfillment of the values of the religious system. It is quite another matter, though, if someone is acting in this manner -- or cons someone as Madoff did or molests a child -- and not only thinks that he/she is not violating Torah law but actually thinks he/she adhering to it, supporting it, promoting it. This latter situation is, for so many reasons, a greater problem -- and this is sadly what, I believe, we are witnessing here -- and it is to this issue that we must directly respond. Its not enough to yell that they are wrong. We must discover what they are thinking and respond to the problem that allows for this reasoning.

Let's start at the most basic way of looking at this situation. A very sick Neturei Karta child is brought to a hospital, a chiloni hospital. The hospital determines that this child's illness is due to a psychiatric disorder of the mother, the charedi mother. The mother is arrested. The mother also denies the charges. So what does the mother's community say -- must be another example of chiloni oppression of Torah. This assertion obviously can't be true for how could a frum charedi woman be psychologically ill? After all, frum people can't be as the doctors are describing this woman for they are frum, she is frum Such an asssertion may also imply that there is a problem in the community; what is the connection between this psychological illness and her upbringing and environment? Can't be! This is the ideal Torah community. There can't be anything wrong within it. Must be that the chilonim are inventing problems and critiques to thereby attack us. This, I believe is the starting point, the place where all this begins. Its not just Neturei Karta or charedim but, sadly, permeates the whole frum community. We are frum. We are God's chosen. Can't be something wrong with us -- especially if it means that the chiloni person is right or doing something better.

When the Rambam said that one could learn from everyone and anyone, he was making a most powerful statement about education and thought. You don't think simply through adopting a code of behaviour or memorizing a collection of rules. Thinking demands observation and analysis -- with an openness to reconsider one's thoughts. The problem in the frum world, in so many ways, is that we think we know it all and approach existence with a sense of surety. The humility that instructs us to be somewhat unsure of ourselves, of approaching life with caution and consideration is almost a thing of the past. We're right and we'll take on anyone that says we aren't, regardless of the facts. And the more in the minority that your are, the more adament you become. Of course, the fact that one is in the minority should not lead this person to necesarily dimiss himself/herself. One does need the strenght to stand by one's opinion in the face of challenge and adversity. Yet when one is in the minority, one should also be open to questions, to investigate in order to be sure. It a balance, a dialectic that God demands of us. It's time that we demonstrated the thought inherent in the recognition of this reality and not demonstrate to illustrate an allegiance to a simplicity that only shows foolishness.

Bottom line, there was a two year old kid whose very life was at stake. Wouldn't you think that the concerns, even if you want to call it safek sakanot nefashot, a possible life-threatening situation, would, at least, make people think twice before adamently adopting a position? But how can there be a safek? We're frum and they're not. We are the bastions of Torah and their not. But what is this foolish representation of Torah that they are promoting? Its a Torah that says not to think but just to follow your assumed rote viewpoint.

Rabbi Ben Hecht


The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem with putting a religion into a ghetto is that it loses its ability to interact with the outside world. This is essentially what has happened to this segment of the population in Yerushalayim. For decades, they have isolated themselves from their neighbours and told themselves that they are the holy, pure ones, they are the only true defenders of the city and Torah Judaism, only they are right and everyone else is wrong.
The zeal and self-righteousness that goes with such an attitude would allow for this rioting. After all, it's little different than the Muslim riots that broke out after the Danish Moe the Prophet cartoons a few years ago. When you're so convinced you're right, justifying violence against your opponents is a small step away.

david willg said...

We can and must support the secular authorities in their battle with violence. I do not have to understand them, I do not want to understand them, I want them to stop the violence. If not, I would put the entire community in jail and leave them there. They do not hold jobs, they do not serve in the army. If they cannot have the bear minimum of hakoras hatov for the society that supports them, let them rot in jail. Stop supporting them.
And all the "worthy causes" the widows and orphans, the young girls who need funds to get married, who their Rabbis weekly appeal to our community for our help? I will not give onje penny to any cause that is endorsed by a Rabbi who has not called openly and strongly for an end to violence. I do not forgive them, because they know exactly what they do. These so called gedolim are the grearesr of moral pygmies and it is indeed a very sorry generation that calls these men leaders. They are cowards, afraid of the mob that they claim to lead, but in fact only follow.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

One thing in particular has struck me. On one hand, every Chareidi I know can recite the lines: We always listen to what our Gedolim say. They have Daas Torah, Ruach HaKodesh, so listening to them is like listening to God Himself.
Uh huh. So Rav Eliashiv has announced that the riots are wrong. Rav Sternbuch has announced that the riots are wrong. So why aren't they listening?

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...


Its the age-old question: what do you do when the gadol is saying something that you don't want to hear? Phrased differently, the question would be: what do you do when you hear that a gadol said something that he could not have possibly said (as it is clear to you that he could not have possibly said it)? Must be that he did not say it. Alternatively, it must be that he felt that it was necessary to make this statement (for some political or other reason, basically to placate the chilonim) knowing that the real believers will see through this charade and continue to do what is right. "When there is a will, there is a way" is not only a statement for liberals. Of course, given that these people are Neture Karta, who says they even hold of Rav Elyashav or Rav Sternbuch (although this is a bit difficult as Rav Sternbuch is a dayan in the Eda Hacharedi which they must accept -- afterall even this women ate food with their hashgacha.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Sophistry, simply sophistry.

There are people who will twist even the clearest statements to fit their agenda. My favourites are the footnotes in older books where the statement "and of course we must not cheat non-Jews" is attributes to "the censors". Yep, because really it is permitted to cheat them?

I think a comment I saw on another blog will describe these Neturei Karta fine - they're animals and this is how animals behave.