Monday, March 09, 2015

I Don't Like What I've Become

As I'm finishing up Shacharis, the two dollar bills, tired and worn from circulation lay on the table in front of me.

I put those bills there before davening started.  It's my daily "tzedaka fund."  When people come around during or after davening to collect, I will usually give them one of the dollars.  When they are gone, then that's all I give for that session of davening.  Sometimes there might be only a single dollar, sometimes as many as four or five.  It depends on how much financial pressure I'm feeling lately and how many bills of each denomination I have in my pocket.  Today it's two singles.

One thing that I like about this shul is that there is usually very little collecting during davening itself.  Yes, they pass around the pushka for the shul during the Repetition of the Amidah, but very few actual beggars.  They usually wait until the end of davening.

Towards the end of davening (usually right before Aleinu), one of them will be allowed to make an thirty or sixty second "elevator pitch" to the congregation before they actually go from person to person.  Some of them have supporting documentation, some don't.  Sometimes it's overwhelming medical bills.  Other times it's a plea to support orphans.  Sometimes it's just a person who is down on his luck.  To me, it doesn't matter too much -- I don't check the documentation too closely (or, often, at all).  If they're actually cheating me, it's usually only going to be a buck anyway.  I'd rather err on the side of mercy.

This morning, however, was different.  This morning's tzedaka collector made me think twice about even giving the buck.

The man made his pitch in Yiddish, which I don't fully understand.  Yet, I was able to make out enough of it to understand that he was from Israel and that he was collecting money for his daughter's wedding.  He has six daughters, he told us -- presumably this was the first and he would need more funds further down the line.

When he mentioned needing money for a wedding, I began to wonder what, exactly, he needed it for.  Did he need it for the actual expenses of the wedding (food, a dress and so on), or was it because he had to promise support to his future son in law or buy them an apartment or what not?  If the former, I would give with a full heart?  Whose heart would not melt when presented with a story of a young woman who wants to get married but lacks the funds for even a modest wedding?*  If the latter, however, well that's a different story.

Like many families, we're under a bit of a financial crunch at the moment.  Nothing so serious that we can't keep a roof over our heads or food on the table, but still, money is tight.  If one of my kids were to get married tomorrow, I would have a great deal of trouble coming up with the money for the wedding.  I certainly wouldn't be promising them a house or apartment or that I would support them in total for years on end.  And it's not because I wouldn't want to help them out where I can, but just because, at the current moment, I can't.  And if I can't do so for my own kids, why should I be contributing to someone else who is doing so for their kids?  Why should I spend my money to someone who made promises he couldn't possibly keep?

In my mind, I imagined the conversation I would have with him.  I'd ask him about the man his daughter was going to marry.  Was he a Ben Torah?  What were his plans for the future?  How much did he cost?

And, as those thoughts went through my head, I had the contradictory feeling of being both disgusted by them and justified in them.  I was disgusted that I would even think of asking such questions -- aside from the last question being incredibly crass, it's truly none of my business, even if he's asking for my money.  But yet, the objections of the previous paragraph keep coming back to my head.  Why should I be part of buying an apartment for his future son-in-law if I'm having under pressure meeting the day-to-day expenses for my own kids?

Part of the problem, I suppose, comes from my opposition to the way shidduchim are done in some Chareidi circles, where, in many cases, you have to literally buy a son-in-law for your daughter.  Yes, the dowry is an old idea, but, from a practical, everyday point of view, it's a concept that is totally alien to me.  I simply can't imagine not marrying a perfectly suitable girl simply because she can't come up with a down-payment, and, because I can't wrap my head around the concept, I have trouble empathizing with someone who is actually in that situation.

But is that the situation here?  Or is it simply the case of a poor person who needs funds for the most basic and simplest of weddings?  I don't know.  I'm certainly not going to ask.

In the end, I handed over the bills to him.  As I said, I tend to err on the side of giving rather than not giving.  But I find myself troubled -- not by the question of whether or not to give, but by my reaction to it.  I don't like that I've become suspicious of such requests and nosy about details that I have no right to inquire about.  I don't like the idea that I'm judging others as to whether or not they're worthy of my charity.  I don't like the fact that I have to even question this in my mind.  I'd rather just give with a full heart.

The Wolf

*  Yes, I know that, technically, to get married, you don't really need all that much beyond a ring and a rabbi -- but I believe that every bride deserves at least a modest wedding.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HaMevaser Fails At Journalistic Ethics

Once again, the Chareidi news is in the news.

There has been quite a bit of discussion in the past about the deletion of women from pictures in some Chareidi publications.  The issue has come up yet again as HaMevaser, a paper published by MK Meir Porush, deleted the females from the picture of world leaders who assembled in Paris to protest the recent violence there.

Many people have decried the policy, asserting that it is tantamount to erasing women from history. They resort to calling the editors of the paper names such as "Taliban" or the like.  Personally, I think it's irresponsible overkill to compare the editing of pictures to the killing of people, but I do understand their feelings.

For me, however, there is a much more fundamental problem here.  While I disagree with the paper's policy, I also respect their right to have such a policy.  If they don't want to publish pictures of women, then that is their right.  It's also the right of the consumer to vote with their dollars (or shekels, as the case may be) and not purchase the paper and boycott its advertisers.

What really troubles me is these publications seem to have no sense of journalistic ethics.  We rely on the press to tell us what happened in a given place at a given time.  Implicit in that is a responsibility on the part of the press to tell the truth and to not fabricate the news, nor to alter it.  No self-respecting newspaper would edit a photograph in that manner.  The fact that they do so, and do so openly, tells me that the editors of the paper have no compunctions about altering the news to fit their theological worldview.  As such, I find it hard to understand how anyone can trust what they say.

Of course, there was a way for the paper to follow its policy vis-a-vis pictures of women AND maintain journalistic ethical standards.  That would have been to publish a different picture or simply not publish a picture at all.  It's a shame that they chose to take the very worst of the options available to them.

The Wolf

(Both pictures can be viewed here.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Lashon Hara Video That Completely Misses The Point.

A YouTube video was recently released dealing with the dangers of telling Lashon HaRah on the internet.  However, the video completely misses the point and fails to identify the real problem.

First of all, here's the video:

The narrator blames all this on Lashon HaRah (evil speech) and, in truth, that's a part of the problem here.  However, it's a very small of the problem.  The real problem (which the video does not address) is the community itself.

It seems to be made up of people who are
– busybodies (whose business is it what the Rebbe or anyone else in the community buys at the butcher>)
- judgmental (because you eat chicken the Rebbe isn’t entitled to ever eat anything better?)
- selfish (heaven forbid that someone else actually have something that they, themselves don’t have)
– unable to be dan l’kaf z’chus
– superficial in their understanding of what makes someone moral (the Rebbe isn’t a good role model because he bought a rack of lamb?)
– idle (really? In half an hour all these people have nothing better to do than bash someone online?)
– gossip mongers (well, it is a part of the problem, but clearly not the most important part. If the people in the community didn’t have the above traits, this last bit wouldn’t matter as much).
Lashon Harah is not the real problem here. The real problem is the attitude of the people in this community.
The Wolf
- See more at:
It seems to be made up of people who are
– busybodies (whose business is it what the Rebbe or anyone else in the community buys at the butcher>)
- judgmental (because you eat chicken the Rebbe isn’t entitled to ever eat anything better?)
- selfish (heaven forbid that someone else actually have something that they, themselves don’t have)
– unable to be dan l’kaf z’chus
– superficial in their understanding of what makes someone moral (the Rebbe isn’t a good role model because he bought a rack of lamb?)
– idle (really? In half an hour all these people have nothing better to do than bash someone online?)
– gossip mongers (well, it is a part of the problem, but clearly not the most important part. If the people in the community didn’t have the above traits, this last bit wouldn’t matter as much).
Lashon Harah is not the real problem here. The real problem is the attitude of the people in this community.
The Wolf
- See more at:
It seems to be made up of people who are

– busybodies who should just mind their own business (why is it their concern what the Rebbe or anyone else in the community buys at the butcher?)

- judgmental (because you eat chicken the Rebbe isn’t entitled to ever eat anything better?  You're happy you didn't end up married to him because he bought a rack of lamb?)

- selfish and envious (heaven forbid that someone else actually have something that they, themselves don’t have.)

– unable to be dan l’kaf z’chus (judge favorably -- he could have gotten the money as a gift or from some private tutoring or any number of other legitimate ways.)

– superficial in their understanding of what makes someone moral (the Rebbe isn’t a good role model because he bought a rack of lamb or because he might have splurged once in a while?)

– idle (really? In half an hour all these people have nothing better to do than bash someone online?)

– gossip mongers (well, it is a part of the problem, but clearly not the most important part. If the people in the community didn’t have the above traits, this last bit wouldn’t matter as much).

Lashon Harah is not the real problem here. The real problem is the attitude of the people in this community.  I'm tempted to think that if the Rebbe gets kicked out of this community, it just might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

The Wolf

Thursday, July 03, 2014

To Every Thing There is a Season, and a Time to Every Purpose Under the Heaven

My parents raised me to believe that one must take the feelings of others into account when speaking and doing things.  Before you open your mouth to speak, think about how the message is going to be received on the other end.  Is this the right thing to say -- and, if it is, is it the right time/place to say it?

I'd be lying if I said that I always lived up to that ideal.  There are times when I've said things that did hurt others.  While I can't remember saying things that were intentionally meant to hurt others, there were things that were said that, in retrospect, should not have been said -- or at least not when I said them.  As Shlomo taught us, there is a time and a place for everything.  There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent.

Yesterday -- just a day after the three murdered teens in Israel were buried, Aron Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, launched into a speech where he placed the blame for the murder of the teens on their parents.  He stated that the community is required to state that the parents are guilty for the deaths of their sons and that they must do teshuva for living in such an unsafe area.

One of the hallmarks of a Jew, the Talmud teaches us, is that they are compassionate (Yevamos 79a).  They take the feelings of others into account.  They do not inflict unnecessary pain and, when pain must be inflicted, it is kept to a minimum.

I understand (even if I don't agree) with the Satmar Rebbe's position vis-a-vis the legitimacy of the State of Israel.  I understand his positions (again, even if I don't agree) regarding living in certain places.  But there is a time and a place for your personal theology and in the faces of grieving parents a day after they bury their children is not it.

It doesn't matter if the Satmar Rebbe is right or wrong regarding his hashkafah.  Let's say, just for the sake of argument that he is correct.  It doesn't matter.  Let him save his comments for another day.  If a parent is (God forbid) sitting shiva for a child who died in a bicycle accident, the shiva house is not the time or place for a lecture about the rules of the road.  If someone loses a child (God forbid) in a car accident, you don't say to them at the shiva house "See, I told  you they should always wear seat belts!"  To do so is to just pour salt into the already festering wound.   There is a time and a place and a way to talk of these things, but in a fiery speech on the day after the burial is not it.  Save it for another day, another venue and another form.

May the families of the teens be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

The Wolf


Sunday, June 01, 2014

When Quoting Pesukim (Bible Verses) Is Heretical.

I suppose it's one thing to be afraid of heretical ideas (supposed or actual) that might cause one to lose faith in their principles.  It's not an approach I approve of (I was never a believer in burying  your head in the sand), but it is one which is common in yeshivish circles.

However, I find it puzzling that the modertators of the Yeshiva World CoffeeRoom are not only afraid of heretical ideas, but they're actually afraid of actual verses from the Torah.

Take, for example, the recent thread titled What exactly did we get on Shavuos?   In the thread, one person stated the following:

According to the opinion that it was bit by bit ("megillah, megillah nisnah") Moshe wrote down the Torah from Breishis until Matan Torah right then. 

I pointed out that even the portion of the Torah leading up to Mattan Torah could not have been written with the exact text that we currently have.   When asked to elaborate, I did so.  The post I responded with was as follows:

Sh'mos chapter 16 (the chapter discussing the gift of the manna) is before written before the chapter of Mattan Torah and takes place chronologically before Mattan Torah. Nonetheless, the text of the chapter as we have it today must have been written during the last year in the wilderness -- not at Sinai.

The proof of this, comes from verse 35 where it says that they ate the manna for forty years until they arrived at the land of Canaan. At the time of Mattan Torah, they had not yet been sentenced to wander the wilderness for forty years.

Obviously, at a minimum, you have to say that that verse was inserted before Moshe's death in the fortieth year.

To me, this seems obvious.  If chapter 16 of Exodus were given as we currently have it on Sinai, then wouldn't the Israelites have asked Moshe "Hey, what's this business about not getting to the Land of Canaan for forty years?"  Clearly, this verse at a minimum (and perhaps the entire chapter) was written, at the earliest, in the fortieth year in the wilderness.

Apparently, however, even this is unacceptable to the moderators at the CoffeeRoom.  Apparently they are so wedded to the notion that everything from B'raishis until Yisro had to be written as we have it at Mattan Torah that they seem willing to completely ignore the verse that testifies to the fact that it could not have been written before the last year in the wilderness.  My response was deleted. 

I then followed up with a simple question to them:

Really?!   Is what I posted such kefira that it had to be censored?  Is it not something that a normal person could determine simply by reading the pesukim?

That, too, was deleted without response.  My guess is that the moderators of the CoffeeRoom view reading and quoting the pesukim with their simple menaing as heretical.

The Wolf

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remembering My Blessings

I've been going through a bit of a rough patch in my life.  Things aren't exactly going according to plan in various circles of my life and, truth to tell, it's been getting me down of late.  I sometimes (probably selfishly) bemoan (largely to myself) how my life isn't exactly the rose garden I thought it would be.

Truth to tell, it's not nearly as bad as my emotions would tell me.  I do have a roof over my head.  I'm not going hungry.  I have a good job.  Eeees and I are still madly in love with each other after all these years.  I am relatively healthy, as are the members of my family.  There are lots of people who would love to have all my problems, as long as they came with the good parts of my life as well.

I was given a reminder of this point recently, when I volunteered to work at the annual TAFKID Purim carnival.  TAFKID is an organization that is devoted to helping the families of children with special needs (both physical and mental).  They provide support and advocate for these children.  At the carnival, I get to interact with the children -- of all levels of disability.  I see those that are high-functioning, and those that are confined to wheelchairs and barely able to communicate.

In many ways, it hurts to see these children.  It hurts to see that many of them will not have the opportunity to have the things that I have come to take for granted in my life -- the ability to walk; to marry and have children; to hold a job; the ability to express myself and make my wants and desires known without too much difficulty.  They and their families face hardships and challenges that I, thank God, do not know.

It's sometimes very easy to focus on our own problems and forget the blessings that HKBH has given us.  Perhaps it's a good thing that I volunteer here and, at least once in a while, am reminded that, despite my own personal problems, I still have it pretty good in life.

The Wolf

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fighting Smoking Is A Battle Worth Fighting

Rabbi Yair Hoffman wrote a recent editorial (publish on 5TJT and republished on YWN) about the dangers of smoking among our youth.   He starts out with an over-the-top picture of a young widow-to-be who is losing her husband to cancer because he smoked when he was younger.  Yes, it's a sappy scenario, but the bottom line is that smoking does kill.  It's really that simple.

Rabbi Hoffman places a good portion of the blame on the boys in Beis Midrash, whom the younger bochrim look up to.  Because they smoke, he posits, the younger kids want to emulate them and smoke as well.  Their activity is undermining any anti-smoking message that the school or parents are hoping to communicate.

Maybe it's because I was never one of the "cool kids" in school, but I could never quite understand what drives someone to smoke.  It always seemed to me that it was a dirty, smelly habit -- aside from any health problems that it may cause.  My mother is a long-time smoker, and, fortunately, as much as I look up to her, I never once thought to follow in her footsteps in this matter.  Even at a very young age, I was able to understand that smoking is simply bad.

You wouldn't think that there could be anyone who would actually defend smoking.  Even the smokers that I know would never tell a person "It's okay, smoke, you'll be able to quit if  you want to."  And yet, someone actually wrote into in response to Rabbi Hoffman's editorial, defending smoking.

Y.W. actually defended the practice on the grounds that "it is one of the only permitted outlets for our young men, our yeshiva boys."  He observes (rightly) that we should pick our battles when it comes to our kids and not say "assur" (forbidden) all the time.  However, he (wrongly) chooses smoking as something to let slide.

He goes on to state:

Having been involved with youth for many years, I can tell you with certainty that the large majority of boys who smoke stop after they are married. Don’t believe the propaganda that the activists will try to sell you about young husbands dying from smoking. It’s a lie. Again, most boys who smoke stop after matrimony.

Personally, I find it a bit hard to believe that the "large majority" of boys who smoke manage to stop before marriage.  I've seen plenty of people smoke after marriage and I know how difficult a nicotine addiction is to overcome.  But, for the moment, let's grant him the point and say that the majority can quit cold-turkey.  There are still two relevant points:

1.  There's a way to help even the minority who can't quit -- simply don't start.  How about instead of saying "you can quit anytime" (which, according to Y.W. helps only the majority), we say "Don't start smoking" which helps almost everyone.

2.  Even if they can stop after marriage, the damage may have already been done.  Smoking during an early part of a person's life can affect them even long after they quit.  I, personally, know someone who died of lung cancer decades after he quit smoking.  Leonard Nimoy (the actor who portrayed Spock in the Star Trek franchise) recently announced that he suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder -- and he quit smoking thirty years ago!  Why should we allow our young men to damage their bodies now, even if they can stop adding damage later?

We, as parents, should certainly be picking and choosing our battles.  We should not be saying "assur" all the time.  But there are issues to give in on and issues where we *should* draw a red line -- and smoking, which can cause lifetime addiction, illness and death, should be one of the latter issues.

The Wolf

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Template

I hope you will all forgive me... but I've had the same template since I began this blog back in 2005.  I think that it's time for an upgrade.

Feel free to provide any feedback.

The Wolf

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wages And Attitudes In Lakewood

Of late, I've begun reading the Coffee Room section of the Voice of Lakewood.  In it's pages, various issues of importance to the residents of Lakewood are debated back and forth.  The current "hot issue" is whether or not the elementary schools should translate Chumash into Yiddish, even if the kids don't understand it.  But that's not the issue that brings me back to my blog today.

Another debate that has been going on for the last few weeks is the rising price of cleaning help in Lakewood.  Various people have put forth suggestions including capping the salaries of cleaning ladies. 

What I find interesting is the complete one-sidedness of the attitude of those who seek to restrict the salaries of cleaning ladies.  In the Nov 14 issue, a writer complains that her cleaning lady had the nerve to ask for more money (after having gotten a raise) because she received a better offer elsewhere.  The money quote (pardon the pun):

I would like to know when everyone will realize that cleaning ladies shouldn't be allowed to be in control.  If we keep on giving in to them, they will keep requesting more per hour.  Let us put a stop to this bidding game.  There has to be a specific amount that is approved to be the ceiling amount.  Why can't $10 be the ceiling amount?  No one should give more than this ceiling amount.  Otherwise, we will be constantly wrapped around the cleaning ladies' fingers.  We must stop this before it spirals out of control.

It would seem, based on this letter and similar ones like it, that there is a shortage of good, reliable cleaning help in Lakewood.  The fact that cleaning ladies are in demand for higher and higher rates indicates that there may not be enough cleaning help to go around.  This is basic, simple economics.  The letter writer wants to impose a wage ceiling on cleaning ladies, thereby circumventing the natural equilibrium between price and demand.

Of course, as most people know, these types of mechanisms tend not to work very well.  There are several things working against the imposition of a wage ceiling, including the fact that there's no enforcement mechanism, there is probably a market for cleaning help outside the yeshivish community and the fact that the cleaners may choose to find other work to do if their wages are capped (which would further exacerbate the underlying existing problem).

What's troubling about the letter, however, is that the letter writer advocates something for the cleaning help that she would never accept for herself.  Imagine if she went for a raise and was told that not only can she not have one, but that all the employers in town have agreed to limit the salaries.  Would she agree that this is fair and proper?  Would she be willing to accept that for herself or for her husband?  My guess is that the answer is no -- she would not.  But when it comes to (presumably) non-Jewish help, then it's all well and good.

To be fair, there has been another writer in the Voice trying to make the point that there is an equilibrium between supply and demand and that the community cannot (and should not) be capping salaries. I'd be very curious to see how the "cappers" respond to this person in the coming weeks.

You might think the attitude expressed in the letter above is sickening and silly, but believe it or not, it actually gets worse.  In this week's (Dec 19) issue, a writer pens the following:

Dear VOL,

Recently there was a back and forth about putting a ceiling price on cleaning ladies to avoid losing your help.  However, the real issue is that it's become accepted to take someone else's lady!!  Why is this normal?  It's outright stealing!

Don't take someone's cleaning lady the same way you wouldn't take their money or possessions...


Messed Over Many Times

I'm utterly shocked and flabbergasted that she views a cleaning lady as her own personal property.  In the letter writer's eyes, she no different (other than the fact that you have to pay her) than a car, a toaster or any other possession.  So outraged is she by this that she's willing to label as a thief someone who makes *her* cleaning lady a better offer.  She would advocate that no one be allowed to hire someone's cleaning help without first obtaining their permission. 

Again, however, the issue of fairness comes into play.  How would she feel if she found that her employer was allowed to preemptively block and other offers of employment for more money?  How would she feel if that was done to her husband?  You can bet she'd be outraged, and rightfully so.   But when it comes to someone outside the community, virtual indentured servitude is seemingly okay.

The fact that there is a segment of the Lakewood population that thinks that fairness is a one-way street and that seek to impose oppressive economic rules on others that they would never accept on themselves is just sad. 

The Wolf

Friday, August 02, 2013

Look In The Mirror Rabbi Birnbaum.

In the Yated, Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum finds himself in search of “Ahavat Chinam.”  He laments the fact that the American Modern Orthodox community expresses “unprecedented enmity” towards the Chareidi community.  According to him, we have Ahavat Chinam (baseless love) for those to the left of us, but for those to the right, only contempt.

It’s ironic, of course, that in the course of the article, instead of searching to find common ground between his community and the left upon which to build a foundation of love, he instead engages in bombastic “we’re better than you” chest thumping.  Instead of finding something good to say about the left, he instead chooses to accuse them of baseless hatred.

What Rabbi Birnbaum fails to realize is that one of the key issue at hand is legitimization.  Very simply, we recognize Chareidim as legitimate in terms of their observance of Judaism.  Yes, we may not choose to lead such a lifestyle ourselves, but that doesn't mean that we don’t think that learning Torah, restricted modes of dress or following the strictest possible interpretations of halacha are bad things – they’re just not what we do.

It’s too bad, however, that you don’t see the same tolerance from Rabbi Birnbaum’s community.  How ironic is it that he asks “Is there no baseless love left for Torah observant Jews who have a different view than you?” when it is this very same baseless love that is completely absent on a communal level from his side of the aisle.

While we on the left may have complaints on the way the Chareidi community does things, we don't seek to delegitimize the movement.  We view it as a fully valid form of Judaism, albeit one we do not observe ourselves.

Imagine the following scenario:  a nineteen year old Modern Orthodox youth, about to move out and embark on his own, goes to his parents and says in a serious voice “We need to talk.”  He then sits them down on the couch and says “I’ve decided to become more frum.  I’m going to learn more, I’m not going to have a television or cable in my home.  I’m going to keep Cholov Yisroel and dress only in standard yeshivish clothing.”

What would the parents’ reaction be?  Would they weep and cry and ask themselves the soul-searching question of “where did we go wrong?”  The answer, of course, is no.  They may have concerns about the welfare of their child (which parent doesn't?), but, on the whole, there isn’t going to be any real anguish over the situation, because the parents see yeshivish as a valid, frum lifestyle.

On the other hand, many Chareidi parents practically insider their kids "off the Derech" if they wore a kippah s'ruga (you know, the article of clothing that makes you partof Amalek according to Rabbi Shalom Cohen?) or didn't keep the strictest standard of halacha or even believed that there was value in secular learning for its own sake.   The Chareidi parents whose children become Modern Orthodox would likely spend the rest of their lives wondering what went wrong with their kid.

It’s ironic that Rabbi Birnbaum talks about intolerance of the left for the right when, in fact, the reverse is far more common.  You don't have those on the left screaming at little girls because they keep their particular brand of tznius in dress.  You don't see those on the left yelling at women who chose to sit in the back of the bus.  You don’t the Modern Orthodox community protesting against or threatening to shut down stores where there are separate shopping hours for men and women.  You don’t see the left causing a chillul HaShem at the Kotel by protesting Charedi women who don’t wear a tallis and choose to daven by themselves.

The real issue at hand is the very fact that, in the eyes of many Chareidim, we may as well not even be frum Jews.  I've heard of instances where people who aren't dressed as Chareidi or yeshivish weren't even counted as part of a minyan.

A friend of mine told me of a time when he was in an airport and a group of Chareidim/yeshivish people went looking for a minyan.  When they finally had one, one of the men asked if anyone was a chiyuv.  My friend said that he was.  The person asked again if anyone was a chiyuv, hoping to find someone more acceptable to him.  Again my friend said he was a chiyuv and was ignored.  The man then went ahead and began to daven for the amud himself.  Yes, this was only one incident and only one person, but it is this type of attitude toward those on the left and in the Modern Orthodox community that is pervasive in the Chareidi world.

Rabbi Birnbaum spends a great deal of time talking about the institutions that the Chareidi world has built – and, yes, they are great institutions.  No one argues that organizations such as Hatzalah, Misasksim and Tomche Shabbos are wonderful things, and no one seeks to take the credit away from the Chareidim and Chassidim who built and run those institutions.  Kudos to them and may they continue to do great things.  But that’s not really the issue here.  The issue isn't who does more chessed.  The issue is “do you really love us enough to consider us as Torah-observant Jews?”

We've all heard the expression that there are shivim panim laTorah.  However, the Chareidi community tends to take the Henry Ford approach to that maxim.  Ford was famous for saying “You can have the Model T in any color you want, so long as it’s black.”  Well, the Chariedi community is a bit more open than that.  They’ll recognize a different form of frum Judaism, as long as it’s black, onyx, obsidian, jet or ebony.

Until the Chareidi community learns to accept those on the left as legitimate, I can’t see how Rabbi Birnbaum can preach about Ahavas Chinam.  It is those on his side who do not love the left as a whole.  Yes, they may love us as individuals, but as a community, Rabbi Birnbaum’s claim of Ahavas Chinam for us falls flat.

I agree with Rabbi Birnbaum on one point - it is better to Look for Ahavas Chinam than to look for Sinas Chinam.  But perhaps, he should first tend to his own house before projecting his feelings towards others onto those saw others.  So, how about it Rabbi Birnbaum?  Can you bring yourself to say that Modern Orthodox Jews are fully Torah-observant Jews and that the movement is a perfectly valid form of Judaism? Can you bring yourself to publicly state that there is nothing wrong with living a Modern Orthodox lifestyle?  I'm not asking you to state that the movement is perfect -- heck, just as you acknowledge that the Chareidi movement has it's problems, I'll be more than happy to acknowledge that the Modern Orthodox community has it's own issues.  But will you recognize us as we recognize you?  If not, then perhaps you had better look at yourself before asking where the Ahavas Chinam is.

The Wolf