Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Snootiness - Part II

Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone who cared enough to comment on my previous post - even you DovBear - whether your comment was a helpful suggestion, observation or even a criticism.

I spoke with my wife last night and showed her my previous post, along with everyone's comments. I was relieved to find out that she, too, had been bothered by our treatment of our new neighbors. We had a long talk about these matters - including the halachic standards that we want to maintain for our children. It's a tough balancing act - after all, you can't shield your child from everything. They go to school, and have classmates that may influence them; and they go to camp where other campers and counselors can influence them. In these places, we, as parents can "shield" our children even less. But the concept of the feelings that I felt truly bothered me.

For a long time, I've always considered the following question: If you had a choice between your children being mentschen or being Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, which would you choose? My answer, of course, is "why can't I have both?" And, truth to tell, there really isn't any reason why you can't strive to have both - there are plenty of people in the world who are STU'M and are decent, kind, caring human beings. But, of course, that doesn't *really* answer the question - what if you *had* to choose between one and the other - which one is it?

I have always tried to put that question out of my mind, yet, for years, every now and again, it has always tugged away at the corner of my brain, reminding me that it's still there and that I still haven't fed it the answer it craves. I have always been a strong believer (I know you wouldn't think it from my last post, but it's true) in stressing bein adam la'chaveiro with my children more than bein adam la'makom; simply because that's always been the focus in my life. Not that I ignore the latter, of course - I keep Shabbos, I keep kashrus, etc. But my first thought when encountering a situation is not usually "what will God think" but "will so-and-so be bothered by it." Sometimes, it can't be helped and BALM comes first, but in most cases, I make a concious effort to try to put BALC first.

To me, I suppose, they are both essential. It's like asking which eye you'd like to lose - you don't really want to even think about it - let alone sit and try to rationally come up with the answer. I certainly don't want my children to grow up to be rotten human beings who keep the Mitzvos. Equally so, however, I don't want them to grow up abandoning the Mitzvos either, even if they turn out to be fine, upstanding human beings (don't get me wrong - I'd take pride in that anyway!). So, I leave the question unresolved and every now and again it continues to stalk at the corners of my mind.

So, where does that leave me? There is an old saying that the strongest influences in a person's life are his/her parents. As much as youngster would like to deny it, they take their attitudes in life and their lessons in dealing with other people from us, their parents. Perhaps that's why children of child abusers are more likely to become child abusers themselves. Children's behaviors (when they grow up) become modeled on their parents' behaviors. I see it happening with myself - I see myself slowly developing my parent's attitudes and sensibilities in life. I find myself dealing with my children as my parents deal with me. Every day I better understand what my parents went through in raising me because I am internalizing their lessons, attitudes and outlooks on life.

The vast majority of my family is not frum. Except for my mother, sister (and her family) and one branch on my father's side, no one in my family (including my father) is frum. And yet, my children know their (non-frum, and in some cases non-Jewish) cousins and thier grandfather and his wife (my parents are divorced). They see and deal with them and know that there are certain things that they may do that are unacceptable for them. They understand, for example, that when they go to a cousin's Bat Mitzvah and there is mixed dancing there that they cannot participate. They know that they have to ask questions before they can eat at certain places. Perhaps my kids aren't as fragile as I had thought them to be - after all, I've seen with my own eyes that they can associate with others outside their "frumness level" (for lack of a better term) and yet still maintain standards that I and my wife require of them.

In any event, my wife and I both decided that we want to make it up to them. Hopefully, they don't read this blog. We already have plans for this coming Shabbos, but I think we're going to extend an invitation for the next one.

The Wolf

30 comments:

Larry Lennhoff said...

Kol HaKavod on your decision. I would like to see the meaning of frum adjusted so that someone who is cruel, or who takes advantage of others is no more considered frum than someone who is not shomer shabbat.

Kol Tuv

Larry

DovBear said...

I wasn't really criticizing you, or your wife.

Shouldn't have come across that way.

Anonymous said...

Its ironic that in Europe the word "frum" had a completely negative connotation. "Frum like a galach" was the way it was used. What we mean today when we call someone frum (observant) was called ehrlich.

I'm sure there's no intent whatsoever, even subconscious, in the change in America. But its interesting.

Air Time said...

I have been watching this discussion with a lot of interest.

As much as I hate to say I agree with DovBear, in this case I did, and I wondered how other bloggers felt.

As to which I would choose for my children, being mentshen or shomrie mitzvos, its not my choice.

I can't control whether or not they will keep shabbos in fifteen years, but I can raise them to be respectful, tolerant mentshen.

I'm curious how your prospective guests will take your invitation. Will they view you as being "too frum" for them, applying the exact judgements you placed on them? Let us know how it turns out.

out of towner said...

The next question to be asked is how much contact with people who are different (less frum, more frum, chassidim or litvaks) is "too much"?

Clearly, what children see at home is not enough if the environment they are in outside of home is very different. That's why we send our kids to Orthodox day schools, camps, etc. When do you draw the line?

One of the comments before talked about not judging frumkeit by length of sleeve, head covering etc. but that is not correct -- if the person thinks is a halachik basis for something (women wearing pants, not covering hair in the home or only minimally in a public place), or is following a certain rav, this may be ok; however, the attitude otherwise is that halacha does not matter, and this is problematic.

We know a family where the mother does not cover her hair, but won't allow her daughter to wear pants . . . this seems to me to be inconsistent!

PsychoToddler said...

It's funny you should mention child abuse. I was thinking after I left my comment on your last post that the analogy of abuse might apply here, but not with regards to your children. I've always wondered why it was that children of abusers--whether it's child, domestic, or substance--are more likely to become abusers themselves. I don't know the answer.

But with regards to your issue: You are "abused" by the black hatters who consider you to be inferior and look down upon you for your choice of headgear, then you turn around and do it to someone else. And it bothers you, because you know that on some level it's wrong. So why did you do it? Is it to improve your own self-esteem? "Well, I may be bad, but I'm not as bad as them." Or is it because you're somehow conditioned to react this way based on they way you were treated?

Sorry for the psychobabble. I enjoyed this series of posts.

Jack's Shack said...

Since I am not Shomer Mitzvot, the Torah True Jew some may discount my opinion, but I have plenty to say about this.

The short version is that I would rather my children be mentschen than be a person who is Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, but a jerk.

You don't have to be among the gedolim to see the advantage and benefits to raising mentschen.

BrooklynWolf said...

The answer to your question, Psychotoddler, unsatisfying as it is, is "I don't know." It was just a feeling that I had, but didn't like. Maybe I've grown a little too "insular" over the years. But like everything else, you try to work on these things to better yourself - and so I shall try.

Jack,

I can understand your answer from your point of view - but from mine, it's not so simple. As I see it, both are essential. I don't want one without the other (and I certainly don't want that they shouldn't have either!). That's why that question is much harder for me to answer (and, I imagine, for most Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos) than for you.

DovBear
I wasn't sure how to take your initial post. After all, I did feel that I deserved some measure of rebuke and was willing to accept it. No hard feelings either way - if one can't take some deserved tochacha then how can one ever hope to better oneself?

The Wolf

PsychoToddler said...

Derech eretz kodma leTorah.

Does that help?

BrooklynWolf said...

Within limits, Psychotoddler, within limits.

For example: If a woman asks me for help with her packages while I'm walking in the street on Shabbos, I'm not going to carry them across the street for her. It's pretty clear that it's forbidden to do. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to leave her stranded - perhaps you can find someone else to help her - perhaps you can offer to watch her bags while she takes them across the street one at a time - or one of any other number of solutions that might be available. But to actually transgress one of the categories of melacha on Shabbos? No. Derech eretz... doesn't work that way. So too, here. I can't just blithely say "derech eretz..." and therefore I want my children to be mentchen and I don't care about Torah U'Mitzvos. I thought the example I gave earlier was quite apt - it's like being asked which eye you'd like to lose. I don't want to lose either!

The Wolf

AMSHINOVER said...

Voolfee,
having them over for a shabbus meal is a great idea,and when they leave tell the kids how this was a experiment in outreach,an attempt on your part to do some kiruv work.just keep them folks away from the non mevoshel wine ok.ever wonder how out of town rabbis do it?

Anonymous said...

"Derech eretz kodma leTorah"

In Mishnaic terms derech eretz doesn't mean "respect", as its meaning today. It means "wordly matters" ala R. Hirsch's useage in "[yafeh talmud] Torah im derech eretz".

Not that the sentiment behind "[respect] before Torah" isn't necessarily signifigant either. But it's not really the intent of that mishna in Avos.

Anonymous said...

should say " isn't necessarily insignifigant either

BrooklynWolf said...

Amshinover,

I don't know if your kidding or not (I suppose the "volfee" might be a hint), but if you're not, I don't think I'll need to any such thing.

The Wolf

daat y said...

if we treat our kids with respect and they internalize it they will identify with us and desire the entire torah life.

YOSEF said...

Your question of whether it is better to be a mentcsh or a shomer mitzvos is not a legitimate question, because part of being a shomer mitzvah is being a mensch. They are inseparable.
It is like asking, it is better to be a shomer shabbos or a shomer mitzvos--if one is not a shomer shabbos he is not a shomer mitzvos,so too if one is not a mennsch he is not a shomer mitzvos either.

KlalYisrael said...

Kol hakavod...
mainly on your approach to the issue and your decision to take the appropriate action given your decision.
I really respect that, but also I think Kol Hakavod for putting bein adam lechavero before bein adam lemakom..
It's not so obvious a choice, but an important one.

BrooklynWolf said...

In theory, Yosef, you are correct. But in practice, that's not the way it works. We all know (or know of) people who keep Shabbos, keep Kashrus, etc. and are considered "frum" by the "frum community" even though they are not mentschen.

The Wolf

PsychoToddler said...

Those people are like an empty shell. I don't think it's possible to be a "real" ben-torah without menchlichkeit. However, it's certainly easy enough to look like one.

BrooklynWolf said...

I agree with you psychotoddler. But nonetheless, the "frum community" still considers them "frum."

The Wolf

YOSEF said...

How people are referred to is not what is important. What should matter to us is what is objectively true. Therefore objectively the choice of being "frum or mentchlich" is not one that applies to us.They are the same thing.

BrooklynWolf said...

Once again, Yosef, you are 100% right in theory and wrong in practice.

In an ideal world it could be as you say. But we don't live in an ideal world.

No one lives in a vacuum. We live in communities and social circles. And it is important for one to fit in with one's neighbors and community for various reasons, including the "frum community." That's why people put on an act of frumkeit even if they don't keep it. As much as you'd like to shout "it doesn't matter" (heaven knows I'd like to shout it), it does matter what other people think of you - unless you want to live your life as a pariah outside the community.

The Wolf

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"How people are referred to is not what is important. What should matter to us is what is objectively true. Therefore objectively the choice of being "frum or mentchlich" is not one that applies to us.They are the same thing."

Unfortunately this is the same nonsense that many Muslims use in their apologetics about the terrorism and violence among them. Frum Jews are what frum Jews are, not the theoretical version of them.

Anonymous said...

"How people are referred to is not what is important. What should matter to us is what is objectively true. Therefore objectively the choice of being "frum or mentchlich" is not one that applies to us.They are the same thing."

Unfortunately this is the same nonsense that many Muslims use in their apologetics about the terrorism and violence among them. Frum Jews are what frum Jews are, not the theoretical version of them.

Yosef said...

I am still not sure I understand. Are we to follow what God wants us to do or what others think we should do? If we are doing what is right we should not care what anyone thinks and if it means not being included in certain circles we should not want to be part of those circles anyway.

BrooklynWolf said...

I apologize, yosef. I didn't mean to confuse.

We are talking about both the reality and the perception.

I want my kids to be frum. As we understand it, frumkeit (should, in theory) include bein adam lachavairo just as much as bein adaim laMakom. I agreed with you on that point.

Unfortunately, in today's world, we all know that there are people out there in the frum world who are "frum" in the sense that they keep (or supposedly so - I can't vouch for what goes on behind closed doors) Shabbos, Kashrus, Taharas HaMishpacha, etc. but yet are generally not nice people. Yet these people are frum and are welcome in the Torah community, as if they were truly frum.

So, why is this important? For two reasons:

(1) If (God forbid) my kids turn out to be rotten human beings, that doesn't mean that I want to abandon Shabbos either. Just because one abandons some mitzvos doesn't mean that I can't hope that they still observe others.

(2) As I said earlier, we don't live in a vacuum. We live in communities - we go to shul, we eat at each other's houses, we marry each other's children. One who is not "frum" (whether or not they are truly frum) is outside that circle. Once one is outside the circle (whether because of appearences or reality) then one's chances of truly remaining frum (or returning to it) are greatly diminished, since they lack the social support network that exists within communities.

The Wolf

Larry Lennhoff said...

I am still not sure I understand. Are we to follow what God wants us to do or what others think we should do?
We are to do what Hashem wants us to do, of course. But Hashem has left us more moral choices than to do His will or to oppose it. There are many permitted actions, and Jews can legitimately disagree about which permitted action is best.

Thus, BW (may I call you BW?) is concerned about how he personally resolves the conflict between several divine imperatives - Ahavat Yisrael, Hachnasat Orchim, and judging people favorably on the one hand, and potentially exposing his children and himself to what may be bad hashkafic influences on the other. Given what I've read on his site, I think he made the correct decision.

Kol Tuv

Larry

BrooklynWolf said...

Sure, BW is fine. :)

The (BW) Wolf

PsychoToddler said...

If I'm given the choices you're giving me, namely frum in the bain adam lamakom but sorely deficient in adam lechavairo, or the opposite...I'd still gravitate towards the latter. But still I don't think people are that black and white. Someone who is a "superfrummy" mehadrin min hamehadrin but yet has no menchlichkeit has to be suffering in his frumkeit as well. That's not what real yiddishkeit is about, and if that's my choice, I will reject it.

But I have room for people who are a little behind in their mitzvos but still care about people.

GoldaLeah said...

In my world (read: liberal Judaism) I can't even imagine this being a serious choice. I would ALWAYS choose that my children be good people above them being, say, as observant as I am. But maybe that is the ultimate bane of liberal Judaism -- we have sacrificed much by telling our kids that they can just "be good people".

My best friend asked me the other day, "Does it really matter if I eat a cheeseburger? Does God really care? I'm a good person, isn't that enough?" I want my children to answer "yes, yes, and no," to those questions (for themselves) but not if it makes them judgmental exclusionary jerks. (Not that anyone here IS that.)

Isn't it all so fascinating what our different concerns and worries are? You're all worried that you kids won't be frum enough and I'm worried that they'll marry non-Jews. No one has it easy, huh?