Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The REAL Cause Of Our Problems

On Vos Iz Neias, Rabbi Hoffman writes about last night's meeting in Boro Park to address some of the troubling headlines of the last few weeks. In his article, he makes some valid points about the fact that in many segments of our community, education is discouraged to the point where some people find it very difficult to earn a living. This lack of education, Rabbi Hoffman suggests, is a vital part of the troubles we are seeing played out in front of us. I think that Rabbi Hoffman has some very valid points, but I fear that the problem is far worse than a lack of education.

The problem, sadly, is that we are failing in our mission to internalize the Torah's lessons. Saying that a lack of education or poverty is not the answer -- after all, there are plenty of people who are poor and uneducated among the non-Jews who struggle in their lives and yet don't resort to crime.

Sadly, it seems that we have gotten our priorities wrong. We worry more about whether or not someone wears a hat and/or jacket to davening than if they commit welfare fraud. We care more about the color of people's shirts than whether or not they deal honestly with their fellow man (Jew or non-Jew). We place more emphasis on enforcing the minutiae of tznius (and no, I'm not saying that tznius is not important) than with the lav of Lo Tignovu. In short, we're too busy worry about the leaves on the branches to see that the tree has become rotten in the core.

What we really need to do is to completely reorder our society. We need to stop focusing on the externals and focus on doing what is good, right and what the Torah expects of us. We have to learn to deal justly and honestly with everyone - Jew and non-Jew. We have to focus on being able to be proud of the fact that your dealings are honest -- and the fact that people in our community are not ashamed or embarrassed when they are not.

Yes, education is a step in the right direction -- but if one's ethics are rotten and one's moral fiber is wrong, then all education does is produce smart thieves. We have to change not just our minds and our schools, but our souls as well.

The Wolf

24 comments:

Heshy Fried said...

Good post and it is agreed, but as with most issues, a few will get caught and no one will change.

When I worked as an auditor for the state - I worked in Jewish camps mostly. The camps sort of abided by the law, but when I told regular people what I did they would relate to me with gusto all their stories of how their camp cheated the government - I remember sitting with a whole bunch of people at Dougies who told me all the different ways they cheated the system - as they call it.

When people are proud

Off the Derech said...

>Saying that a lack of education or poverty is not the answer -- after all, there are plenty of people who are poor and uneducated among the non-Jews who struggle in their lives and yet don't resort to crime.


Terrible analogy. They don't send their kids (all 10 of them) to 20k a year schools, with camps and all those other expenses frum people have. The frum standard of living must be at LEAST triple that of the rest of the country.

SuperRaizy said...

Well said, although I agree with the Rabbi that education is key. There are far too many frum men who are completely unprepared to enter the workforce and support their families properly. Add to that the astronomical cost of being Orthodox, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

Generally, when one focuses on education, part of that education involves teaching people how to ignore the external factors and instead look at the core issues.

Afterall, that is what makes educated people better at whatever job they are doing.

E-Man said...

"after all, there are plenty of people who are poor and uneducated among the non-Jews who struggle in their lives and yet don't resort to crime."

But there are also plenty that are poor and uneducated that do commit crimes. I mean, just look at the jails in america.

But you can also say that there are many poor jews that are also uneducated that do not resort to criminal acts.

Ari said...

Great post. Unfortunately, the people that need to internalize it, will never read it.

The comments on some of these so-called "frum" blogs are scary. Plenty of rationalizations, all of them grossly misguided.

I normally refrain from posting on those blogs because it's a lost cause, but one post about how mesirah (informing the government of a Jewish crime) is the "worst possible offense in the entire Torah" had me scrambling for my keyboard and aspirin.

In my comment, I asked whether mesirah was written before or after Lo Tignovu ("do not steal").

See, there are such things as "frum" rednecks.

Anyway, although I've never believed that frum people are automatically morally superior than those who aren't observant, I find myself sad that I now believe it just as likely that a so-called religious person would violate both Jewish and moral ethics as readily as someone who isn't Jewish or observant.

I guess there is just a flimsy letter that separates frumkeit from krumkeit.

I don't pretend to know how this came to pass, but boy, do I have a bunch of theories. We use a microscope to look for bugs and shatnez, but we're a whole lot less introspective and clear eyed about our own moral failings.

Agree with you that we need to hit the reset button educationally and, most importantly, socially.

Off the Derech said...

Ugh. get Garnel (Ari) out of my face.

Ari said...

OTD - clarify please?

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm particularily amused by the whole "Put 1000 kids in and let 999 fall through the cracks so you can get 1 godol to be produced."
The other 999 aren't supposed to fall through the cracks. They're supposed to go out and learn trades. When did that option get dropped?

BTW, I'm not Ari.

Off the Derech said...

>OTD - clarify please?

We've been through this before.

>Lo Tignovu

Does not apply to non-Jews.

Lvnsm27 said...

You have a good point, we need to work on and internerlize the ethics that the Torah teaches us. We need to go back to Pirkei Avos and Mesillas Yasharim where we learn to be careful to avoid pitfalls, and instead go after good values like honesty etc.

It's important to work on both good character traits and spiritual things also. Both have an impact on the world. Good middos and values have a physical impact. And things like being tznius and keeping shabbos have a spirtiual impact. Both are important.

Shalmo said...

Actually some would argue that education produces more ethical people because it provides us with critical thinking.

Of course education is a double edged sword with Judaism. There is a reason groups who oppose secular education (as in UO) are better at keeping people from going OTD than say MO who embrace secular education. Its all about critical thinking.

The more educated you are the more you are able to think critically and then the more likely you are to go OTD. Hence why MO are dwindling while groups like Satmar are (seemingly) growing. When you have critical thinking you can see the Torah as a not-so-divine book but a cheap plagarism of egyptian, babylonian, cannanite, sumerian and other mythologies.

But that's just my opinion!

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

It's true that ethics have to be taught more to boys, instead of always learning gemara they should learn some Pirkei Avos or Mesilas Yeshorim or something.

But with the whole blue shirt argument, I think what the problem is, not that people are focusing on white shirt v. blue shirt. But rather they are forgetting why it supposedly makes a difference. It's being viewed as though it's a "color war" with one team against the other, each claiming they are better, just for the sake that one is white and one is blue. Rather than realizing why they want to wear a white shirt v. blue shirt.

In other words, I'm sure there's a reason why people chose to where white shirts. It's usually the more yeshivish people who are into learning all the time, and on a higher spiritual level, being "kadeish atzmecha b'ma sh'mutar luch". So they have a higher standard to live up to, and they should be acting accordingly. They should be honest good people.

If they forget why they are wearing a white shirt and just where it for it's "color" and don't act different, then your right the whole white shirt v. blue shirt becomes a silly thing.

Neandershort said...

http://neandershort.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-rabbis-become-criminals.html

Moshe said...

Amen, Wolf.

I would add that another aspect of the problem is that many frum people really worship the halacha itself, instead of Him from whom it originated. Halachic observance is a means to an end. It is not the end itself. No one ever cheated another human being without first denying (or at least forgetting about)He who first commanded us to do that which is good and upright. If you merely worship halacha, it is easy to come up with "sevoras" in your mind to justify most anything. When we consider performing a mitzvah, its not enough to ask "meieimosai""--from what time do we perform the mitzvah. Rather we should focus on performing the mitzvah "meieimah", with the realization of the awesome reality of Hashem's presence, which focus alone will keep us on the right track.

Commenter Abbi said...

"In other words, I'm sure there's a reason why people chose to where white shirts. It's usually the more yeshivish people who are into learning all the time, and on a higher spiritual level, being "kadeish atzmecha b'ma sh'mutar luch". So they have a higher standard to live up to, and they should be acting accordingly. They should be honest good people. "

Babysitter, you've been so brainwashed that you don't even have a hava amina that people who wear blue shirts, striped shirts or any other type of shirts could possibly be honest good people, or that they are possibly on a "higher spiritual level". And this is exactly the problem with "charediism" which bears little to no relation to actual Judaism.

Spirituality, middot and serving Hashem have absolutely nothing to do with the color shirt you wear. Mind control, social control and communal manipulation do. The sooner charedi people wake up to this fact, the better.

Zach Kessin said...

It seems to me we have 2 problems.

1) large number of people who are not able to earn a decent living due to an educational system that sets out to cause ignorance and poverty.

2) A "requirement" to live like millionaires. Outside the frum world most people who don't have a lot of money make small cheap weddings and send their kids to public school. We have decided that
private school, plus a year in Israel is REQUIRED, and that a wedding must have 400+ people at it.

Thus the community is constantly lurching from crisis to crisis with no clue of how they got there or how to get out of it.

The "Gadolim" will never order a change, so what must happen is that the change must come from the bottom. People are going to have to start saying, I don't care what everyone thinks I can't afford that and will do without.

I don't expect this will happen on a large scale until things get so bad that there is no other way, it must hit rock bottom.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Commenter Abbi: I find blue shirt people to be honest good people too. I didn't mean to imply that they weren't.

I know that spirituality has nothing to do with the color shirt you wear. I don't know how to explain it, except to say this, white shirt people, what you call chareidi, are the one's who keep more chumras, you would agree with that?

So wearing the white shirt is just another aspect of the differences in chumras that people hold of.

Lot's of blogs like to point out how ridiculous these "chumras" are and they are very extreme and so on.

What I'm trying to say is, that the white shirt v. blue shirt isn't the problem, rather you have to look at the source, of why one wears white and one wears blue, and be accepting of what each other stands for, and to not judge each other for that.

Mike S said...

Perhaps a lack of a different kind of education is the problem. If people knew what the Neviim had to say about those who observe the ritual aspects of Judaism without internalizing the lessons and without being careful about honesty and ethics, and how many Neviim said so and how often, they might behave better.

Ariella said...

I completely agree with you. But I am also an idealist at heart. As externals are easily quantifiable and true values are not,hoping for a real change in our society may be quixotic.

Commenter Abbi said...

"I don't know how to explain it, except to say this, white shirt people, what you call chareidi, are the one's who keep more chumras, you would agree with that? "

Right, and keeping more chumras means what exactly? Keeping more chumras means that you choose to live a more ascetic life. It doesn't make you more spiritual or closer to Hashem or "better Jew" or on a higher level. It just means you choose to live farther apart from the rest of society, but judging from the behavior of many frum Jews lately, it certainly doesn't guarantee spiritual or even lawful behavior.

And the beginning of your sentence speaks to the crux of charediism: "I don't know how to explain it". Prevention of critical thinking is the hallmark of social manipulation. If you did know how to explain it, if you were able to look at the community honestly and critically, you would probably come to much different conclusions.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Commenter Abbi: Ok, your right, I wasn't looking at the community, I was just basing it on ideals that I have been taught. I've always imagined that "chumras" were there for those that want to truly do Hashem's wish. I don't mean the one's that people make up, but I mean those with a source to it. Where there is a halacha that allows you to be maikel, and the people who chose to be machmir, I would assume do so because they want to keep the Halacha to the utmost.

Think of it this way, if someone would be machmir not to steal, they would make sure not to steal in the least. Even in a case where it can be considered that it's "owed" to him, he still wouldn't steal. Like he wouldn't steal supplies at work, even though they can be considered a small amount. That's what I call someone whose machmir, that they make fences to make sure they don't do something wrong. That they are extra careful in keeping the mitzvah.

E-Man said...

SO you don't actually understand what machmir is then because your example is an example of someone who keeps halacha, not machmir. Machmir is like chalav yisroel instead of chalav stam and pas yisroel instead of pas from a baker.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

E-man: You could be right. Now I understand.