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.