Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

I was reading Rabbi Maryles's post this morning about the upcoming Jerusalem mayoral elections. In his description of the chariedi candidate, R. Maryles quotes from the World Jewish Digest that in 1987, the candidate entered a movie theatre on Shabbos and started shouting "Shabbos! Shabbos!" to the people in the theatre. I suppose that he was hoping to make an impression on the moviegoers as to the importance of the mitzvah of Shabbos. I don't know how well he succeded in his mission, but my guess would have to be that he probably failed. I'm willing to bet that most moviegoers in that situation would be completely put off by someone shouting in the middle of the movie and would be, at best, indifferent to the shouters message and, at worst, antagonistic to the message.

If this was a one time event, then I would say that it's just the actions of one person who doesn't understand human nature. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. In many chariedi communities in Israel, people seem to take the negative approach to kiruv. Rather than trying to reinforce in a positive manner why people should keep the mitzvos, they respond in a negative manner which, in all likelihood, destroys any chance of their message being heard. I highly doubt that anyone who had a rock thrown at their car on Shabbos is now keeping Shabbos because of that rock (or at all). I think the chances of someone keeping the mitzvah of tznius (however they choose to define it) because they've had acid thrown in their face is are infintesimal. I'd be willing to wager dollars to donuts that no one who was on the El-Al flight that was disturbed by a man who didn't want to see a movie is any frummer today because of his example.

Now, I'm not casting any judgements on the chareidi point of view regarding the requirements of tznius, not watching movies, keeping Shabbos, etc. What I am making judgements about are their methods. I don't know why they seem to think that the enforcer's role is the best one. The enforcer's role only works when there is no other option - but in Jewish communities almost anyone on the globe today, one can always opt out (i.e. cease belonging to the group, or being frum altogether). So, forgetting for the moment whether their goals are right or wrong, their methods are clearly the wrong ones to use.

Therefore, as a public service to the chareidi community in Israel, I would like to offer the following guide:

Instead of throwing rocks at cars on Shabbos:
  • Line the roads when a car goes by and sing Shabbos zemiros.
  • Hand the drivers literature about the beauty of keeping Shabbos.
  • Invite them to come spend a meal or a Shabbos afternoon with you.

Instead of going into movie theathers and shouting "Shabbos! Shabbos!" at the moviegoers:
  • Stand outside the theather and invite people on the ticket line to come home with you for a Shabbos meal.
  • Invite them to come to your house or shul after the movie for a friendly discussion on the beauty of Shabbos.
  • Describe to them how keeping Shabbos is much more meaningful on many different levels than going to a movie.

Instead of attacking women and setting fires to stores for violations of tznius:
  • Organize an economic boycott.
  • Educate people about the importance of the mitzvah of tznius.
  • Explain to people that it's not merely about keeping "women in their place" -- tell people that tznius applies to both genders in various regards.
  • Encourage people to innovate new fashions that meet both the letter and spirit of the laws of tznius.

Instead of looting electronics stores for selling MP3/MP4 players:
  • Organize a peaceful economic boycott.
  • Educate people about how bad these devices are with the goal of eliminating demand.

And on and on. In other words, find a peaceful means to get your message across. Now, you might ask (and rightfully so) how many potential Shabbos drivers will stop and agree to spend a day with a chareidi family? I agree the answer is not many. But there are still two advantages to this solution: 1. However few, the number of people who pull over and stop driving will be greater than the number of those who continue driving (and speed up, compounding the issur of driving on shabbos); and 2. Even if no one agrees, you're doing far less harm to the cause of Shmiras Shabbos by following my suggestions than you are by throwing stones.

In short, I ask you to keep this in mind: a person is responsible not only for his or her own sins, but also, to varying degrees, for sins that he or she causes other people to commit. I would venture to say that by pushing people further away from keeping the mitzvos by these actions (both the people who are the victims of these actions AND those who might have chosen to become frum but now chose not to because of your actions) you are doing far more harm to yourself and your standing in Heaven than if you simply left matters alone.

The Wolf


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Twelve or thirteen years ago there was a huge Shabbos rally in Tel Aviv where Rav Ovadiah Yosef announced: "Everyone who desecrates Shabbos should be put to death!"
One of my Chareidi friends took great pride in that. "See? It's about time someone told the Chilonim how important Shabbos is!"
And this was my response: Who was Rav Yosef talking to? The Chareidim at the rally? They already keep Shabbos. The Chilonim on the outside? They're not listening. So who was supposed to get this message in a positive sense?

The Hedyot said...

> However few, the number of people who pull over and stop driving will be greater than the number of those who continue driving

Huh? Am I reading something wrong? This doesn't make any sense to me.

ProfK said...

It's the old argument about the carrot or the stick. The stick may work short term, for the second or two that it is applied, but where a choice exists, those being physically manhandled will usually opt to get away from the stick yielder and anything that stick yielder represents.

You may choose to argue about Chabad philosophy but it is hard to argue with their results, particularly in the out of town areas. They have "rescued" thousands of Jews and brought them back to Yiddishkeit with nary a stick in sight--it's all carrot.

Just an interesting note: one of the ravs in our shul gave a drasha once in which he said that stone throwing on Shabbos, even within an eruv, was ossur. He quoted plenty of sources (and no I don't remember which ones right now) and said that those throwing the stones at those driving on Shabbos were themselves being mechalel Shabbos.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Re: the carrot and the stick. Look at the two Matan Torah events. The first, on Shavuos, was done with, according to Chazal, the mountain held over our heads. The second, on Yom Kippur, was done quietly without any fanfare. And which one endured? Not for nothing did Koheles says that the words of the wise are heard when said quietly.

Lion of Zion said...


the fundamental flaw with most of your suggestions--not that i don't agree with them--is that they presuppose that haredim be encouraged to interact with hilonim within a neutral social environment.


there is also the famous midrash comparing מתן תורה in the desert and קימו וקבלו in מגלת אסתר


frankly i don't care about the חלול שבת involved in stoning cars. this pales in comparison to the bigger problem, i.e., engaging in an activity that can kill motorists. when palestinians stone israeli cars the response is often live fire. the haredim are lucky they live on the other side of the green line.

Pesky Settler said...

We have quite a number of secular friends and most of them have had a Shabbat or holiday meal with us. A couple even spent an entire Shabbat.

My husband and I feel it's more important to show them that not all religious people are stone-throwing fanatics who point fingers and cry "repent or die!".

We fulfill our Halachic obligation by making sure they know they're invited to spend the entire Shabbat or Chag. What they do with the invitation is between them and God. My job is to make sure they understand that they are welcome regardless.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people who act in the way you describe pride themselves on being "Kanaim" - zealots. They see themselves as modern day versions of Pinchas.

The difference is that Pinchas acted out of a deep seated belief in righteousness. The difference is that Pinchas asked a Sh'ayla as to whether his intended course of action was correct (don't know the source of this, can anyone tell me?) I do not know how the average chareidi can compare himself to Pinchas.

I would say that ga'ava and its cousin, insecurity, lead to this reprehensible and ineffective behavior more than any true sense of Kana'us.

Anonymous said...

It depends on what your goal is. If you want to influence the secular to return to Torah, than you do as you suggest. If you view the secular as largely a lost cause and you want to strengthen your own, commitment and that of the already frum, you might well take the more strident approach you are condemning. Much of the behavior you condemn is driven by a fear of more assimilation among the Chareidim, not by a desire to reverse that which has already occurred.

Gil Student said...

We need more people like the "disco rabbi":

Jeff Eyges said...

Much of the behavior you condemn is driven by a fear of more assimilation among the Chareidim, not by a desire to reverse that which has already occurred.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. It isn't about convincing frei Jews, Wolf. It's about convincing themselves.

Now, I'm not casting any judgements on the chareidi point of view

Oh, cast judgments. Please.

Anonymous said...

I think that the image to remember is that of the apparently demented screamer in your subway car, carrying on at length and at great volume about the fire and brimstone awaiting those who don't believe in Jesus: Screamers and the too-insistent are automatically rejected by the rational before their proposals are even considered, so force & volume will never work to sway people in the direction you want.

The rationale of the Jerusalem screamers is not that they are trying to influence the chilonim, it is that they are simply expressing their pain at seeing the sanctity of Shabbat violated. This is a very different approach from that of kiruv, and should not be confused with it.

Kiruv, clearly, requires expressing unconditional love and acceptance without condoning forbidden activities. It is the failure to do that by most yeshiva people that has handed the kiruv field over so much to Chabad.

Worse, the yeshiva-style rigidity now embraced by most of Orthodoxy has created the general impression that the religious are all depressed, and who wants to join a sect composed of manic-depressives? Walk around BP or Flatbush and look at the faces on the street- How many look happy? Shouldn't religious people, on the whole, always look contented instead of anxiety-ridden?

There has to be a normaldox balance between the Chareidi tensions and the Na-Nach insanity.

Yossi Ginzberg

Tzipporah said...

Mike S is right - their goal is not kiruv, but boosting their own egos, and making themselves (and those already frum) feel better about their own choices.

-suitepotato- said...

I find it hard to imagine that G-d essentially meant to say, "take it easy one day a week because I love you and if you don't, you're a dead man!"

Threatening death for transgressors flies directly in the face of G-d giving us a stated day to take it easy from the outer world and time to take a breath and look at the inner world.

Sometimes I wonder if Ovadiah's turban is on a bit tight but he's generally a decent egg.