11 February 2007

The Common Denominator

Continued from here.

Ever hear stories about the Tzaddik who befriends someone who went off the derech? And then, by helping him out with a simple favor or by being extra polite, the individual, after a process, becomes a Chozer B'Tsuhva?

What exactly is going on?

And how do we explain the following?

  • Kids At Risk?

  • As GH points out, the fact that most kids are so easily indoctrinated?

  • Skeptics because of science and history - Like The so-called Chochom in a prior post of mine?

  • Skeptics because of Emotion - The supposed Rosha?

  • Skeptics because of incredulity in miracles? - The so-called Tam?

  • Skeptics who are exposed to GH - The supposed Sheano Yodeah Lishol?

  • The fact that there appears to be a greater number of Chassidish Skeptics?

  • Baalei Tshuva who get turned on to Frumkeit because of some kindness (Potato Kugel)?

Let's start with Chassidim. I think that when compared to the Yeshivish velt, there is a higher percentage of Chassidim who do not subscribe to the beliefs they were raised with. Now place yourself in a Chassid's shoes, (or beneath a Shpitzle for the women). You are taught that the only true way to serve the Ribono Shel Olam is by following the "Heimishe Derech" & the Mesorah of your parents. This might mean no or little secular education, dressing completely out of sync with modernity, spending hours at a Tish, total societal segregation of sexes, etc. Then you step out to Flatbush and see other very religious Jews, practicing the same religion, with the same zeal, studying the same Talmud, even mastering it. But those Yidden are not encumbered by the same rigid dress code and not stuck with a third grade education. They don't seem locked into the past like you are. There is no way, in my mind, that a Chassid does not at least begin to question his upbringing. After cursory research, they'll stumble onto the fact that the Chassidic way of life did not originate with Rava & Abaye. So how can that way of life be obligatory on him? Why can't he be Frum but not Chassidish? Once he begins to question, there's no telling what else is questioned.

So the way I see it, Chassidim are prone to a loss of TRUST in their way of life.

You're going to tell me that the same is true of Chareidim. They step out and see the Modern Orthodox world. That's true, but it's different. MO is on the defensive about their practice. It's often acknowledged that MO is a compromise. Additionally, the dress of American Chareidim is not that different than a typical businessman (except maybe the color of his suit). And their education does not deprive them of basic reading & writing. The Chareidim claim their way of life is the same as practiced in Biblical times. And there's no way to disprove that, especially since anything remotely secular is off-limits and is considered unreliable. A Chareidi believes he's on the unique path to God.

Generally, Charedim are not threatened by an MO way of life. Unless Chareidim start to delve in places they don't belong, they have no reason to mistrust their beliefs. (But I think that a Rabbi Maroof does pose a threat to Chareidim. That was the subject of a different post. To me it seems like there are not that many Rabbi Maroof's around).
Children who are taken care of by loving parents and have a decent school & life experience TRUST the system. They trust their parents, Rebbeim, teachers, sibling, etc. Their environment comes at them with a consistent message. Be good and you'll be taken care of. And for the most part, they are! So what's not to trust? Such children easily accept the religious indoctrination of parents.

But when these same kids get abused or don't have a happy home life, that's where it gets tricky. They lose trust and can lose belief. I don't trust my Rebbi, so why should I trust his Torah?

Or take a yeshiva boy/girl who through no fault of his/her own, is not up to his peers scholastically. In an environment where learning is emphasized to the exclusion of everything else, a poor student is a recipe for trouble. Why should he trust the system? There you have an opportunity for a Kid at risk. This is beginning to be recognized and hence a renewed emphasis on remedial studies for failing students.

I guess you see where I'm going now. The common denominator is TRUST.

Treat someone with extraordinary kindness and they'll begin to trust you. Imagine growing up secular and then being invited to a total stranger's house for Shabbos. How can you not end up trusting that person? How can you not be affected by the whole message of Judaism that your host envelops you with? I bet kindness, sympathy & empathy are the tools of Kiruv organizations such as Aish Hatorah. And who are their clientele? Often they are the ones that have lost trust in their current way of life. It all boils down to TRUST.

That brings us to the skeptics. They each lose trust, some in the history and some in the science. Some might lose faith in the Theology and some in God's benevolence. You might consider this to be tantamount to giving in to Taavah. But contrary to Jewish Philosopher, I bet skepticism that originates or is fueled by Taaveh is the exception, not the rule.

You grow up believing in a 6,000 year old world. And then the scientists, the same professionals that send people to the moon, contradict that. It starts to put doubt in your head. The same group that brings you genetic splicing and Heart transplants tells you that there was no global flood. Slap after Slap and eventually you lose your trust in the old beliefs.

Take someone who is born Gay and is told that's fine but must live a celibate life. And then they hear that it was OK for Yehuda to dally with Tamar because Yehuda had no choice. The trust is eroded. Or someone asking why King Solomon can have 1000 wives but his own wife is off limits half the time. Or a horny teenager can't understand why Yaakov Avinu is held up on a pedestal even though he kissed Rachel before their first date! It seems like a double standard to me.

So despite what I originally thought, in the end, all skeptics, Chochom, Rosha, Tam & She'aino Yodeah Lishol are simply part of a larger group.
A group that, for one reason or another, has lost trust in Judaism.

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