11 January 2008

Munchausen Syndrome

There 's an unusual phenomenon know as Munchausen Syndrome in which a caregiver deliberately inflicts harm upon someone or himself in order to come to the rescue or simply to draw attention to oneself.

I'm not accusing the frum chareidi community of this, but rather something similar. The chareidi community inflicts poverty upon itself and then brags about how great it's Chessed is. It is not doing this on purpose as in MSbP (Munchausen by Proxy) but the affect is just the same.
Now I do not want to belittle the Chessed and Charity that the Chareidi community performs, but a large percentage of the need is self induced.

Take your typical charity causes. (Of course, it rarely steps out of the Daled Amos of it's social group.) Other than Hatsolah, HaSC, Chai Lifeline and the likes, a vast majority of the need for charity is due to four factors.

1) The devaluation of advanced secular education.

2) The increase of advanced Kolel studies

3) The increase of Family size as if raising children are free. Yes, I know children are a great blessing, but if you can't afford to pay tuition and feed them, please don't have more than eight.

4) The need to socially be Baalebatish, i.e. wearing the most up-to date clothing,leasing cars, must have Bar-Mitsvahs even though you can't pay tuition, etc.

I sense a new epidemic of debt looming even in the Charedi-Lite community due to large family size and the need to keep up with the Jones's. It is becoming increasingly common to see working Ballei Battim complain they can't make ends meet on very nice salaries. Well, of course not. How can they make ends meet, if they work at B&H, have 8 kids, must make Bar Mitsvahs, dress in new suits and Sheitels for Yom Tov and lease a new car every 36 months?

This is a disaster in the making and I cannot begin to imagine what the future holds.

And it's all self-inflicted. So while I stand up and give credit to all volunteers and donors, let's not brag about how great the system is.
So far, this is a typical post you might even see on BalleBattish Blogs. So what's the skeptic angle? Why is Baal Habos posting this? (By the way, BHB is not to be confused with another blogger that I've recently seen, baalebos. My apologies to ballebos, as I have reason to believe that baalebos preceded me in the blogworld but my name was selected not realizing that another blogger had a similar name.)

This post goes back to a series of comments that I exchanged a while ago with Gadfly.

We were discussing all the good that the community does and Gadfly was taking me to task. He (she?) asked if I feel badly that some non-skeptic would come across my postings and in doing so would turn skeptical. This in turn would deprive the world of someone who is more likely to do chessed, being that the Frum community is so much more charitable. This post is my formal answer to Gadfly's charges. The bottom line is that the Frum community needs more chessed and charity, simply because to a great degree we are doing it to ourselves. So I won't feel bad if someone becomes a skeptic because of reading my stuff. Well, I might, but for different reasons.
Well, what about Hatsolah? Surely, the need for that is not self inflicted. What if the Road not taken for a skeptic or his children would have included volunteering for Hatsalah?
Maybe that's true. But we need to look at the big picture.
I remember one of my Rebbeim relating the following story. I believe it was about the Chofetz Chaim, so I will use his name.

There was once a fund raising effort to raise money for a local hospital. A wealthy man stepped up to the plate and donated a large amount. But while doing so, he somehow disparaged the Lomdei Torah by complaining how little they were contributing to the cause. The CC is reported to have said the wealthy man is "merely" helping pay for ill people while the Talmidei Chachomim are preventing people from falling ill in the first place.

(We could have a whole separate post about that. When was there greater longevity and better health, before or after the advent of the scientific age? I'll leave that to others.)
The CC looks at the big picture one way. I look at it differently. Yes, Hatsaloh does a great and wonderful job. And each volunteer deserves our utmost respect and gratitude. But perhaps, this Skeptic or his children now goes to medical school and discovers the cure for some terrible disease. Or perhaps he becomes an engineer who invents some futuristic version of an air Bag or some other safety device that saves thousands of lives. Missed by Hatsolah? Perhaps. But who knows what the Road not taken consists of?

The Butterfly Effect says life is too complicated to calculate the impact of a single flap of BHB's wings.

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