I’m sorry. I just can’t believe this is Yiddishkeit. No matter how tolerant I try to be, I can’t believe that customs (like those described in a Forward article) found among Chasidic sects like Satmar and Ger have even the remotest connection to Judaism. I simply do not believe that this is how God wants His people to behave.
I know that I have preached tolerance and acceptance of all Jews. I still do. And I still believe in Achdus in the sense of respecting the Hashkafos and customs of others. The above-mentioned Chasidic sects have every right to believe as they wish.But when those beliefs translate into actions that are harmful – like their Vaad HaTznius (modesty squads) or the events that have taken place with respect to the Weberman trial, then I don’t believe for a minute that they have anything to do with Judaism. I sometimes wonder if even the majority of the people in these Chasidic communities really believe in them in their heart of hearts.
These were the thoughts that came rushing into my head once again as I read the Forward article. The bullying and strong-arm tactics of Williamsburg’s Tznius squads were described at theWeberman trial. Not only is that an abhorrent misuse of power and a mistaken perception of what modesty in Judaism is all about, I think it actually degrades an individual’s humanity to insist on such extremes.
I still find it shocking that something like a Tznius squad exists and operates with impunity. What I do not find shocking is the fact that the people who are on these ‘squads’ are what my father used to call Leidik-Geyers – people who have nothing to do with their time. Of which they have a plenty since Williamsburg has plenty of residents that do not work. But… what kind of people constitute the Tznius squad is a side issue.
I’m sorry. This is not Judaism. It doesn’t matter that the Tznius squad is sourced in the Rambam as the writer of the Forward article explains. The Rambam was describing another scenario and I doubt that any extension of his ideas would have included the establishment of a Tznius Squad.
There is another thing described in that article has to be the most ridiculous nonsense I can imagine. It is the idea that a husband and wife are not buried together in their cemeteries. There is actually a separation of the sexes in the grave. I kid you not.
I mean… what are they afraid will happen? Do they think this will lead to the 2 corpses sleeping together? And even if they did, they were married for Pete’s sake! And no one would see them anyway because… they’re buried! How far can they take these Tznius concepts before even their own people start laughing at them?
How in heaven’s named can anyone ever really buy into this practice? And yet it seems that hundreds of thousands of people do. I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Are such customs worth the ridicule they bring upon Orthodox Jewry from the rest of the world?
I know, I know… I just said a moment ago that I accept their Hashkafos as legitimate even if I don’t agree with them. I do. I accept for example their stated reasons for opposing the State of Israel. I accept their heightened sense of modesty. And I applaud all the good works they are famous for. What I do not accept is the harmful behavior of some of them; those among them who insist on imposing their will upon others; and upon further reflection – questionable customs that would bring ridicule upon us.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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