web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Crass Materialism And The Lack Of True Jewish Values


How embarrassing.
 
Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an article about extravagant Jewish Iranian weddings in California that portrayed our community as a bunch of shallow, boastful materialists who think the purpose of a marriage ceremony is to tell our friends how much money we have.
 
Some of the particulars detailed in the article, confirmed to me by people who actually attended, included a bride placed in a glass coffin to be opened by her half-masked “Phantom of the Opera” bridegroom. The coffin did not open for an hour and the wedding was nearly ruined by a shaken and tearful bride gasping for breath. But the coffin, on that occasion, was a telling symbol of the utter death of Jewish values that such ridiculous extravagances represent.
 
The article further cited the regularity of film crews at these weddings consisting of five or more cameramen with “a 25-foot crane over the dance floor.” In television this is called a jib, and to give you an idea of how expensive it is, through the first season of my show “Shalom in the Home,” we couldn’t afford one – despite a multi-million dollar budget.
 
Strangely enough, the article quoted a rabbi of a temple in Los Angeles with many Iranian Jewish members who “makes a point of not judging – and even sees virtue in the enormous family gatherings.”
 
Give me a break. Is there really a point to rabbinic leadership if it does not come with value judgments? There can be no question that keeping up with the Schwartzes has become a cancer that threatens to kill off the flickering Jewish soul. How ironic that a people who have for centuries survived forced baptisms are now drowning in an ocean of profligacy.
 
American Jews often exhibit the worst tendencies of immigrant communities, endeavoring to show how they have not just landed but “arrived.” Security is defined not in terms of spiritual virtue and nobility of purpose but stocks and bonds and money in the bank. And what’s the point of having it if your friends are ignorant of your success?
 
The whole reason you made the money in the first place was to show off. So go ahead. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. And what better opportunity than at the public celebrations of a bar or bat mitzvah or wedding, where you can utterly vulgarize the spirituality of the occasion by transforming it into a showcase of material consumption and excess.
 
I remember growing up in Miami Beach and the over-the-top, utterly ridiculous bar mitzvahs that were de rigueur there. One in the late 1970s featured Darth Vader and R2D2 greetings guests as they arrived at the reception. To be sure, it was memorable seeing C3PO in a tails and Chewbacca’s beard complemented by a chassidic hat, but one wondered what, apart from its celestial setting, “Star Wars” had to do with the spirituality of the moment. On another occasion I arrived to see a full ice sculpture of the bar mitzvah boy, which perfectly suited the frigid religious atmosphere.
 
A wealthy Jewish businessman shared a story with me of how he instills values in his children. His twelve-year-old son had come to him and said, “Dad, I want a famous sports star at my bar mitzvah.” So the father replied, “Son, you have to have manners. You don’t tell your father to get a famous sports star. You ask him politely.” Apparently it never dawned on the dad that his son had aped his own shallow materialism and had, already at 12, become an insecure braggart.
 
A remedy is needed. Rabbis should be thundering from the pulpit that extravagant weddings are not only an indicator of a sense of personal inadequacy but an abrogation of Jewish values. You’re so rich? Then impress your friends by giving the money to charity. Rather than focus on the twenty-piece orchestra for your son’s bar mitzvah, take him to twenty classes where he can learn about Abraham and Moses and David and the glory of Solomon’s Temple. Give him an inner identity, based on values and character, rather than a shallow external identity based on money and objects.
 
So why aren’t rabbis giving sermons about gross materialism? Because they are about as likely to criticize their own congregants as Romeo is to renounce Juliet. But what’s the point of being the head of a congregation if you’re not also the leader of a community?
 
The story goes that in Israel a few decades ago, the Gerer Rebbe, seeking to stop a destructive game of material one-upmanship, issued an edict that none of his followers could make a wedding with more than 200 guests (still large by some measures). One of his wealthiest followers and supporters approached him and said, “Rebbe, surely this does not apply to me. I’m a very rich man.” To which the rebbe responded, “Very well, then. If you’re so rich, go buy yourself a new rebbe.”
 

Yes, some things in life can be put on a credit card. But rabbis who preach values and can’t be bought? Priceless.

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts “The Shmuley Show” on 77 WABC in New York. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network, and is the author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.”

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Crass Materialism And The Lack Of True Jewish Values”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza
Mashaal Vows Cease-Fire a Step to New ‘Resistance’ War against Israel
Latest Indepth Stories
TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

Israeli-flag

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Israelis in Gaza border communities need to get out; who will help them?

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/crass-materialism-and-the-lack-of-true-jewish-values/2010/08/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: