web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Purity And Uprightness In The Camp

Krinsky-061512

Most discussions of the recent gathering at Citi Field have focused on the logistics of the event and the topic – the dangers of the Internet. With such a focus, however, we may very well be missing something of great importance. What struck my attention was the name of the organization staging the event: Ichud HaKehillos Letohar HaMachaneh, or the Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp.

It is my understanding that though this is far from the first use of the expression “the Purity of the Camp,” it has risen to prominence only in recent decades. I think it is a telling term, both for what it says and what it leaves unmentioned. And I would suggest that understanding its use might help us make some sense of contemporary dynamics in the Orthodox world.

What are the goals of purification, and how might the goals be different for an organization dedicated to making the camp upright as compared with one seeking to purify it?

Purification aims to remove impurities, to make something 100 percent unadulterated. It is about perfection. Anything threatening such perfection must be identified and eradicated. As with disease, a small infection left uncontained can sicken the entire body.

The emphasis, in some communities, on purity and purification might help explain why, for example, the Internet is seen as deserving of a stadium-scale event. With the easy availability of pornography and foreign ideas, the Internet is a danger to ensuring purity.

It also, I would suggest, explains a number of other phenomena: the increase in recent years of book bans to ensure ideological purity; the homogenization of Jewish day school education, with parents seeking to place their children in increasingly less diverse environments – ideological bubbles where they will not be exposed to those children, let alone those ideas, not certified as pure; and the narrowing of the diversity of Torah perspectives into one true and exclusive interpretation (by which many people of different perspectives all proclaim that Jewish unity is achieved only when everyone agrees with me).

We can now also explain the efforts over the last decade to make ever more stringent the requirements for conversion, and the attempts to annul retroactively, years later and en masse, previously unsuspicious conversions. This is only possible when there is a fear of admitting impure elements and not rooting out hidden impurities. And some people thus fear that the purity of the camp is under grave threat.

These issues and the generally widening distrust over kashrus and many other matters are all about purity and impurity – and when purity is the highest value, the slightest impurity is the greatest danger.

Yet there is something critical missing here: morality.

A focus on – an obsession with – purity does not require any particular concern with morality. And so now perhaps we can understand why the dangers of the Internet appear to be a greater concern among some people than the dangers of child abuse. Even why reporting abusers to secular authorities can be seen as worse than the abuse itself – the former, involving the impure secular world, threatens purity in a way that abuse, within the community of the pure, does not. It might also be why all sorts of financial crimes seem so common – they do not threaten purity and perhaps are, according to some odd logic, justified by strengthening the purity of the community.

Too often these days it appears that some of us have lost touch with very basic moral values, including respecting the dignity of all of God’s creations. If we ask ourselves whether or not our actions meet a standard of yashrus/uprightness instead of tohar/purity, perhaps we would be more reluctant to undertake some of these actions.

How did purity become raised to such exalted status anyway, and become applied to the Camp or Community rather than to individuals in their religious improvement?

The weekday Amidah, the central prayer of Jewish worship, includes among all its praise, requests and thankfulness nothing about purity. We pray for tzedek and wisdom and a number of other character traits and blessings, but not for purity.

We often talk about the importance Kiddush Hashem and the horror of Chillul Hashem. When we elevate purity above other values such as yashrus, then we also rank it above avoiding its opposite, and end up justifying chillulei Hashem in the name of purity – after all, it need not matter what the impure think of us, and it becomes irrelevant when impure Jews and non-Jews witness what to most observers appear to be lapses in morality and desecrations of God’s name.

About the Author: Alan Krinsky is a senior analyst in the field of healthcare quality improvement. He is also a writer who was previously a monthly columnist for Rhode Island’s Jewish Voice & Herald and whose essays have been published in print and online by a number of publications. He lives with his family in Providence where he currently serves as president of Congregation Beth Sholom.


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 “Purity And Uprightness In The Camp”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF soldiers are evacuated to a hospital after a terror attack.
Photo credit: Smiley Hafuch / Rotter.net
ISIS-Linked Terror Attack on IDF From Sinai
Latest Indepth Stories

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Front-Page-102414

While conceding that not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contended that those most likely to subject Israel to relentless and one-sided hectoring could be found with increasing frequency in one particular grouping – that of the political left, with the level of animosity rising exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Noah and his Family; mixed media collage by Nathan Hilu. Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

More Articles from Alan Krinsky
praying robber.jpeg

Why aren’t crime and corruption considered heresya kind of denial of the Torah and its precepts?

the-temple-burning-in

Was the humble Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulos the real hero of the destruction story?

Most discussions of the recent gathering at Citi Field have focused on the logistics of the event and the topic – the dangers of the Internet. With such a focus, however, we may very well be missing something of great importance. What struck my attention was the name of the organization staging the event: Ichud HaKehillos Letohar HaMachaneh, or the Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/purity-and-uprightness-in-the-camp/2012/06/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: