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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘black hat’

Is Hatred for Haredim Due to Media Bias?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I am a huge fan of Rabbi Emanuel Feldman. I rarely disagree with him. The former editor of Tradition Magazine and vice president of the RCA who led a shul in Atlanta, Georgia, is a gifted speaker and is one of the most talented and fair-minded writers on the Orthodox scene I have ever read. His educational history speaks to his broadminded approach to issues of the day. He attended Yeshivas Haim Belrin and Ner Israel where he received smicha (certification as a rabbi) and then went on to get his bachelors and masters degrees from Johns Hopkins and a doctorate in religion from Emory University.

One of his greatest achievements was taking a pulpit in a shul where only two out of 40 families were Shomer Shabbos and which had no mechitza (barrier between men and women for prayer). A couple of years after he became the rabbi there, he managed to install one. His courage in putting his job on the line after the mechitza was removed – insisting that he would not continue as their Rabbi if it were not re-installed has made him a hero of mine…  It should have served as an example to many traditional rabbis who took non-mechitza shuls. While I cannot judge them as a whole, I think more than a few simply did not have the courage to do what Rabbi Feldman did. I have to believe that at least in some cases they could have done so without losing their jobs. But I digress.

Rabbi Feldman (who is the brother of R’ Aharon Feldman, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ner Israel) has written a critical article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine about media bias against Haredim in Israel. His focus was on their reportage of Haredim ignoring the solemnity of Yom HaShoah – Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

There is hardly a family in Israel that has not lost a relative in the Holocaust. It is a solemn day in Israel. There are no picnics or barbecues on that day. There are instead many events that deal with the pain of loss. One of the things they do on that day is turn on a siren. Most of entire country stops at that moment. People driving their cars stop many get out and stand in silences while the siren sounds as a sign of respect for the dead.

While there is some criticism from the right about the “Jewishness” of this custom, there ought not be nay question about what to do during that time. Nor should there be any question about whether to join in the day’s solemnity by not holding any ‘fun’ parties or picnics.

Rabbi Feldman is very clear in his condemnation of the Haredim who ignore this day in spite! – having picnics and barbecues in the park while the rest of the country mourns. Whatever their complaints about the government or when and how such days are observed, the fact that some Haredim are so callous that they treat it like the fourth of July is like spitting at the survivors and their families.

Rabbi Feldman’s problem is that the same media that rightly objects to the way some Haredim behave on this day, does little to report on the reverse when it happens:

[D]o the ever-vigilant secular watchdogs get into similar high dudgeon when non-religious Israelis display their own brand of insensitivity toward sacred religious days? On Tisha B’Av, the historic day of national Jewish mourning for the sacking o Jerusalem and the Holy Temples, do the media scour the countryside in search of Israelis who carry on normally: shopping, going on outings, attending pork-serving restaurants and pubs? …And on Rosh Hashanah, when millions of Jews are in synagogue returning to God and praying for a good year for everyone, is there editorial indignation at those secular Israelis who spend the day at the beach, or fly off to the garden spots of Europe?

I do not see this as the same thing at all. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Feldman answers his own question?

Granted, such people are a tiny minority who don’t know any better, and the vast majority of Israelis do honor the High Holidays.

But then he hedges:

But then again, the [H]areidi disrespecters of Yom HaShoah were also a tiny minority — which did not prevent bitter condemnation of all [H]areidim.

The ‘Tznius Chase’: Is This Photo Immodest?

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The extremes of tznius among Haredim was illustrated last week by the picture accompanying this post.

One may ask, what could possibly be wrong with a picture of a group of Haredim bundled up for winter surrounding a snowman. Well this is not just any picture. It is a picture of Beitar’s mayor, Meir Rubenstein and his family. For those who don’t know, Beitar is a very Haredi city. This picture should indicate just how Haredi it is. The mayor and his family look pretty Haredi.

The publisher of this picture was summed to a religious court for publishing this picture in his weekly ad-paper.

What in heaven’s name – one might ask – is wrong with this picture? Obviously those of you who cannot figure it out – are not sensitive enough to know just how sexually arousing it is. (Interesting that the term used in the Behadrey Haredim caption is ‘aroused’.)

Look carefully. There is a picture of a woman’s face in the background. All you see is a face of a woman whose hair is completely covered and whose fully clothed body is blocked by the people standing next to her.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Even though Beitar is Haredi – I do not believe it is comprised of extremists. And yet this picture was considered so provocative that that its publisher was summoned to a Beis Din. I’m not sure the publisher even realized there was a woman in the picture. That’s how obscure her image is.

The incident is really emblematic of a much larger issue. What this says is just how ridiculous issues of tznius have become in the world of right wing Haredism and how far the ‘tznius race’ is taking us.

Ordinarily it wouldn’t bother me that much that the most right wing segment of Judaism wants to reduce tznius to such ridiculous extremes. Live and let live I always say. But Haredim do not live in a vacuum. Beitar is a municipality. People visit it and know about. Their citizens interact with the rest of society in their jobs and in every day life. Beitar citizens are not isolated. People know about Beitar. They are not Neturei Karta or even Eida HaCharedis people necessarily. They are more or less mainstream – albeit on the extreme right of it.

In matters of tznius these days, there is a competition among groups of Haredim. So that even moderate Haredim might latch on to something like this. And once moderate Haredim accept such strictures, it becomes the standard for everyone except the extreme left of Modern Orthodoxy. While Centrist Orthodoxy and most moderate Haredim are not there yet. It may only be a matter of time before the tznius chase catches up with them.

If you think there is no race like that going on, you would be wrong. There is. No where is this more evident these days than at Orthodox weddings. Or even banquets. Seating at weddings and banquets are increasingly sex segregated. Single or married men and women are seated at different tables at opposite ends of a banquet hall – separated by a Mechitza. A Mechitza for weddings might be understandable – even if the seating is mixed. Watching women dance may be problematic in some cases. But banquets do not have any women dancing at all. And yet Mechitzos are increasingly becoming the standard.
The reason for this in my view is the tznius chase. Which is a subset of the Frumkeit race- also known as the move to the right. When one segment sees another segment move to the right they will tend to follow suit so as not to be outdone by those who claim to be more religious.

What happened with seating arrangements is now happening with pictures. Haredi publications are increasingly not carrying any pictures of women. Witness Hamodia, The Yated, Mishpacha, and Ami. ArtScroll still does. But I wonder how long it will take before they too join the tznius chase.

The phenomenon of moving to the right seems to be more about image these days than it is about substance.

Black hats is another example that illustrates this point. When I was in Telshe back in the sixties, the only time high school students wore black fedoras was on Shabbos. No one wore one during the week. Not even for Tefillah B’Tzibur.

Yes, we had to wear caps for that. But it could be any kind of cap, including baseball caps. Which most of us wore in those days. Try that today in a right wing Haredi Yeshiva. Or even in a moderate Haredi Yeshiva.

They will call ‘wearing black hats’ growing in Yiddsihkeit. “We have grown spiritually” – they will say – “since the ‘dark days’ of the sixties.” Spiritually? Really? Black hats? It reminds me of what a recent guest poster said about this issue. When he asked a Rebbe in his Yeshiva why black hats were so important, he was told that we do what the Chafetz Chaim did. He wore a black hat and so must we. We are supposed to emulate the behavior of our Gedolim.

Of course pictures of the Chafetz Chaim even in his old age show nothing of the sort. He wore a cap.

I call it growing in “Frumkiet” not gowing in Yiddishkeit. Frumkiet emphasizes the hitzonius (exterior facade) much more than the penimius (individual character). Frumkeit is not Judaism.

This appears to be the case in Beitar. That they called the publisher of that picture on the carpet because of the “tznius” violation in that picture says it all.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Does the Very Air in Israel Make One Wise?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

“Charedim in Israel are street thugs who use murderous violence to settle issues among themselves!” That is the impression one would get after reading about recent events there.

Of course that is not true. I know many Israeli Charedim. I live among them when I visit Israel. The ones I know are extremely gentle people for whom the word violence does not even enter into their lexicon, let alone that it would ever be used to settle conflict. I have never met any Charedi in my entire over 60 years on this earth that was in the slightest way violent.

The Torah (Genesis 25:27) tells us “Yaakov Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim,” Jacob (In contradistinction to his brother Esav who was a hunter) was a person who “sat in tents.” If anyone can be called “The People of the Book” it is the Charedi world in Israel. Their biggest “sin” if you will – is that they spend as much time in study halls (tents) as they can. Their most “violent” acts are debating interpretations of Gemarah and Halacha with their study partners. I think that is true for the vast majority of Israeli Charedim of the Lithuanian variety. “Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam” (1st Mishna in Peah) does not exactly inspire violence.

So what happened in Jerusalem last week was most definitely an exception to the rule. From Israel Hayom:

“Rabbis’ emissary cruelly attacked in Jerusalem by lawless men who tried to murder him,” the headline of the newspaper HaPeles screamed in red ink after the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Nati Grossman, was attacked last Thursday by two haredi men who stabbed him in the head and fled.

Like I said, this is an exception. The problem is that there have been too may exceptions like this in Israel in the not too distant past. One may recall similar violence surrounding who would be Rav Shach’s successor as Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevitch Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

To say that this is a Chilul HaShem is an understatement. Supporters of two of the Charedi world’s leading Rabbanim, 98 year old Rav Aharon Leib Steinman and Rav Shmuel Auerbach (son of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ZTL) are literally killing each other over who will become the head of Lithuanian Charedi Jewry in Israel. The undisputed head until his death was Rav Elyashiv. But now that leadership is in dispute.

The very idea that violence will solve this issue is so ridiculous that it makes those violent Charedi supporters of these rabbis look like imbeciles. Not to mention the obvious fact that it makes them look like common street thugs.

Can anyone imagine this ever happening in the counterpart Lithuanian Yeshiva type communities in America? When Rav Ahron Kotler died, did Rav Moshe Feinstein’s supporters go around sticking knives into people’s heads who had other candidates in mind? The very thought of something like that happening in the world of Amercian Charedi Judaism is so ridiculous that it is laughable.

There is no such thing as a “candidate” for being a Gadol. That status is earned and is a form of recognition by the masses. One becomes accepted as a Gadol by his works. He has either published major works in Torah, or by creating a new societal paradigm for Torah study as did Rav Aharon Kotler. Or by being a great leader and teacher of Torah who has attracted many thousands of followers as did the Rav. Or any number of ways in which Torah scholarship combined with leadership skills has transformed them into greatness recognized by many people.

There are no elections. There are no committees of rabbis who decide who is or isn’t a Gadol. There are no backroom political deals in smoke filled backrooms to choose a compromise candidate. And certainly they are not chosen by supporters who resort to violence against his competition. Greatness does not work that way. Not in Judaism.

But don’t tell that to supporters of great people in Israel. They think violence in pursuit of their candidate is a God given mandate for them. Kind of like the way their extremist counterparts in places like Meah Shearim act when they want to get their way. I guess they feel about their extremism on religious issues the way Barry Goldwater felt about liberty. Except that I don’t think Barry Goldwater ever supported violence against his political opponents.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/does-the-very-air-in-israel-make-one-wise/2013/01/03/

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