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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Modern Orthodox Jews’

100 Kids Kicked off a Plane Because No One Taught Them Midos

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“What’s the Matter with Kids Today”. That is the title of a song sung by actor Paul Lynde from the 1960s musical Bye Bye Birdie.  Whenever I see a story like the following one, it makes me think of that song.  But not in good way. In fact it kind of makes my blood boil. I don’t think it is a problem with all teenagers. But it is a problem with more than a few. Once again a great Chilul HaShem was made. And it isn’t just about those kids. It’s about the parents and schools too.  More about that later.

As reported in both the JTA and Ha’aretz – a few members of a group of about 100 seniors at Yeshiva of Flatbush who had a bad case of ‘senior-itis’ acted like a bunch of Behaimos (animals) aboard and aircraft about to takeoff. Instructions by the flight attendants to sit down, put away their cell phones, and pay attention were ignored. That was followed by the pilot who gave them the same instructions. This too was ignored.  This not only caused a disruption, it ended up with the entire group being ejected from the aircraft.

Then came the predictable defense of these students from a school administrator:

“adults on the trip… said the students weren’t behaving that badly”

and

“Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified”

That’s nice. Not only is this a bad response, it almost sounds as if he was justifying the behavior.  It is kind of like saying… Come on… Give me a break! These are just kids having a good time. 100 kids on board a flight to Six Flags? What do you expect? Choir boys?

This attitude is indicative of the problem. Instead of reprimanding these young people for causing a Chilul HaShem, he points to the airline as over-reacting.

You know what? It doesn’ t matter if they over-reacted. This kind of behavior is never justified and should never be defended. Airlines are not in the habit of throwing people off of airplanes – unless the behavior is so disruptive that they feel it might endanger the flight. Maybe they over-reacted. Maybe not. But a group of obnoxious Orthodox teenagers  being thrown off of a flight was certainly not a Kiddush HaShem no matter how you slice it.

I am disappointed in those kids for acting as they did and then compounding the problem by crying ‘anti-Semitism’ or saying  ‘They treated us like we were terrorists’. They should have instead apologized for their behavior. Certainly the school should have. And then reprimanded those students for their behavior – perhaps even canceling their trip!

This problem is not restricted to Modern Orthodoxy. But Modern Orthodox Jews do pride themselves on public behavior. If there is any Mitzvah that is focused upon – it is how Orthodox Jews are perceived by the public.

Are we acting according to our mandate to be a light unto the nations? That should be on the mind of every single Jew every single moment of the day. I know that we can’t always live up to those noble goals. Orthodox Jews are human and make mistakes just like everyone else. But there is little more important than preventing a Chilul HaShem. When a Jew wears a Kipa – or anything else that indicates his religiosity – he is a representative of his people – God’s chosen people – the Jewish people.

One of the things most lacking in all of Jewish education is Midos (character) development. Somewhere in a child’s Jewish education this seems to get lost. A Jewish education means more than studying Gemarah and Halacha. It means more than great academics. It means developing a refined sense of who we are and Who we represent. We have to teach our children that acting like Behaimos on an airplane is not the kind of light we want to be unto the nations.

I am a believer in personal responsibility and therefore the teens who behaved so badly deserve to be called out for what they did. True they probably did not deliberately set out to misbehave. They probably didn’t even think they were doing anything wrong. They were so in to themselves that they were oblivious to everything else… to the point of not paying attention to several warnings directed specifically at them, by the cabin crew and the flight captain. It is understandable that they were all excited about this trip. That should be taken into consideration. But once they were addressed by the cabin crew, they should have had the sensitivity to immediately stop what they were doing,  pay attention, and follow instructions. There is no defense for not doing that.

But the problem is much more complex than that just assigning blame to these teenagers. The lack of Midos development is a societal problem that is not being properly addressed. This  means that more Mussar needs to be taught and emphasized in the schools. More importantly it needs to be role modeled to them by faculty and administration alike. They need to behave the way they want their students to behave.

However, Chinuch begins in the home. If one’s parents don’t live these Midos, their teenage children will hardly live it themselves – no matter what the school teaches.

It therefore important for us to never act up in the public square, even if we feel we have the right to do so – unless there is something very serious that needs addressing. Like a violation of religious rights for no special reason. That demands an appropriate response. But I can’t tell you how many times I have been embarrassed by a fellow Kipa wearing Jew on an airplane making a complete nuisance of himself by making numerous and constant demands on the cabin crew as though they were their personal slaves.  Their young children see that and end up behaving the same way as adults. That kind of behavior needs to change.

These young teenagers need to learn this lesson now – if they haven’t yet. I would hope that the principal of their school spends the rest of the school year (if there is any left) educating these seniors on the importance of making a Kiddush HaShem instead of a Chilul HaShem. I would hate to see anything like this ever again.

The Winds of Mysticism

Friday, August 31st, 2012

As I was browsing through some of the news media, blogs, and other social network media that I frequent (as source material from my blog), I came across a number of articles that seemed to have a common theme. There seems to be an increase in the number of ads for mysterious Segulos as well as announcements about getting Brachos from rabbis. So too are there all kinds of spiritual messages being ‘seen’ in various events of the day – like blaming a tragedy on a defect in Klal Yisroel that needs to be ‘repaired.’

While there may be sources for all of these things, it seems like there is much greater focus on them than ever. The message is that no matter how much we try and fulfill the word of God, it isn’t enough. That we must seek some sort of ‘magic’ bullet to grant our heavenly requests, whether for Parnassa or the health of a loved one who has fallen ill, or praying for fertility… what have you.There is an increasing number of cryptic avenues of this type being touted for successful resolution of one’s needs.

This used to be more the province of Sephardim and Chasidim. But lately it has affected the non Chasidic Ashkenazic Yeshiva world as well.

One e-mail I received contained a picture of a poster hung in a Shul with the announcement that Rav Shach’s grandson, R’ Yissochar Bergman, is collecting “Kvitlech”(written prayer requests – usually accompanied by a donation) for Rav Chaim Kanievsky. This used to be only a Chasidic custom. But now it is ‘catching on’ in the Yeshiva world. You can’t get more Yeshivish than Rav Shach.

There is also the custom of going to Uman on Rosh HaShana. This used to be reserved for Breslover Chasdidm since their Rebbe is buried there. Now there are hundreds of non Chasidim going there too. That has in fact been sharply criticized in the past. It is one thing for a Breslover Chasid to do that – although I question even that. It is another thing for others to do it. The idea of leaving your family behind and going to Uman for Rosh HaShana is perverse to my way of thinking. But now a venerated sage, R’ Aharon Leib Steinman seems to be giving his blessing to it. As pointed out in a post on Rafi’s blog:

This year Rav Shteinman was asked his opinion on the matter. His answer was, reportedly, along with a backhanded compliment, “What’s so bad about them going to Uman? It wont do any harm. Just the opposite – with such a large crowd, there will definitely be a minyan of people davening properly…”

In another post in that same blog is the following:

According to Bechadrei, Rav Birnzweig, a rav in the Mirrer Yeshiva, claimed during his mussar shiur, that Rav Elyashiv was murdered. He said:

Recently we have heard of gedolei yisroel who have passed from this world, everybody must arouse themselves [to teshuva]. Rav Elyashiv and the Admor of Shomrei Emunim were murdered due to the yeshiva bochurim and kollel avreichim who use smartphones.

Right! Rav Eyashiv’s “untimlely” death at age 102 was actually murder due to smartphone use. And who is making this wild speculation? A Rosh Yeshiva in the Mir!

These people are not fringe people. These are respected, serious, mainstream Yeshiva world people. And they are beginning to sound like charlatans and snake oil salesman!

Is this the direction the Charedi world is going in? Is this the unity we should be looking for? A melding of the Chasidic and Yeshiva world that encompasses the entirety of all Asheknaz Charedim? Is the focus becoming mysticsm over rationalism? I know that there is more of a focus on mysticism among Sephardim. But Ashekanzim in the Yeshiva world have never focused on that. Until now.

I realize that not all Charedim buy in to this stuff. Most moderate Charedim do not. But there are so many indicators of this kind of thinking permeating the Charedi world it that I am beginning to wonder if it is the wave of the future? Will it become more mainstream? Is Judaism becoming a religion of mystical Segulos, and Rebbeshe Brachos, blaming every tragedy on the perceived communal ill of the day? Or will we instead be of a religion of merit based on rationality, personal behavior, adherence to Halacha, and direct prayer to God? It would seem that the former is becoming more of a possibility based on these reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-winds-of-mysticism/2012/08/31/

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