Photo Credit:
Passover collage by Debbie Gorin, a New York-based mixed media artist.

Never before this year had the American political arena given us the abhorrent circus that passes for the current presidential campaign.

There are those who maintain that today’s political scene is a fluke; that a mere confluence of coincidences produced a situation of unbridled, horrible middos and worse. Unfortunately, that may be a rose-colored view. In addition, anyone who thinks the trends so prevalent in the non-Jewish world and the political arena have no effect on us as Torah-observant Jews should think again. We are affected and will continue to be affected by the ongoing corrosion and erosion of the most basic elements of decency in American public discourse.

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The 2016 presidential campaign, a no-holds barred free-for-all that has crossed all lines of propriety, is in essence a reflection of where we are as a society. In the generation of Facebook and Twitter, where the “me” has become paramount, where spilling one’s guts and feelings about others in public has become the norm, the threshold for awful behavior has been repeatedly breached. Nothing is sacred. No one blushes anymore.

We are witness to a spectacle of politicians bashing each other with viciousness and impunity, ridiculing each other’s spouses, and engaging in the basest of conduct with impunity while the media gleefully broadcasts the freak show far and wide. This has served to lower the bar when it comes to accepted standards of morality while corroding some once-healthy American ideals.

The havoc this has wrought on our society – including Torah-observant Jewry – has been colossal. Just as the hyper cyberculture has transformed the news cycle and the way people consume, absorb, and comment on the events of the day, so too it has indelibly impacted the frum community.

Indeed, had a Torah-observant Jew gone to sleep twenty years ago and woken up today, he would be flabbergasted. The cyberculture, especially the blogs and comments sections of various pseudo-news outlets – even those purporting to cater to the Torah community – are often sewers of bad middos, selfishness, foolishness, childishness, and even, periodically, downright evil.

Just as a number of hard red lines have been crossed in this year’s political season, red lines in our community are being crossed as well. Motzi shem rah as well as ridicule of talmidei chachamim and the Torah itself are rife in many venues. Those with minimal Torah knowledge and very large corresponding egos take to spewing all kinds of hateful, denigrating rhetoric against that which is holy.

The degree of enmity, viciousness, and vindictiveness, enabled by an online culture that urges every person to publicize his opinion – regardless of whether it is correct or not, corroborated or not, or in consonance with the laws of lashon hara and rechilus as elucidated in the sefer Chofetz Chaim – has reached epidemic proportions.

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We must ask ourselves two questions. First, how did we get here? Second, what can we do to try to protect ourselves from this unprecedented and pervasive influence that has infiltrated our community? It is an influence that has served to increase sinas chinam, the very catalyst for the churban of the second Beis HaMikdash and our present bitter galus; an influence that has led to mass proliferation of ridicule both of Torah and great talmidei chachamim.

Chazal have taught us that in order to achieve geulah we must rectify the sins that brought about the galus. It therefore behooves us to look at our first exile and redemption – the galus of Mitzrayim and the subsequent geulah to see what lessons we can derive from it, for if we don’t learn these lessons we may, God forbid, be destined to repeat them.

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Rav Dovid Hofstedter is the author of the Dorash Dovid sefarim. He is also the founder and head of Dirshu – a worldwide Torah movement that promotes accountability in Torah learning and has impacted over 100,000 participants since it began. Notable Dirshu programs include Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, Kinyan Torah, Chazaras HaShas, Kinyan Halacha, Kollel Baalei Batim, and Acheinu Kiruv Rechokim. Dirshu also publishes the “Mehaduras Dirshu” Mishnah Berurah, the Dirshu Shul Chumash with Ramban, the “Mehaduras Dirshu” Sefer Chofetz Chaim among other publications.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Yasher koach!

    If a Frum Jew were to awaken from a 20 year sleep today would he understand that forcing some people to participate against their wills in homosexual "weddings" is now considered absolutely essential to preventing "Xian 'theocracy?'"

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