Saturday, December 18, 2010

Guest Post: Laughing so I Don’t Cry

Guest Post: Laughing so I Don’t Cry by AztecQueen 2000

Recently, my DH asked me why it is that I spend so much time thinking about the man-bites-dog images in our papers of rabbis, frum people, accused of horrible financial crimes. Or why did I HAVE to show him the YouTube video of that “nice” young frum couple making fools of themselves on the People’s Court. Why am I seeing so much of the bad side of the frum community, and making it into a big joke?

In a word: Disillusionment.

When I was still young, impressionable, and attending Torah shiurim in an attempt to become frum, I heard a rebbetzin say over and over again, “Torah study is like no other. If you study trigonometry, you don’t become a triangle. If you study literature, you don’t become a book. But, if you study Torah, you become a Torah person.” I really took that message to heart. Torah study makes one into a better person, a living embodiment of Hashem’s will. Someone who can be honest, care about their fellow man, and live a life devoted to mitzvos.

Some five years later, I am having an increasingly difficult time justifying that stance. When the Kolko story broke several years ago, I chalked it up to an anomaly. Now, between Kolko, Tropper, the Deal rabbis, Balkany, the Spinka rebbe, the show of force for Grossman, and Rubashkin, I’m not so sure. Additonally, I’m surrounded by all the little “reminders”: those who would cry “anti-Semitism” because they got a ticket for blocking a fire hydrant during Mincha. The shopkeepers who will charge lower prices to well-known customers than to strangers. The shaitel-clad ladies pushing new designer strollers into a WIC office. And, as a bit of a cherry on top of this scandalous sundae, my chavrusa’s reaction to the 19-year-old Flatbush girl who ran over a Chinese delivery man because she was too busy texting to control her car. “Oh, he’s only a Chinese. This poor girl’s life is ruined.” Really? He’s dead, and she’ll probably get a year in jail at the most. I’d say the poor delivery guy got the shorter end of that deal.

There are two responses one can have to this level of scandal in such a short time. For a prophet, the answer is a piercing cry of “EICHA!” “How?” How is it that people who are learned in the Torah can commit crimes that even the non-frum world considers immoral? Many of these crimes were committed by rabbis! These are, by and large, not some am haaratzim that dropped out of yeshiva in the tenth grade. These are revered men, community leaders, men who have received a semicha and devoted their entire lives to learning every nuance of the Torah. How can they commit these crimes? And how can we, as a community, stand by in silence? How can we make excuses? How can we blame the secular world for catching on and making them pay?

But I’m no prophet. I’m not on the spiritual level of Yermiyahu; I’m not very learned, and nobody would listen to me anyway. So I take the fool’s way out. Like the comedian who makes jokes to hide his depression, I laugh so that I don’t have to cry.


  1. good morning.
    You want an answer here it is
    these people like your rebetzen never learn torah
    Neither did you.
    very simple.
    so dont blame the torah.

  2. What the world is that supposed to mean?

    Essentially, this person is saying that people who learn Torah don't feel bound to behave well.

    This, so much, was the author's point.

    Personally, I always heard that the Jewish People are supposed to be "the priests unto the nations." Yet, instead Jews have this callous attitude that who cares what they think of us, they're goyim. I also heard that one of our scholar summarized the Torah on one foot as, treat people the way you would want to be treated, "the rest is commentary. Go and learn."

    If the Torah's main point is to treat people the way they want to be treated, and our men are expected to be coddled by not having to work under the GUISES of Torah study full time, why is it we have become a generation of thieves and swindlers? When you ask people who've gone BT and gone back off the derech why, they say that the people were clanish and they didn't find a place in the world. Yet the FFBs are always complaining about all the intermarriage or all the people who aren't Orthodox. Why SHOULD anyone not raised Orthodox want to PUSH themselves into a "club" that doesn't want them?

  3. The reason they dont want 'them' is because they think they know everything better than the FFBs. If you want to join a 'club' you have to abide by their rules not make your own and expect everyone to abide by yours.

  4. We don't feel like we know more. However, we do feel like we're always on the defensive that we know enough to be Jewish.

  5. To anonymous--
    Whoa--defensive much? I wasn't aware that simple human decency and a healthy respect for the laws of one's nation was against the rules of being frum.

  6. Immersion in frum culture has nothing to do with "learning Torah". The two are entirely separate issues. Many of the people who believe they're "learning Torah" are simply immersed in a yiddishe culture all day. Yiddishe culture has nothing to do with Torah.

    The gemara expressly states that Torah is both the elixir of life for worthy students and a potion of death for the unworthy. Chazal held no romantic illusions about the path to the Tree of Life or the many ways in which humans would try to reach it.... including those who might try their hand at tawdry imitations.

    Being "worthy" isn't something mechanical. If someone holds corrupt notions of ethics or morality, if someone doesn't want to question their basic assumptions about life....then that someone isn't "worthy".

    And one sees that the Torah that such people learn indeed doesn't give them a stronger connection to life. As Chazal warn that it won't.

    Torah is something that exists in context -- the context that we create for it. If a context is trash, the Torah cannot live there. Moshe smashed God's tablets upon the people's celebration of the Golden Calf because he understood that the nation's context had become corrupted.... and so the original vision of Torah could no longer endure.

    A new context demanded a new path. Trying to force the Torah into a corrupted context leads to.... the results we can all see for ourselves. The same results that Moshe Rabbeinu understood would irretrievably swallow the Torah he loved unless he found a new path forward.

    Reject propaganda and cheap slogans. Keep using your mind and thinking aloud. You'll make your way onto the right path.

  7. The vilna gaon says, (on the verse "Tizal k'tal imrasi" in ha'azinu) that Torah is compared to rain. Just as rain indiscriminately causes whatever it falls upon to grow, so too, Torah causes the one who studies it to 'grow'.
    If the individual seeks to do the will of G-d, then he/she will grow into an amazingly righteous 'oved H-shem'. However, if he/she has selfish or wicked intentions, they will grow into a terrifying monster.

    Nevertheless, he refers to one who is wholesomely wicked. Anyone who has even a slight 'good side' within themselves, will usually improve with constant study of the Torah.

    I find the whole 'disillusionment' theory to be faulty. These are (for the most part) lowly individuals of the frum community. By far and large, most of us would be disgusted at the thought of what they did - just as you are.

    It is really impossible to make any true statement or assessment about any large group - based solely on the actions/views of individuals among them.

    True, we have problems. But not to the extent that is portrayed by those burnt by the few rotten apples.

    I hope you will eventually see past those who misrepresent us, and love us the way you would like us to love you - and the way most of us already do love you.

  8. Srool, I didn't write that post. A friend of mine, Aztec Queen wrote it. Since she and I discussed this on the phone, I don't remember if it was before or after she sent it to me, but anyhow, the problem is that it really does seem like certain types in Boro Park, Lakewood and Monsey are particularly distanced from the Torah.

    While I didn't write the post, the writer and I have similar opinions.