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.