Monday, December 24, 2007

"drop dead!" vs. "you are not acting leshem shamayim"

Recently I was harshly criticized on this blog by two individuals. One told me to "drop dead!" while the other accused me of not acting "leshem shamayim". The question has been raised why I treated the one who told me to "drop dead!" with respect while I told the one who questioned my integrity that his views were stupid and nonsense? To understand my response one needs to understand a puzzling gemora in Berachos (33a), All those who are lacking in daas - it is prohibited to have mercy on them.

When I was a learning this gemora in yeshiva, I asked one of my rebbeim, "How could it be that a person lacking in knowledge should not be treated kindly. Isn't such a person in great need of mercy?" He replied that I misunderstood the term "daas." It doesn't mean intelligence or understanding. Daas means seichel. In other words a person who doesn't act in accord with his knowledge is said to be lacking in seichel or daas. It is not a question whether he has a high or low level of knowledge or intelligence but just whether he has integrated his knowledge into his behavior. Since the person has the ability to act better - we are not doing him a favor by letting him get by with acting on a lower level than he is capable of acting.

The critic who told me to "drop dead!" was in fact acting with great seichel - but he comes from a world where such harsh and coarse expressions are acceptable way of expressing one's views. From his cultural background his arguments were consistent - he viewed me as creating a spiritual holocaust and he communicated his passionate feelings in a way he felt was appropriate. He in fact is ignorant of the halacha and the critical importance of halachic analysis. His culture values independent free speech - not authority or scholarship. It values passionate expressions of one's feelings and concerns. So I responded respectfully - because he was in his own way being respectful to me. On the other hand the 2nd critic who questioned my integrity and motivation - he shares the same culture I do. However he is lacking in seichel. While acknowledging that I am raising a legitimate and appropriate question - he attacked me because I wasn't concerning myself with bigger problems that were beyond mine and his ablity to correct. That is simply a lack of seichel. He obviously was more concerned with pesonally attacking me than he was about the issue - since any improvement should be welcome.

I mention this because it has ramifications for the issue of kiruv and geirus. People who are being brought in to our community by both kiruv programs and through conversion - have a different culture with different values. Inevitably we will be influenced by them - and are being influenced by them - as they are being influenced by us. It is obviously encumbent on us to treat the newcomers with respect and dignity - but also to realize that the programs have long term consequences for our communities and families. Simply taking a bean counting approach - that we need to minimize the amount of sin in our brothers and sisters - often fails to adequate evaluate the consequences. As Rav Sternbuch has pointed out, running after those who have violated the prohibition of intermarriage conveys a major change in how serious intermarriage is seen. It should be an open discussion whether it is worth paying that price. Are we recovering lost souls at the expense of creating more lost souls? The whole picture needs to be discussed - and it is not. Where are the studies? Where are the statistics? What is the success rate of conversion - both where there is high standard of the acceptance of mitzvos and where there is a low standard. What consequences do these programs have on our communities and schools? All the anecdotal evidence being thrown around is of little value in helping make intelligent decisions for the future of the Jewish people.

6 comments :

  1. Dear Rabbi Eidensohn

    You are a scholar of halacha and Jewish History and I have few questions. Did it ever happened in the Jewish history when there was a break from normative halacha because there was a money behind the drive for the change ? . Did any halachatic opinion become dominant because there was money driving this opinion? Did any rav become a godol solely because he had an access to a gvir?

    The way I see it, when rav Moshe ZT'L was pasken something that was seemingly a break from what was accepted in his time such a cholov Yisroel or not obsessing to much with nida status he did not fund conferences, did not fly rabbis over, he did not feed and entertain them, he did not spend any money he just pasken and because it was true torah it was accepted.

    Ma haya lanu ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "People who are being brought in to our community by both kiruv programs and through conversion - have a different culture with different values."

    It has been my personal experience that a Jew, no matter how assimilated, has been raised by his/her Jewish mother with a sense of dignity, morality and "boosha".
    I am not saying that Jews do not do things that they know to be wrong, only that there is a healthy sense of "Jewish guilt" that often prevents the worst of it.

    Those who have lapses in their observance will usually go outside the community to do what they know they should not.

    My personal observations have not been such regarding those who have been converted to permit intermarriages, their Jewish spouses or the children from such unions.

    The level of immorality and depravity and the bizarre NEED to share it that I have seen sheital wearing, frum appearing "giyores" in the communities in which I have lived is beyond anything I could have ever imagined in my sheltered upbringing.

    One can just about correlate the percentage of "youth at risk" to the percentage of "giyores to solve the intermarriage problem" in any Jewish community.

    Women make the home and for the most part raise the children. There is a lot more to a Jewish home and the upbringing of Jewish children than shopping for the right hechsher, seeming to observe Shabbos and wearing a sheital. I have not yet seen such a home that was not really a "Goyishe" home that only appeared to be Jewish. And this, from what I have seen remains true two or three generations later.

    And with regard to the men married to these shams, we learned a long time ago not to do business with them. He knows he has successfully cheated Hashem by intermarrying and having it permitted. Such a man (and his offspring) will have no compunction whatsoever about cheating you as well.

    I learned from my parents that in any case of ganeva to the point that a man will cheat members of his own community, one can almost always point to the yichus of the wife and see she is not Jewish.

    We might think that we are "doing the right thing" , "solving an intermarriage emergency" or "preserving our Jewish numbers" via these conversions, but what we are really doing is destroying ourselves, our institutions, our communities and our children.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am sure you are big talmid chochom but I have to say that you are very tamim, I am not sure the people who perpetuate this outrage have in mind the interest of the Jewish people not to say the least, the interest of the intermarried couples.

    You do not realize how much money is in stake, how much do you think it cost to fly people and their families from all over the word to these conferences in fancy hotels? How much it cost to bring the couples from all over from the world? how much it cost to operate the EJF basei din ?

    All this is a drop in a bucket, people travel first class to Israel, Europe, South America to consult local rabbis about conversion, people get new cars, people get their yeshiva building renovated, people have their standard of living raised; people are just having good time.

    Everyone benefits, everyone is partying and you are crashing their party.

    ReplyDelete
  4. To Anonymous 12/24 10:35 PM,

    Are you serious? Are you accusing every convert of being insincere? Do you actually have the audacity to say what you did?

    You are an evil rasha!
    I believe I read somewhere that Hashem rains His blessings down on those who care for orphans & converts.

    Remove yourself from your close-minded, narcissistic, egomaniacal bubble of a world you live in.

    It is exactly because of those who think and behave as you do that most Jews (85%) want NOTHING to do with Torah Judaism.

    Your personal feelings on this issue mean nothing and are ridiculous. All you are good for is turning Jews off to Judaism with your pathetic prejudice against those who were once gentile and have taken the extremely hard & courageous step to join klal Yisrael.

    May Hashem repay you and your offspring with the negativity and hatred you are showing to true converts. RASHA!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bava Metziah 4:10

    ד, י כשם שהונאה במקח וממכר, כך הונאה בדברים: לא יאמר לו בכמה חפץ זה, והוא אינו רוצה ליקח. ואם היה בעל תשובה, לא יאמר לו זכור מעשיך הראשונים. ואם היה בן גרים--לא יאמר לו זכור מעשה אבותיך, שנאמר "וגר לא תונה, ולא תלחצנו: כי גרים הייתם, בארץ מצריים" (שמות כב, כ).

    We don't remind a BT of what he's done in the past, and we don't remind a convert of their origins. Why?

    "Don't decieve and don't oppress the converts, Because we were converts/strangers in the land of egypt." (Exodus 23:20)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Are You People For Real?February 7, 2008 at 5:08 AM

    Dear Rabbi,

    Please explain how the poster below is not rabidly anti-conversion.
    This person would reject Moshe's wife, father-in-law as well as Ruth, Boaz for marrying her, their great grandson King David, as well as our righteous Moshiach, may he come speedily & soon!

    Read her post nice and slowly!

    From December 24, 2007 10:35 PM

    Anonymous said...

    "People who are being brought in to our community by both kiruv programs and through conversion - have a different culture with different values."

    It has been my personal experience that a Jew, no matter how assimilated, has been raised by his/her Jewish mother with a sense of dignity, morality and "boosha".
    I am not saying that Jews do not do things that they know to be wrong, only that there is a healthy sense of "Jewish guilt" that often prevents the worst of it.

    Those who have lapses in their observance will usually go outside the community to do what they know they should not.

    My personal observations have not been such regarding those who have been converted to permit intermarriages, their Jewish spouses or the children from such unions.

    The level of immorality and depravity and the bizarre NEED to share it that I have seen sheital wearing, frum appearing "giyores" in the communities in which I have lived is beyond anything I could have ever imagined in my sheltered upbringing.

    One can just about correlate the percentage of "youth at risk" to the percentage of "giyores to solve the intermarriage problem" in any Jewish community.

    Women make the home and for the most part raise the children. There is a lot more to a Jewish home and the upbringing of Jewish children than shopping for the right hechsher, seeming to observe Shabbos and wearing a sheital. I have not yet seen such a home that was not really a "Goyishe" home that only appeared to be Jewish. And this, from what I have seen remains true two or three generations later.

    And with regard to the men married to these shams, we learned a long time ago not to do business with them. He knows he has successfully cheated Hashem by intermarrying and having it permitted. Such a man (and his offspring) will have no compunction whatsoever about cheating you as well.

    I learned from my parents that in any case of ganeva to the point that a man will cheat members of his own community, one can almost always point to the yichus of the wife and see she is not Jewish.

    We might think that we are "doing the right thing" , "solving an intermarriage emergency" or "preserving our Jewish numbers" via these conversions, but what we are really doing is destroying ourselves, our institutions, our communities and our children.

    ReplyDelete

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