People sent me various comments of support regarding my recent post on Datlashim but there is one particular comment I want to share with you because it reveals just one of the symptoms of this endemic predicament. (I post this with my friends permission who sent it to me without mentioning names or communities).
This friend of mine belongs to a Modern Orthodox shul, and many of the congregants themselves are not shomrei Shabbat but would consider themselves traditional and are certainly interested in affiliating. My friend told me that she had recently attended a “shiur” given by the shul rabbi, who, as she puts it, “loves rules”. This rabbi gave an entire shiur on the halachic ramifications of doing laundry on Hol Hamoed and his premise was that one who does laundry during Hol Hamoed will not have a place in Olam Haba – the world to come. Aside from contemplating whether this rabbi has given any thought regarding his choice for subject matter, one has to wonder whether he has given any thought as to the reactions of members of his community to such audacious statements. One can only reason that a person, particularly an authoritarian, should think before they “air their dirty laundry out in public”. As a side note, my wife has a different take; she says that if I don’t help her do the laundry, I will not have a place in Olam Haze – this world!
Following the shiur, my friend posted the following to her rabbi,
“Excellent as always – I worry though that your very logical arguments fall on deaf ears because the basic premise is that there is a G-d in whose name you follow these Mitzvot. Throughout history our faith has been challenged primarily by Christians and Moslems; it was our method of worship that was challenged, not the basic assumption that there was indeed a G-d. ( even the Greeks and Romans had what they called “gods” and so a higher spiritual power was not in question). However, now with the rise of secularism – whose proponents are the likes of the very brilliant Yuval Harari (and many others whose arguments are disturbingly beguiling), we will need to defend the faith at grass roots first. I think this is where the challenge of our times really lies – people are doubting the very existence of G-d and if we don’t re- establish that foundation all other argument merely becomes conjecture”.
Here is the reaction of my friend’s rabbi verbatim (I emphasize that, lest anyone think this was edited)
“Very valid indeed. I am not sure what you think but I think that those who deny the existence of G-d deserve little attention. It is not the product of sound intellect but the product of a mind warped by its desire to live life unencumbered by any limitation or subservience. Pure intellect can’t but see a creator everywhere it pays attention. As always I look forward to and enjoy your feedback”.
After reading this rabbi’s response, I would have liked to say that I was shocked, but unfortunately I was not because I see and experience this kind of drivel all the time. I was not shocked by his statement “I am not sure what you think, but I think…”, because it is true. If the rabbi had any interest in other people’s opinions or challenges for that matter, and if he wasn’t so absorbed in self-righteousness, then he would know very clearly what my friend thought because she wrote it to him and was genuinely interested in engaging in authentic dialogue, but he is not interested in what she thinks, and so unfortunately it was not shocking at all to read that this same rabbi would dismiss those who deny Gods existence as “deserving of little attention”. Really? One has to wonder why exactly he became a rabbi in the first place? Who exactly is deserving of his attention; those who espouse belief in God by refraining from doing their laundry during Hol Hamoed?
You get my drift? Reading things like this and knowing that these kind of people are leaders of Jewish communities makes it easy to understand how and why so many choose to leave the fold. The only conundrum that remains is understanding how we allowed such people to ascend to heights of Jewish leadership in the first or second place.
My friends response to her spiritual leader:
“I don’t think that’s necessarily correct – I think we need to consider all viewpoints and never under estimate our detractors – furthermore we can’t just write off the many with whom those opinions will resonate – backing down from an argument, particularly with other Jews, is not the Jewish way!”
I could not agree more.