Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Look to your right. Do you see people
-- who are prepared to protect liars and swindlers just because they are anshei shlomeinu?
-- who stubbornly retain belief in nonsense out of intellectual laziness and narrow-mindedness?
-- who are willing to sacrifice the well-being of individuals who are a bit different in order to protect the system?

Look to your left. Do you see people
-- who prefer to cozy up to the goyim than to show loyalty to their own?
-- who are suspicious of any Jewish doctrine but are full of wide-eyed wonder at the wisdom of every liberal fad?
-- who are so tolerant of every deviant meshugas that they fail miserably at maintaining any continuity of mesorah?

I confess. That's pretty much how the world looks to me. But here's a sobering thought. The guy on my left who looks to his right sees exactly what I see, except it's me. And (there's nothing I love more than symmetry, so no ellipsis here) the guy on my right who looks to his left sees exactly what I see, except it's me.

Everybody on the continuum from Reform to Satmar is convinced that the precise point they occupy is somehow privileged; it's that critical point on either side of which lies a precipice down whose gradient the life spirit wends its way inexorably to one cesspool or another.


Blogger Moshe Y. Gluck said...

Great post!

5:44 AM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Terrible post.

Your Calbachian/Rodeny King(ian?) "ideas" are the oldest trick in the book. You said nothing new in this post that most of us have not already heard a thousand times, and usually in our late teens when we found the concept novel and an eye-opener. Ben, you're better than that, far better in fact.

We all know already that we may be biased in a million different ways and we know (hopefully) that the biases in our neighbors, and those we subject to criticism, probably exist in our nature as well. And so we do our best to weed those out, in fact to pull the out by the fuckin' roots. Where I stand in terms of my beliefs regarding Judaism has very little to do with bias - although the danger (and reality) of it is always there to one degre or another - and very much to do with WHAT IS TRUE AND WHAT IS NOT TRUE, based on my limited intellectual ability of course.

Th anshei shlomeinu and sacrificial lamb stuff are cultural issues that have nothing to do with what's true or isn't. Every culture has its up-sides and down-sides and those are of little interest to me in my intellectual pursuits. When I step into community activism, they're interesting, but not interesting enough to blog about. and your leftist mesorah and cozy issues fall into this category as well.

However, the intellectual laziness and wide-eyed wonder issues are genuine issues relating to the diseased brains of people to my right and left, though of course with the change of a word or two in each sentence the diseases can cross lines and each be shared by both communities.

But to my point - I amn't (there oughta be sucha contraction) - I am not humbled by the sudden realization that to the left-winger I am intellectuall lazy or that to the right winder I'm a goyaphile who sees every secular idiocy as brilliant, for they would be wrong. What I find true and deep in my Jewish tradion I believe I would find similarly true and deep were I born a Visigoth, and what I find profound in the works of Jacques Derrida (very little as it turns out), I would find profound even were I raised by a mullah.

If you want to be a nice, sweet cheek-stroker, you can play this game about how "we're all wrong and we're all right - now let's just be humble and realize that everone has truth, blah, blah, blah", but as for me, as mentioned before I want my dinner milichig or fleishig. (or both, but that's a different story.)


2:15 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Hey Ben, you'll like this. Pursuant to your earlier post on the half-empty/half full frumkeit, I'm reading here, "Yeshivot Lita: Pirkei Zichronot" by the Shazar center and there's a chapter here by Moshe Eliezer Eizenshdtat on Volozhin that'w quite interesting, but before getting to Volozhin he shares with us a story about Mir.

Turns out there was a secular school of some sort in the city together with the yeshiva, and:

"I can't hold back from publicly sharing with you the story of the two Mir yeshiva bachurs who headed out to twon together with the intent of increasing their knowledge of Talmud and secular studies...

The firts fellow goes to Yeshiva and after a few weeks starts attending classes at the university: "B'mhirut habazak nafutz bayeshiva u'v'ayarah kulh hakol al ma'aseyhu zeh and teh poor apikores was expelled b'gnai u'v'chlimah from the yeshiva".

And of course the second guy started out as a university student and a few weeks later came to the Rosh asking to be accepted to the yeshiva and "bzro'ot ptuchot nitkabel and immediately the ba'al tshuvah became a popular guy in the tow."

Thought you'd find that interesting.


4:23 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

My point in the post was not that all is relative and "I'm OK, You're OK". It was merely that most of us tend to overestimate the uniqueness of our position on the socio-religious continuum. Perhaps this does not hold for you since you know what is true and deep. The rest of us, though, just muddle through as best we can.

Thanks for that Volozhin story.

4:49 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Benny, I like what you said, though Ive heard it before.

I do have a quibble, though:

:: Look to your left. Do you see people
-- who prefer to cozy up to the goyim than to show loyalty to their own? ::

In America, those people are on the right. They are the people who think that "morality," as defined by Christianity, can take us home.

7:45 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Sure Ben, I agree with yo0ur comment except that I don't think that it should apply to someone with as much self-awareness as yourself. Once you realize the curiosity of your position having been - wow, exactly right! - and that most likely you're as maleh prejudics as the next guy > at that point you should no longer be the blind prisoner of those biases. Once you realize your own fallibility and where it lies, you have no excuse to continue to allow it to lead you blindly. Which was my point,that what you say is a great thing to point out to the 19 yr old smart alek who thinks he knows it all, but is a tired excuse for people who /really/ - based on the evidence - think that they are right. Those people ought to be engaged and debated on the issues, not brushed off because `after all, we're all biased`.

And thanks for the thanks on Volozhin, though I do apologize for the ten thousand or so typos in the piece, oughtn't Blogger add an optional spell-check to their comments section? {Boy, are we getting used to free things -}

12:34 AM  
Blogger the shaigetz said...

Hey Ben.

The one issue I have with your lovely post is your assumption that Satmar is one extreme and Reform the other.

And don't let yourself be bothered by those who tell you your point is not original. Every point has probably been made before but your nuances and the setting you put it in makes immediate to the reader what might have been acknowledged in the abstract before.

I happen to find this a noteworthy post.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I find all your posts noteworthy.
As for Satmar and Reform, I know what you mean. I hesitated before I wrote that but ultimately decided that it gets the point across succinctly.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shumley Boteach is to the right of most of us, but nobody cozies up closer to the christian goyim more than he does

Exept maybe that other right-wing goy-lover from back to tradition.

And if Satmar is the extreme of torah true-ness, we are all going to hell.

In the Mitzvah/yiraas shomayim olympics, I'd enter Herschel Schater or Mordichai Willig up against any contestant from Satmar you care to put forward, and my guy would win hands downs


8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Satmar has so many oifgeklerte nowadays that it's starting to look to the left of Reform.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Doctor Bean said...

Terrific post.

If you look to your left, you might also notice readers whose Jewish education is too recent and too shallow to know many of the Hebrew and Yiddish words you use and who would be grateful for translations every time you use them. That's me. I know I'm asking for a lot, and, frankly, if I'm the least educated of your Jewish readers, then you should forget my request.

If you look to your right, you'll see Levi whose "goy-lover" comment in any other community and in any other context would deserve ostracism. We should remember, that statistically speaking, "goy" is pretty much equivalent to "human". The fact that love of gentiles requires defense among religious Jews, or that we routinely change the language that we speak when referring to them, makes me want to raise my kids Lutheran.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Doctor Bean,
Point taken.
BTW, think about getting to know some Lutherans before you decide. :)

6:46 PM  

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