Monday, July 07, 2008

I recently received this email from my never-married childhood friend, Alter. Alter is a bit of a cranky fellow with a salty tongue, as will be evident, but I take perverse joy in his style. Take this for what it’s worth.

... So, I was schmoozing with this guy from [a certain left-wing American rabbinical seminary] and he’s whining about the right-wingers not giving them the respect they deserve bla bla bla. He doesn’t see what the big deal is if some guy publishes an article condemning “Israeli brutality” or pointing out that halacha is sometimes “unethical” and needs a little touch-up. What, now being a sensitive soul is a bad thing? And I’m finding myself having surprisingly little sympathy for their plight. As a matter of fact, I was pretty much thinking they were getting what they deserve. Which is pretty strange since last time I checked I’m no frummer than he is, by any measure.

As it happens, I popped in to Chulent last Thursday night. This brought a few thoughts into focus. With this chevre I have no problem at all. Yankel from Williamsburg stands at the door in half-levush sharing casual hugs with the nekeivos as they come in. Some other guy shows up looking liker a biker dude but talking a Satmarer Yiddish. Why do I like these guys so much and have so little patience for those [seminary] guys?

Awright, it’s not like I think Chulent ought to be giving smicha and sending guys out to rabbinify. But maybe that’s the point: the Chulent gang doesn’t want to rabbinify. Good for them.

Anyway, I think what’s bugging me about [seminary] is that too many of these bozos have a self-righteous lefty bullshit preoccupation with some abstraction they call “ethics” that’s got not much to do to do with something a whole lot more concrete called mentschlichkeit. Some of these privileged, effeminized self-worshiping pricks are so busy posturing and yapping about saving the planet or the flora and fauna or the victim du jour, they can barely conceal their contempt for grimy flesh and blood human beings.

Ribbono Shel Olam, if I have to read one more puerile paper shoe-horning halacha into some mitas sedom so that some victim of a day school education can reconcile his little Torah hobby with his true religion, namely, the latest academic spin on the total equality of everything with everything, I will just upchuck my latte.

When I hear one of these guys fretting that some aspect of Torah isn’t “ethical” and oy ve-avoy what are we going to do, I feel like throttling him and shouting deprogrammer-like into his tortured face “Stop taking this stuff so seriously. You think any actual frum yid is going to throw an apikorus into a pit or make a Cohen divorce his raped wife? Trust me, the only moron who’s likely to do that is one who takes everything as seriously as you and your over-earnest semi-Episcopalian putz friends in [seminary] do. Normale mentschen who actually get it, have mastered the art of saying all the right things and making sure what needs to get done gets done. You putzballs will get it pinkt farkert: you’ll twist yourselves into pretzels reconciling halacha with everything-but-halacha until the whole system is in shambles and you’ll end up with the wrong result to boot.”

Shoot me for saying this, but frumkeit’s a game. There are rules. The Chulent chevre know the rules. They just sometimes find the rules a pain in the ass. That’s fine by me. So do I. The [seminary] guys don’t know the number one rule, which is don’t challenge the rules; just do what needs to be done. If you can’t manage even that much, leave the Jew profession to people who get it and go teach Victim Studies in some liberal arts college. Or better yet, join the Marines. Maybe they’ll make a man out of you...

Ad kan mi-ksav yad kodsho. Alter has a penchant for overstating his case. I have left out the name of the seminary he mentioned because as far as I know his comments about the people there have no basis in fact. As he admitted to me, he was teeing off on the closest victim. What he says is probably true about somebody, though I don’t know who and, in all likelihood, neither does he.


Blogger Tzemach Atlas said...

the difficulty of this presentation is that it is hard to place or relate to the person addressed by Alter. What he calls left is really right by others. I am sure he is speaking about a very concrete setting but it remains elusive in a wider context.

2:41 AM  
Blogger Tzemach Atlas said...

this is a classic:

"Ribbono Shel Olam, if I have to read one more puerile paper shoe-horning halacha into some mitas sedom so that some victim of a day school education can reconcile his little Torah hobby with his true religion, namely, the latest academic spin on the total equality of everything with everything, I will just upchuck my latte."


2:45 AM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

Suggesting that soldiers during wartime operate under the same set of Jewish ethical principles (to the extent there is such a thing)they do during peace is probably overstating the case as well, so I can see where Alter is coming from though.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

I hope your mother doesn't read your blog. Such language!

4:09 PM  
Blogger Tzemach Atlas said...

BTs look at the world differently.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Skeptic said...

This isn't true since the onset of Religious Zionism. True, once everybody understood that we don't really want to move to Eretz Yisrael, and we certainly don't want to actually build the Mikdash – after all, it's asur to even set foot on the Temple Mount. There's no question that if someone came to Rav Moshe and insisted he was a true Amalekite RM would have just ignored him – after all, an Amalekite has no neemanus.

But the RZ's take this stuff in dead earnest. They wander freely on the Temple Mount and make no secret of their intention to build an actual structure and sacrifice actual animals. I wouldn't want to be the guy to announce to one of these TB RZ's that I was a meyuchas Amalekite, or even a Wiccan or something equally benign – certainly not from the bottom of a pit.

The fact is that many of the RZ rabbis reject the "don't ask don't tell" attitude Ben so admires in the old-style poskim. Maybe it's not a coincidence that so many of the unnamed seminary guys were educated in the RZ world.

And I'm not done. I accuse Ben himself of RZ sympathies. Tell me, would Rav Moshe ever have said, "We have to adopt a lenient POLICY towards Russian olim in order to solve a national problem of intermarriage", as did a prominent RZ rabbi recently defended by Ben? Would he have set up a special beit din "mitaam" under the auspices of the Prime Minister's office? Or would he have just had private talks with dayanim and urged them not to give the Russians a hard time?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Ben-David said...

1) I love reading transliteration-sprinkled English. When 'Alter' used the word "fretting" I momentarily tried to parse it as a Yiddish word...

2) He is right on about (unnamed seminary) - but this is a perennial problem of MO. Some people forget that TIDE is not just sloppy syncretism, and that the Torah is the ultimate yardstick by which other culture's moral assertions are measured.

3) Sceptic - the informal solution no longer works in a national framework. The RZ rabbi's realization that giyur is now a policy issue is evidence of fact-based realpolitik, rather than fanaticism.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

my experience with the "right wing" world that Alter's acquaintance was whining about is that they ALSO like talking about "[torah] ethics" but seem to have no idea about "something a whole lot more concrete called mentschlichkeit".

Maybe the Chulent guys know "rule number 1", but i get the feeling that no one else does -- not me or the Unnamed people, who want the System to be perfect -- not the mentioned RZ people who want the System as it is to be real -- and not people in the "right-winger" world who seem to have stopped caring about mentshlikhkeit at all.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

louis, lezer kestenbaum from the ODA williamsburg is a terrible MENUVAL

8:08 PM  

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