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.