Posted on | February 1, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | 28 Comments
Here are some different thoughts in the comments from this recent thread
1) It is easier to be secular than to be frum.
2) The values of outside society tend to contradict a lot of things found in Torah. Many Jews I know who became less religious/irreligious had problems with the prohibition on intermarriage, the distinctions between Jew and non-Jew in halacha, the different roles for men and women, the prohibition on gay relationships, etc. It can be hard raising kids as American Jews or Israeli Jews (for example) when Americans and Israelis tend to see Jewish law as backwards, restrictive, and even homophobic and racist.
3) General society tends not to be religious, and tends even to have negative views of religion and certainly negative views of a religion that requires adherents to eat, dress, and pray in a certain way. It can be hard to be religious when there’s a tendency around you to see religion as “the opiate of the masses” or some similar insulting thing.
I don’t think anything is more devastating to an idealistic, sensitive person — and sorry, but absolutely everyone who reads this blog, and certainly everyone who contributes to it, is in this category, whether they want to admit it or not! — than encountering people and institutions (which are just collections of people) who fail to live up to the ideals of Judaism insofar as how they treat others.
I believe each and every departure from “the derech” has this at its heart.
Everyone makes his own decisions in life. Everyone is responsible for his own soul, even if other Jews are “guarantors.” There’s plenty of rationalization in the air around all of us. And as has been said here many times and in many forms, it does not follow logically that Judaism (much less Hashem) should be judged by individual Jews and their actions.
But I believe at the heart of every social damnation, every purported halachic breaking point, every demand for the application of non-spiritual paradigms (e.g., science) to spiritual questions by those who say they can’t or won’t do it any more, is a series of inexcusable, unforgivable and callous actions or omissions by one or more orthodox Jews.
It could be in the old country. It could be in a yeshiva or seminary. It could be in the workplace, or a bus stop, or even online. But reading between the lines of the many, many Jews whose hearts now spill out their pixelated pain, it seems that the personal, spiritual roshem (mark, impression) of a Jew’s actions in this world can be at once the single most inspiring, or the single most devastating, phenomenon any other Jew can encounter.
And I really don’t know, in terms of the negative part of that equation, what we can do about that, except pile as much onto the positive part as we possibly can, and have faith in Hashem and ask for His guidance for all His people.
IMO, the kids at risk phenomenon will not abate unless we work on the three main factors outlined by Farak Margolese-dysfunctional families, schools that avoid or discourage inquiry into hashkafic questions and communities across the hashkafic spectrum that unfortunately embrace social conformity as opposed to genuine growth in Avodas HaShem.