Friday, October 25, 2013

Haters of Torah, Lovers of Torah

Over the last few months, many people have used the phrase "haters of Torah" to describe those opposed to the Israeli charedi lifestyle (or even just to describe those who vote for mayors that they believe will manage cities more professionally).

I'm amazed at the gall of people who use such a phrase. Rambam was strongly opposed to people who study Torah and expect to be supported, describing such a person as having "profaned God’s Name and brought the Torah into contempt, extinguished the light of religion, brought evil upon himself, and has taken away his life from the World-to-Come." Was Rambam also a "hater of Torah"?

Of course, it's not just the mass-kollel system to which people object. It's also attempts to force one's lifestyle upon others, slander, offensive and violent behavior, abusing the power of rabbinic authority, and so on. None of these are "Torah"; rather, people hate them because they are the opposite of Torah. In a particularly ironic twist, many of the people who use the term "Haters of Torah" are precisely the people who engage in this behavior - or who effectively enable it by refusing to protest it.

Anyway, here's an item that came my way which illustrates exactly which kind of Torah people hate and which kind of Torah people love:
Alon Davidi, former director of the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva was elected the new mayor of Sderot.

Why did a town with only 25% religious people vote this way, while in Jerusalem you can't get a religious candidate to win?

The answer is simple - what kind of Torah example are we living?

Is it a Torah of Kiddush Hashem or Chilul Hashem? Is it a Torah of Messirut Nefesh or self-interest? Is it a Torah that connects with the community or a Torah that seeks to cut itself off from the community? Is a Torah that gives or takes?
Sderot Hesder Yeshivah has Torah of kiddush Hashem, mesirut nefesh for people in need (giving support for people living under rocket fire in Sderot, and ultimately serving in the army themselves), seeking to connect with the community and to give. That's the kind of Torah that everyone loves.

18 comments:

  1. "This website is an exploration into the rationalist approach to Judaism that was most famously presented by Maimonides. It will also explore contemporary rationalist approaches, as well as being a forum for various other notes"

    Lately I have noticed that this blog has been focused very much on being a forum for "various other notes", but there hasn't been so much exploration into the rationalist approach to Judaism. I understand that you have been very involved with the recent elections, but some of us (at least me) are sick and tired of Israeli politics. (Actually, I'm quite relieved that I'm back in America, living in a community that lives together with achdus.) Do you think it's possible to either go back to the old way, or maybe open a new blog, perhaps title it "anticharedijudaism.com" and keep this one to "rationalistjudaism".
    Disclaimer: This is not to say that I agree or disagree with any of your recent posts, I'm just more interested in the old stuff.

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  2. When you can't argue coherently, scream irrationally and hope the other guy backs down.

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  3. Can you post a link or reference to the original article from which you are quoting?

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  4. yeshivaguy:

    to be relieved that one lives in a community where there is unity is good (thought i'm not into robotic uniformity) but to be relieved to be living anywhere outside of eretz yisrael is sad and something one should be embarrassed to publicize.

    also-blogs have different phases. just because the blog might be in one phase at the moment does not warrant a name change.

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  5. "Why did a town with only 25% religious people vote this way, while in Jerusalem you can't get a religious candidate to win?"

    Perhaps because the Religious Zionist political perspective is not so different than the secular zionist one. (Proof in the pudding: Bayit Yehudi has a secular representative.)

    "Is it a Torah of Messirut Nefesh or self-interest?"

    Charedi Torah is one of self-interest as opposed to one of Mesiras Nefesh?!

    What utter dishonesty!

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  6. He probably meant mesirut nefesh in the literal sense, i.e. not running away when there are rocket attacks.

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  7. The letter you got is offensive in assuming that all things being equal, the "religious candidate" in Jerusalem, i.e. Lion, should have been preferred.

    Says who? Maybe Barkat won because he's simply a better mayor, and most people realized that Lion was being pushed by corrupt elements. Why does it always have to be about Torah and religion?

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  8. "Why did a town with only 25% religious people vote this way, while in Jerusalem you can't get a religious candidate to win?"

    Perhaps because the Religious Zionist political perspective is not so different than the secular zionist one. (Proof in the pudding: Bayit Yehudi has a secular representative.)


    Are you offering that as evidence that the perspective is wrong? Should the "Religious" perspsective on Mathematics differ from the "Secular" one. How about civil engineering? Should the bridges be built differently?

    If you want, you can extend that argument to prove that Neturei Karta are right: after all, they "Zionist" Charedim all participate in elections just like the secular; they form coalitions with the secular; some factions supported Nir Barkat. They're obviously the same.

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  9. I believe that when the chareidi parties grow strong, and look like becoming a significant force, the Aibishter causes them to 'speak different languages' and to split into myriad splinter groups, spitting venom at each other. Their 'empire building' is stopped and they no longer even understand what their former allies are saying.

    So is averted a potential disaster for Klal Yisrael and the world.

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  10. Why does it always have to be about Torah and religion?

    I know many people in Bet Shemesh that voted for the incumbent purely because he's "frum", and not because he's a good mayor. Therefore, I find it likely that Charedim in other cities would be expected to vote the same way.

    (I put quotes around frum because the mayor ran the dirtiest campaign outside of Chicago. Given that his name is Moshe, I would venture to say that the Toras Moshe he follows has no relation at all to the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.)

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  11. > most people realized that Lion was being pushed by corrupt elements. Why does it always have to be about Torah and religion?

    That's precisely the point being made here.

    When a Torah lifestyle is used as a cover for corruption and incompetence, it is a Chillul Hashem, and most people want no part of it.

    But when a candidate is honest and a mensch, his Torah observance adds to his credibility, and adds to his reputation.

    We could almost be paraphrasing Pirkei Avot, no?

    And that is why I disagree with those that suggest that this blog is no longer exploring rationalist approaches to Judaism. It is, just on a practical rather than theoretical level.

    Do we believe what it says in Pirkei Avot about the ways Torah can be perverted, or not? If we do, how should we react to such perversion that we see with our own eyes?

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  12. Can you please provide the exact location/source for the Rambam you quoted. Thanks.

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  13. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/04/the-truth-about-much-abused-rambam.html for sources and discussion.

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  14. I think snag's analogy to migdal bavel is right on. The disgraceful in-fighting among the charedim during the recent campaign was just astonishing, especially when you consider that they all think that Torah is under attack, which would seem to warrant some kind of unified struggle. It's just crazy and a chilul Hashem of mammoth proportions.

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  15. Based on the quote of the Rambam, I would venture to put the Rambam in the "navi b'Yisrael" status. I can't judge who has olim habah and who lost theirs but the Chareidim have fulfilled everything else in the Rambam's nevuah.

    Oh, and to the one that asked, yes Chareidism the way it is practiced in the 21st century is a Torah of self interest.

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  16. "his Torah observance adds to his credibility, and adds to his reputation."

    Why? Why would his Torah observance contribute anything to his credibility on, say, the schedule of the light rail?

    Look, I can understand, maybe, if you made this argument in the context of a national election (this wasn't). Or if the mayor was actively anti-Torah and did things opposed to and damaging to religion. (Certainly not the case in Jerusalem.) But in this case? No, I think I'd always judge based on the quality of the mayor, not what's on his head.

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  17. >> "his Torah observance adds to his credibility, and adds to his reputation."
    >Why would his Torah observance contribute anything to his credibility on, say, the schedule of the light rail?

    I was referring to the candidate in Sderot, not the one in Jerusalem.

    If the candidate is honest, capable, intelligent, knows how to get people to work together, cares about the city, etc, etc, AND ALSO has a kippa on his head, then people say, "Ashrei to those who taught him Torah - it must be the Torah that made him such a mensch."

    If the candidate is a crook, is a cynical politician that is happy to get support from people he has not intention of working with, and has a kippa on his head, then people say, "Oy to those who taught him Torah, if you can call it that".

    Just like it says in Pirkei Avot.

    I'm describing what people's reactions are in reality. I've heard people say, "those nice Yeshivat Bnei Akiva boys, they're so well mannered, that's Chinuch!" (yes, really). And "R' Firer's organization, just unbelievable what they accomplish, don't know what we would have done without them". And I've seen the spontaneous cheers of people who see Hesder Yeshiva boys entering the army. Because they WANT to believe that the Torah causes people to be menschlich.

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  18. Kira: I see. That's putting it a different way, and I agree.

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