A number of people sent me this superb article by Rabbi Berel Wein. It seems as though pretty much everyone has seen it already, but in case you haven't, here it is.
THE TRUTH OF SATIRE
There is a wickedly funny and enormously sad piece of satire making the rounds
about a “Lithuanian” charedi father attempting to explain to his inquisitive
child the story of the Hasmoneans and their triumph over the Greeks. On the one
hand the Hasmoneans were staunch “Lithuanian “charedim who learned all day,
while on the other hand they apparently had weapons, organized an army that they
themselves led in actual warfare against the Greeks.
They also engaged in
commerce and agriculture, albeit always wearing only white shirts. And,
apparently, they wanted to establish an independent Jewish state in the Land of
Israel. The child realizes the enormous disconnect between the traditional story
of Chanuka and the Hasmoneans and what he has been taught at home, in school and
amongst his peers about the country and society he currently lives
The father admits to himself the existence of this savage disconnect
with reality and the Chanuka story, but says one may not state so publicly lest
one be accused of being a Zionist.
Here, as in all good satire, there
exists more than a bit of exaggeration. But, there is no doubt that more than a
kernel of truth also exists in this fictitious conversation. The charedi world
in the main, especially the “Lithuanian” branch (with whom I identify myself as
belonging to) has yet to come to grips with the realities of today. It is still
fighting the battle of the nineteenth century against secular Zionism, a battle
long ago ended and not relevant any longer in today’s Jewish world.
of the problem is changing this mindset of complete disconnect with reality. We
have grown so comfortable over the past centuries of Jewish life as being the
persecuted victim, that we are frightened to shuck off that protective mantle.
We see the world in black and white colors only – the good guys and the
villains. There is no room for nuance or moderation in such a
If we are involved in rabbinic scandal, financial misdeeds,
abusive physical and sexual behavior, violence against police, corrupt elections
(and those elected thereby) and are caught by the authorities for so doing, the
immediate knee-jerk reaction is that we are being persecuted because of our
religious practices, different dress, traditional lifestyle and distinct
Somehow we have forgotten that idleness, poverty and a
persecution complex all are, in the long run, self-destructive conditions. These
were the conditions that secularized much of Ashkenazic Jewry over the past
three centuries. Eventually a system built on declining governmental welfare
allotments and unending charity from others - a system decried by Maimonides and
other great rabbinic sages and religious leaders throughout the ages – is a
Ponzi scheme that inexorably will collapse of its own weight.
And we are
ill served by religious political leaders and the handlers of old and revered
great Torah scholars who, for purposes I have never really understood, oppose
any change of the current miserable status quo. And, there is never any plan
advanced to help rescue their adherents from the deepening abyss of poverty and
So, a little clever satire can be a good thing for us.
A good look at the absurdity of some of our societal practices, at the
disconnect with reality, at an educational system that impoverishes its students
for life and stifles creativity and different opinions can only help us in the
long run to advance the cause of Torah in Israel and in the Diaspora!
middle-aged person recently came to see me before embarking on a trip to the
United States to raise money to pay for his crushing debts accumulated over the
years that he has not worked. The irony is that he graduated university and is
a qualified engineer and is easily employable. So when I asked him why he
doesn’t go to work instead of undergoing the humiliation of canvassing door to
door in the American winter for a month to receive charity, much of it given
begrudgingly, I sighed deeply at his answer: “I have daughters to marry off and
the husbands they want to marry will not accept daughters of someone who is
I wanted to answer him harshly: “But they will accept daughters
of someone who begs others for charity!” However, I bit my tongue and wished him
success (?) on his journey. I was impotently outraged all day at how this type
of mindset has corrupted such a wonderful people. Perhaps we need more satire to
have the truth of the situation sink into our society.