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There's More To Torah Than Charedism
Last week, in The Angst of Jonathan Rosenblum, we discussed how charedi Judaism's preeminent spokesman has been expressing his dismay over his gradual realization that the community which he joined forty years ago is deeply broken, culminating in the disastrous response to Covid. In his latest Mishpacha column, Dealing With Disappointment, Rosenblum continues on this theme, describing how a phone call made him aware of many others experiencing similar existential despair, both baalei teshuvah and FFBs. It left him, he says, "badly shaken."
Rosenblum comes up with a number of possible responses to make to people in such a crisis. One is that there is nevertheless so much of value in a Torah life - Shabbos, community, inspirational religious teachers, and so on. Second is that since a Torah life is True, then we have to live it even if we are disappointed with its practitioners. And he briefly notes that awareness of this Truth is reached by different people in different ways - for some, their faith is due to the miraculous fortunes of the Jewish people, for others it is the scientific evidence for a Creator, and for yet others it is immersion in Torah. He concludes by noting that while none of this prevents his frustration about charedi behavior, it ensures that he won't change his way of life.
Did you spot the error?
All of the positive things he mentions are things that are true of Orthodoxy as a whole, and are not limited to the charedi community. But all the negative aspects that bother him so greatly are uniquely features of the charedi community! In the non-charedi communities - whether the YU, Modern Orthodox, or Religious Zionist communities - the response to the Covid pandemic has, by and large, been exemplary. Rav Schachter and Rav Willig were trailblazing in their halachic guidance. In one recent public question about vaccines addressed to Rav Yaakov Ariel, he replied: "I'm a rabbi. Go ask a doctor!" My brother-in-law Dr. Joel Kaye, a PhD immunologist who has taken a public role in dispelling disinformation about Covid and the vaccine, was invited to give a presentation to Rav Eliezer Melamad and Har Bracha, and he was blown away by Rav Melamed's grasp of how disinformation works. I haven't heard of anyone suffering a religious crisis due to the Covid response by non-charedi rabbis and communities.
I don't believe that there is any wilful intent by Jonathan Rosenblum to mislead here. It's a phenomenon that I wrote about last year, in a post titled "Who Are "Torah Jews"?" Many people within the charedi world don't even really grasp that non-charedi frum communities exist! They simply don't consider that there are communities of religious Jews and yeshivos and kollelim and rabbis and Torah scholars that are not charedi.
Those for whom the charedi response to Covid is the last straw, the watershed moment that shows how much of the rabbinic leadership and many in the community are completely disconnected from reality to the extent that they bring about sickness and death, don't need to be told that the Truth of Torah requires them to stay in the charedi community. There's more to Torah than charedism.
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