Actions, Values, and Education
by Rabbi Doron Beckerman
Much virtual ink has been spilled in recent months over the acts of vandalism, hooliganism, and general bad Middos of various sub-sectors of Charedi society. One of the themes which one gleans from many of the comments decrying these actions, when coming from quarters other than internal, is that these actions show that the values of Charedi society are essentially rotten, and that a total reevaluation of the underlying messages given by the Rabbanim and Mechanchim of the Charedi world is in order.
Following this logic – of extrapolation from the actions of some members of a group to the nixing of its essential values – leads one to wonder how to relate to the values of the Torah itself, in light of Moshe Rabbeinu’s tongue lashing of the Jewish Nation. Moshe Rabbeinu, according to Rashi in last week’s Torah portion, tells his brethren that they are cumbersome, brazen people who have no respect for their leaders, as well as insufferable complainers. At one point Moshe felt that he was at risk of being pelted with rocks. Does this reflect poorly on the values that the Nation had received at Har Sinai? Was Moshe’s knee-jerk attitude to question of what value was all the Torah he had taught the Nation, when they could not behave properly?
Clearly, the answer lies not in the values themselves, but in proper internalization of those values. Moshe Rabbeinu did not for a moment doubt that the Torah was the guide which would lead to creation of a holy people. What he did realize was that there was not, as yet, a full commitment on the part of some of the members of the nation to compliance with the instructions laid forth in the guidebook. “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews” was certainly part of Moshe’s thought process, or else he would have had to question his entire mission of Matan Torah – which he never did.
How does one go about evaluating values of a religion/society if not by its adherents? After all, one might use the same line of argument for Islamo-fascism – perhaps we should not judge Hamas by its suicide bombers, but by its charity organizations?
I believe the answer is that a society should be judged by its heroes. Islamic terrorists look to people who are evil incarnate as their “Gedolim”. The names of the Mufti Al-Husseini, Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Yassin, etc., all people who have encouraged and participated in murder of innocents, are borne on the lips of the Islamo-fascists as role models of exemplary commitment to the ideals that their society espouses.
The essential values of Charedi society cannot, and should not, be judged by the actions of some rabble in their midst. They must be judged by those whom they revere, who are held up as the true epitome of the values they seek to inculcate in their children – the Brisker Rav and the Chazon Ish and the Satmar Rebbe; Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Elyashiv and Rav Tuvia Weiss. The personal failings of a limited number of hotheads notwithstanding, the overarching message of Charedi society is to strive to be like these men who were, and are, outstanding Torah scholars of the generation, and to emulate their unmitigated passion for a life brimming with Torah and Yiras Shamayim, to the exclusion of all other transient pursuits.
[Rabbi Beckerman is a Rebbe and a Mashgiach at Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim and a very recent oleh from Los Angeles to Ramat Beit Shemesh. His work is familiar to many readers from his blogging days when he contributed prodigiously to a blog of his own under a screen name.]