A Much Needed Response
I have been too busy to post as often as I wanted, and yet wanted to say something, anything, about the fool who said his “rabbis” told him it was ok to spit at a child because she wasn’t dressed the way he wanted. It’s shocking, it’s appalling, and of course has been used to stir up an anti-charedi media frenzy — as if the men and women who voluntarily separate on public transportation are somehow related to lunatic sikrikim (loosely, fanatics) who listen only to the “rabbis” found in their feeble imaginations.
So it was something of a relief to receive the following in my inbox, from the authoritative source of charedi Rabbinic thought in America, putting to rest once and for all the idea that these thugs have rabbinic backing and sparing me the task of writing something more coherent myself:
Upon consultation with its rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement today:
Reports of recent events in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh are deeply disturbing.
Violence of any sort, whether physical or verbal, by self-appointed “guardians” of modesty is reprehensible. Such conduct is beyond the bounds of decent, moral – Jewish! – behavior. We condemn these acts unconditionally.
Those who have taken pains to note that the small group of misguided individuals who have engaged in this conduct are not representative of the larger charedi community are to be commended. It is disturbing, though, that some Israeli politicians and secularists have been less responsible, portraying the actions of a very few as indicative of the feelings of the many. Quite the contrary, the extremist element is odious to, and rejected by, the vast majority of charedi Jews.
Lost in all the animus and ill will, unfortunately, is the concept ostensibly at the core of the controversy: the exalted nature of tzenius, or Jewish modesty.
Judaism considers human desires to constitute a sublime and important force, but one whose potential for harm is commensurate with its potential for holiness.
In a society like our own, where the mantra of many is, in effect, “anything goes,” many charedi Jews, men and women alike, see a need to take special steps – in their own lives and without seeking to coerce others – to counterbalance the pervasive atmosphere of licentiousness, so as to avoid the degradation of humanity to which it leads.
It would be tragic were the acts of violence to lead Jews to, G-d forbid, reject the culture of tzenius that has always been the hallmark of the Jewish nation, to regard Jewish modesty as something connected to violence and anger, rather than to refinement and holiness.