Days of Awe

For more than forty years my office was located in Manhattan near City Hall, most of the time at 350 Broadway.  One by one, the old office buildings are being vacated, as they are being converted into luxury residential apartments.  I was the last tenant to leave. 

I am now in Borough Park where I have lived for seventy years.  My office is at the site right in the heart of the neighborhood on 13th Avenue and 50th Street where Yeshiva Etz Chaim once stood.  There are benefits to being here, including being close to my home and close to every kind of store that I might need.  There are also minor drawbacks, such as an abundance of street noise arising from much honking and other environmental circumstances common in Orthodox neighborhoods. 

There is also the experience that I had yesterday.  Sound trucks went by frequently, blaring out their messages in Yiddish.  Invariably, each message began with the proclamation that “Gedolei Torah say that it is a sacred obligation [chov kadosh] to…”  When the messages began, I thought that since we are in the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Great Rabbis were beseeching listeners, including me, to do teshuva, to give tzedakah and to reflect on how we may improve ourselves.  Alas, this was not the case.  Rather, the beseeching was on behalf of one or another mayoral candidate.  I was immediately in awe.  Could it be that the Great Rabbis really wanted me to vote for candidates who strongly espouse gay marriage?  Or for candidates who in so many ways have positions that are diametrically opposed to what religious Jews believe? 

I have no answer because it’s very difficult to come up with answers when one is in awe. 

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16 Responses

  1. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    That is why we say on the days of awe “meloch al kol haolam keulo b’chvodecha”. Until that time you will have to deal with the candidates that we have, even if some of them have views that are “diametrically opposed to Torah values”.

  2. Benshaul says:

    once again Dr. Schick shows up why the pen can be mightier than the sword.

  3. yisroel miller says:

    Dr Schick makes an important point that is almost never discussed in print: What is the correct course of action when a choice (political or otherwise) that benefits the Orthodox community is harmful to society as a whole? And in general, what are our responsibilities to general society? Should we oppose a position that weaken the moral fiber of society only when that position will ultimately affect Jews (Orthodox or otherwise), or should we take moral stands because a Mamleches Kohanim must stand up for what is right?

  4. Mordechai says:

    “minor drawbacks, such as an abundance of street noise arising from much honking and other environmental circumstances common in Orthodox neighborhoods.”

    I don’t think an abundance of street noise is such a minor thing. Excessive noise negatively impacts on menuchas hanefesh, and makes people more irritable, which has effects on inter personal relations, bein adam lachaveiro. As for the claim that such is common on Orthodox neighborhoods, perhaps in some types, like where the writer lives, but not in others, and not all for sure. Quiet and tranquility is desirable and should be sought and promoted in religious areas, along with cleanliness, and other Torah attributes.

  5. Raymond says:

    I do not understand why there would be any conflict at all, for the fact is that the same side of the political fence that opposes such practices as gay marriage and most abortions, is also the same side that is the strongly pro-Israel side. The correct political choice for us traditional Jews is therefore abundantly clear.

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    The political power of the very orthodox is increasing ,as pointed out in an article in the NY Times.The tragedy is that it doesn’t bring a Kiddush Hashem. I once sat next to Jerald Nadler at a dinner and he told me “My district includes the most gays and the most chassidim and there is no conflict because the chasidim have a transactional relationship, they don’t care about anything except what they can get from me.” In other words, truth,justice and the American way are as foreign to them as printing a picture of a female in a newspaper is forbidden to them. The whole growth of a non American, non democratic, voting bloc that cares nothing for the issues except what is in it for me is a disgrace. They are still mentally cack in Romania.
    Here in the outer provinces, “out of town”, we also have political involvement but it is not as blatant and as corrupt. Never,ever would a rabbi say from the pulpit that it is a relgious obligation to vote for a certain candidate, it is illegal and the tax deduction status of their institution should be revoked.
    One reason that Rabbi Herman Neuberer was revered, literally without hyperbole, by the Maryland public officials is that, like his colleaue Rabbi Moshe Sherer, they never asked for anything personal or for any kind of under the table pay off. They were above board and honest in all their dealings and thus they were respected. Do the politicians really respect the rebbes that they visit once every r4 years?

  7. joel rich says:

    2 thoughts
    1. Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik (The Rav) explained the phrase in the high holy days amidah, “vchen tein pachdcha” (place your fear) as meaning that as individulas we should be so filled with fear of HKB”H that we fear no man when it comes to doing the will of HKB”H as we understand it

    2. It’s much easier to give a hungry man a fish rather than teach him how to fish. It also keeps him dependent on you.

    Gmar Chatimah Tova

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    “Could it be that the Great Rabbis really wanted me to vote for candidates who strongly espouse gay marriage?”

    Maybe, but I think the Great Rabbis are too busy preparing for Yom Kippur to actually make that determination. Instead, I suspect that the mayoral candidates asked the witch of Endor to get the endorsement of Og, the former king of Bashan, who was “gadol” (lit. large) and is definitely “baTorah” (lit. “in the Torah”, in this case Numbers chapter 21). Politicians are experts at misleading people.

    Hope you don’t mind the note of levity, but it seems to me that a lot of the things attributed to Great Rabbis actually come from other places.

  9. DF says:

    To R. Yisroel Miller – you ask, should Jews support the candidate who’s best for them, or the candidate best for the general population. In NIRC I heard, in the name of the Chafetz Chayim, that one should choose the best general candidate, because when it’s going well for the country (state, city)and the majority is happy, then it goes well for the Jews. But if a bad candiate gets in and causes the country to decline, then (God forbid) it could be otherwise, and any help the Jews get from their own pet candidate they helped elect will only be short term.

    In this case I personally agree with Raymond, as do a strong majority of orthodox Jews. The problem is money. Generally speaking (and exceptions duly noted) those more apt to promise dollars to special interests, of which yeshivahs are certainly one, are the ones who support values the orthodox community doesnt. So Roshei Yeshivas have a financial interest in certain candidates, and we all know what money can do a man’s judgment. This divide, between roshei yeshivas and the rank and file community they supposedly lead, was openly displayed in elections a few years ago. The gap will probably only widen further in the future, as yeshivas need more and more money, and indidivuals (many who themselves have semicha or spent years in yeshivah) feel more and more free to publicly disagree with the yeshivah leadership.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Robust police work has enabled NYC to survive in recent years despite many problems that go well beyond honking, sound trucks and double parking. The likely new Mayor will be an arch-liberal Democrat who totally fails to understand this. What will our Jewish politicians do concretely to protect the public safety of all citizens? Or to keep the city financially solvent? They should wake up and focus on the essential.

  11. dr. bill says:

    two implications / acknowledgements about daas torah: 1) it has limits. 2) it allows for multiple opinions.

  12. Reb Yid says:

    De Blasio is probably a needed corrected to the excesses of the past few Mayors.

    NYC is fast becoming a place that is beyond wonderful if you are white and have plenty of disposable income. But if you don’t fit either of those qualifications, it has become vastly more oppressive and/or unaffordable. Bloomberg (with Ray Kelly) and Giuliani are frankly reaping what they have sown.

  13. j. langer says:

    i don’t comments on blogs. however, l’kovod my mentor r’ marvin who raises a critical question; i would like to share a thought—the great american political parties always looked to their great wise men for macro counsel, that was unbiased and visionary–we have witnessed their historic role be overtaken by political operatives and well financed special interest groups. perhaps that culture has migrated to our community. where are today’s lebish lefkowitz and his generation. something to consider as demographics take their turn. g’mar chasima tova.

  14. Miriam A says:

    They have these cars with loudspeakers in Monsey too. We are not in Yerushalayim, and it makes me very on edge when they are blaring yiddish political announcements through the streets. Especially in the current very volatile political(school board issues, housing issues) climate here. We live so clustered (cloistered?), and have become the majority in many towns and cities, that we forget who and where we are.

  15. Raymond says:

    I will say that I was extremely disappointed some years ago, when entire blocks of Chassidic Jews voted in Hillary as their Senator in New York. Without that office, which was a stepping stone in her insatiable quest for power, she would not now be considered the front runner for President in 2016. And G-d forbid that somebody that hostile to Israel, should ever make it back to the White House.

  16. Gershon says:

    It sure sounds like a classic case of והכסף יענה את הכל

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