Rosenblum’s Rule Revisited

Long-time readers are by now familiar with Rosenblum’s Rule: Where Torah Jews are in the majority their attention to issues of Kiddush Hashem declines; when they are in the minority, especially a small minority their intrapersonal behavior improves. I first formulated this rule many years ago while observing a group of kindergarten age kids in Boro Park rush out of class and promptly block all traffic on the street adjacent to their cheder. That was their turf, and they were not going to be deterred by the honking of a line of irritated drivers.
One of the research projects I’d like to see the newly formed Center for Jewish Reseach and Communication undertake is a comparative study of the attitudes of those raised in all-chareidi environments to those raised in religiously mixed cities and towns. Until then, Rosenblum’s Rule remains only a hypothesis based on anecdotal observation.
But further anecdotal evidence of the positive side of the rule came last Erev Shabbos. My wife and I were in the Galilee for around 24 hours, and decided to visit the Torah community in Carmiel, where I know exactly one person, the son-in-law of a close friend. When I was a kid, my mother’s always insisted on checking out every campus of a reasonably good college within a thirty mile radius on our family car trips, just in case one of her sons might one day wish to apply. And I have taken the same tack with respect to far-flung Torah communities: With today’s skyrocketing apartment prices, you never know where your children may end up living.
We found our way to the home of my acquaintance just as his family was crowding into their car to drive to Jerusalem for Shabbos. I asked him if he could direct us to the beis medrash of the main kollel, and he agreed. The beis medrash is nestled in a tree-filled park, and I took the first available parking spot.
My guide immediately ran over horrified. I had unwittingly parked at the end of the walkway coming out of the forest in an illegal spot. Even though the area was virtually empty and my car was not likely to block anyone, my guide instructed me to repark a few meters away. He explained that in Carmiel the community is extremely meticulous to obey all traffic laws – e.g., not parking on sidewalks – and to respect the well-manicured parks that make the city so attractive.
He mentioned that they have other practices that can only strike a visitor from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem as weird. For instance, because of the relatively low percentage of religious residents Sephardim, national religious, and yeshivish actually run on one ticket in municipal elections.
The previous evening, we had stayed in Yavneel, a quaint village set up by Baron Rothschild in 1901, about fifteen minutes drive from Tiveria. Shmuel and Chana Veffer, old friends from Har Nof, moved a few years ago to the rustic setting, where they run Villa Rimona Zimmers for those looking for a break. The ratio of secular to religious Jews in Yavneel is about 60:40.
Shmuel told me that the rav of the local community shul established the official nusach over 40 years ago to use modern Hebrew pronounciation so that the local community would feel comfortable, even though he and his family are Chasidish. The difference may be slight, but the head of the kehillah is determined to make everyone feel part of the community no matter what their background.
Similarly in the Breslav kehillah, where I davened, they are strict that all the Chassidim greet every Jew they meet on the street on Shabbos with a warm “Shabbat Shalom.”

That sensitivity reminded me of a friend in the United States who established a Lakewood Kollel in a large Modern Orthodox shul. He once told me that when he first went to Lakewood to interview avreichim, he told each candidate, “I don’t have time to faher you, but there is one rule that I insist on for anyone who joins the Kollel: You must smile and greet every person you meet in shul or on the street. Can you do that?”
Finally, my guess is that those who live in completely insular communities might be more inclined to stifle the impulse to share, in the name of “speaking the truth,” their negative opinion of other groups, if they ever had to look in the faces of those injured by their “divrei emes” and see the hurt in their eyes.

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17 Responses

  1. Y. Ben-David says:

    We, as Jews are not responsible for the murder of the Arab boy, nor do we carry a collective guilt nor does it say anything about Jewish/Israeli society. I also disagree that it somehow “ruined” the ahdut that came out of the collective prayer for the safety of the three boys who were kidnapped and killed. Those who killed the Arab boys are murderers and we all knew about Jewish murderers and criminals even before this happened. Shortly before that there was the man who killed his own children to spite his ex-wife. There have been others. Where did the idea come that there is no such thing as bad Jews? Even if things like the murder of the Arab boy takes place, WE STILL KNOW there is a vast gulf between how we, as a society, regard the miscreants who carried out the murder and the Arab society which glorifies butchery, not just of innocent Jews and others in the Middle East but as we also see with the roaring indifference in which Arab society views the fratricidal slaughter going on in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and in non-Arab but Muslim Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    We have nothing to feel guilty about and nothing has changed. It is time to get off this guilt trip

  2. Cvmay says:

    There is no comparison between the ingrained, taught & admired terror & hatred of the Arab to his Jewish fella and this despicable murder of an Arab youth.

    Let’s stop apologizing and bending over backwards, its an individual act of revenge and not a stain on the Jewish Nation.

  3. YS says:

    This is the second column in a row in which R’ Yonasan writes that the greatest damage done by these murderers was something other than the destruction of an innocent human life. I write this as someone with absolutely zero sympathy for the Arab cause but I just don’t get the callousness (parochialism?) that can lead someone to write this, twice.

  4. Uri Gordon says:

    While common to introduce a lamakom/lachaveiro distinction, ultimately it falls short. From Pirkei Avot and through subsequent divrei Chazal it would have been just as easy to assert that Yair Lapid’s commitment to Ve’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha is indeed a statement of connection to God. To Torah. Moreover, Rabbi Rosenblum could have chosen to frame it as YL embracing what many have called “zeh clal gadol batorah”. It isn’t about “making others frum”, let alone in a way that seems to resemble categories of the writer, as implied by the writer’s caveat – “Though Lapid couldn’t bring himself to commit . . . . “. A lesson equally valid, especially in the days that followed the horror of the kidnapping of our boys, is that we are of one God and are one people; who here on this earth can truly rank the threads of the others tzitziyot, especially in real life, outside the ivory, nay golden, beit midrash?

    Looking through alternate framing and lenses does not minimize ones own commitment to Torah and Hashem. It allows for expanding and respecting another’s, in humility and gratitude for being part of one nation.
    Rabbi, please continue to lead courageously in that regard, as does Yair Lapid in his own way, as does Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun in his . . . .and may you and they and we all dance at smachot, and embrace conversations, with overflowing and genuine genuine ahavat adam lchaveiro . . . .

  5. Moshe Michael says:

    Y. Ben-David-
    I hear you, but I must disagree. Of course your assessment of the “vast gulf” between us and Arab society is spot-on. But that doesn’t change the fact that when things like this happen in our society, we have some collective cheshbon nefesh to do. Actually, I’ll take your example of the man who killed his children for spite, to add to my argument. Even the crazies and the extremists in a given society get it (pervert it perhaps, but get it) from somewhere.
    That said, cheshbon nefesh is supposed to be an internal matter. And therein lies a big challenge. In this gotcha world where everything is instantaneously shared on social media, your vidui becomes a weapon for the other side. I wish we could find a way to really deal with the problems we need to deal with, without compromising on our public face. B”H we are different; we need to remember that while working to maintain our difference.

  6. Y. Ben-David says:

    I should point out also that in the Torah, and, as a consequence, in the Western world, murder is a crime against the state. The Torah says explicitly that one can not pay blood money to the victim’s family in order to clear the guilty party. On the other hand, Islam, and the Arab world allow exactly that. Thus, murder to them is not really so bad, it is simply a personal squabble between families. I think tells us a lot about the nature of their society.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    We should meet all of HaShem’s lofty expectations for us, all of us. We have been imperfect and should improve but should not slight our many good points. In our current state of imperfection, we should not and do not consider our worst criminals to be our representatives. Leave that to others in this world who hate our guts and have zero perspective.

  8. Andrew Greenberg says:

    To the author: excellent piece. You articulated my thoughts, but more eloquently than I could have.

    Y. Ben-David,

    Ideologically motivated violent crimes are almost never committed in a vacuum. They are usually committed by a volatile but sane person who decides to act out what thousands of others have simply implied or suggested.

    We are collectively responsible for those implications and suggestions, and for not doing enough to teach these kids correct values. For examples of the things that set the stage for this crime, look at the price tag violence often dismissed as “vandalism,” and not as a symptom of something much worse. Or the mania displayed by Beitar soccer fans when their team hired a Muslim player, which resulted in the torching of the team clubhouse. Or the angry crowd that gathered in Jerusalem on the day the bodies were found, changing anti-Arab slogans and demanding unspecified acts of revenge.

    The Jewish people are supposed to be an ohr lagoyim. When did “not as bad as the Palestinians” become our standard?

  9. ben dov says:

    Y. Ben-David, the Judaic perspective is that we are not entirely free of responsibility when a Jew commits a murder. We do not determine another’s behavior but we do influence it. The actions of the murderers cannot be completely isolated from those Jews around them, who in turn are influenced by those Jews around them. You ignore Jonathan Rosenblum’s point about Achan. If you acknowledged it, you would have to admit he is speaking the Torah viewpoint.

  10. Cvmay says:

    Mr. Greenberg

    I would venture to bet that you are NOT a sports fan, settler or right-wing JDL type. Why do I guess that? Since it is most natural to pick behaviors that are as far fetched from our life’s idealogy as possible.

    This is NO EXCUSE for any of the above behaviors / actions rather let’s analyze them. Sport fans are a loud, boorish bunch aided by beer, gambling & furious competitive streak. A minority of course!! Price tag actions in over 50% of the cases were investigated & found that the instigators were Arabs willing to destroy gravestones, vineyards & property of their fellow Arabs. To cause anti- settlement publicity, rouse the ire to attack yishuvim & plain evilness. This can be checked out in the Jaffa Arab cemetery, Galilee Mosque & olive trees uprooted in Shomron – Arabs were guilty in each event. Right wing rally calling for revenge is a heated mantra of right wing ideology.

    YES, an education, leaders branding hateful & hostile rhetoric and the belief that “we” only hold the truth does fan these flames. A frequent & hateful behavior, which I label as “Charedei Price Tag” has conveniently been ignored. Burning dumpsters, blocking streets with garbage & ignited tires, throwing diapers, destroying State property & police/fire fighters’ cars, plus harassment of soldiers & immodest women is a behavior that is learned, FROM WHERE?

    Let us all sanitize and clean up our homes & bring Shalom to Eretz Yisroel.

  11. DF says:

    Deuteronomy 7:7 – לֹא מֵרֻבְּכֶם מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים, חָשַׁק יְהוָה בָּכֶם–וַיִּבְחַר בָּכֶם: כִּי-אַתֶּם הַמְעַט, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים. Rosenblum’s Rule, it would appear.

    There is a lot to be said for small populations. Universities often rank themselves by comparing the teacher/student ratio, with the lowest ratio ranked best. How much more so in the ratio of God to Jews, paradigmatic of a teacher/student relationship! Perhaps God wants a small God/Jew ratio, for the very reasons mentioned in Rosenblum’s post. I would add also that when your numbers are small, you feel much more of a kinship with other members of the group. All Jews are Mishpacha. The same cannot be said of Christians or Muslims, which may be one of the reasons Providence has ordained our numbers to be so much smaller than theirs. On the other hand, the Torah is full of promises that our numbers will be as numerous as the stars and sand, implying that great numbers are something desirable. So one has to carefully analyze the subject.

    [On the commenters saying JR has shown an excessive degree of guilt with what is essentially an isolated act that we still don’t have complete information on – I agree, but what does that have to do with this post here? Was something removed, or did I miss something?]

  12. Zadok says:

    Rosenblum’s Rule: Where Torah Jews are in the majority their attention to issues of Kiddush Hashem declines; when they are in the minority

    It isn’t really their attention to Kiddush & Chilul Hashem as much as the issue that those who grow up in insular communities that make up the majority are less aware of how their behavior is being perceived as wall as what is acceptable in the secular society.

    I’d like to see … a comparative study of the attitudes of those raised in all-chareidi environments to those raised in religiously mixed cities and towns

    As above based on anecdotal evidence I would say the former has the same attitude but less awareness.

  13. lacosta says:

    i wonder whether exposure to hell-and-brimstone preacher types , so common in the eidot hamizrach communities , is somehow related to this unspeakable tragedy that has led to close to 1000 deaths and destroyed the summer economy for israel

  14. yf says:

    I disagree with R’ Rosenblum’s rule. I view the kindergaten example AND THE ENTIRE SUBJECT differently. It is possible that out of town communities do not conduct themselves out of greater refinement and concern for kidush/chilul Hashem, but are more worried about being like their neighbours, less confident, and more influenced by non-Jewish ways, and call this kidush/chilul Hashem. It is not simple to determine this.
    Sometimes 2 people can be doing the exact same thing, yet one is achieving something great, and the other is doing the opposite. Imagine 2 people are physically attacked ch”v and each decides not to respond. One has rachmanus on his attacker, the attacker is a nebech, and he doesn’t respond despite his ability to do so. This is outstanding character. The other backs off out of fear/cowardice. Both appeared to do the same thing. Both were very different.
    The same is true here. Those out of town appear to have better middos, but upon closer inspection, they are fine, upstanding Jews with much to teach us, but those in bigger communities are so used to outstanding qualities so common in frum Jews that they fail to notice them. Here are some examples.
    The boys running out of school are very lively and spirited. Liveliness and spiritedness in children is a double edged sword. It is far more likely in crowded places like Brookyn, Yerusholayim, B’nei Brak etc… that little kids excitedly leaving school will annoy some people. This is not a chilul Hashem. It is a byproduct of lively little kids and successful chinuch. Of course nobody wants to irritate other people, but lively children are bound to do so. The same people who honk, are also losing their minds when stuck behind a school bus. They may be in a rush. It is unfortunate, but you can’t have lively kids without stepping on people’s toes and getting into trouble a little bit. Calling that chilul Hashem is an extreme accusation as it is virtually unavoidable, though we should try to keep it to a minimum. B”H, frum kids in big communities are very lively.
    Many of the other things that irritate people can be viewed similarly.
    The drivers who seem to forget that driving is dangerous and dina d’malchusa applies to the roads, are in a rush because hayom katzeir v’hamelocho merubah. If this is not true consciously, then I have no doubt ruba d’ruba it is true sub-consciously. These Yidden are driven to accomplish. It is highly desirable and essential that we don’t trample over others rights when trying to pursue valuable goals, but naturally, imperfect people sometimes can forget this. Most people who drive respectfully don’t do so out of concern and consideration, but out of a lack of importance in where they are trying to go. Yidden have much to do, it is only natural to try to get there a little faster. It takes more refinement for such a person to drive considerately. Not taking this into account is inconsiderate and distorts one’s analysis.
    Those in smaller communities are more laid back. They are also often less driven. Those who develop the drive will almost always leave to bigger places. Many community kollelim will be unable to satisfy a highly driven individual, b/c the laid back nature of the place undermines his ability to achieve. It is a noble thing to do to join one for a few years, but if one stays long term, it will probably harm him at least to a degree.
    There is much to discuss on this subject. I think what is important, and what I intended was not chas v’shalom to impugn or denigrate those living out of town, but to show it is not a one way street, and wherever one ends up, he is beset with challenges and opportunities. All communities have what to fix, but sometimes we focus on certain shortcomings disproportionately and in this case inaccurately. However, when we see bad in our brethren wherever they may be, we in fact increase chilul Hashem (ch”v), ignore our own challenges, and usually distort the truth by failing to note the complexity of the maater. Most bad qualities in good people come from an imperfect good place. Virtually all frum JEws are good people with varying measures of weakness with a hint of corruption. Thus New York Jews are not unfriendly, they are driven. Kids in Brooklyn are not full of chutzpah, but lively and spirited. Weaknesses are integral to us all and find expression in everything we do. May the Eibishter help us all to do teshuvah, see the ge’ulah shleimah and witness everyone return to Yerusholayim to build the biggest community we’ve ever had.

    One more thing. Speaking harshly about others is usually wrong. However, most who don’t, it is often not due to perfection of character, but lack of ability and commitment to take a stand for something and live according to certain values. Naturally, those whose tongues are not yet refined will say nasty things, but those nasty things will come out not due to insularity, but due to an unrefined tongue. This is true with small communities too. The distinction is not insular large communities vs. small, but a baal midos vs. a non- baal middos. The difference is only in how a nasty tongued person expresses himself. Those from insular communities were raised with stronger values, so they find fault with those who live differently, or badly. But the reason he finds fault is due to having been taught a real derech. The refinement comes with time. The strong values and derech will not.

    I wish the author continued hatzlocho.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    YF wrote above, “I disagree with R’ Rosenblum’s rule. I view the kindergaten example AND THE ENTIRE SUBJECT differently. It is possible that out of town communities do not conduct themselves out of greater refinement and concern for kidush/chilul Hashem, but are more worried about being like their neighbours, less confident, and more influenced by non-Jewish ways, and call this kidush/chilul Hashem. It is not simple to determine this.”

    Let’s look at this more closely. Does YF suppose that good manners (including safe driving) are characteristic more of gentiles than of Jews, so that our manifestations of really good manners are to imitate or impress gentiles? This would appear to be a slander on the true Jewish hashkafah! Even if the good manners of some people are superficial, that doesn’t mean these manners can only be superficial. A Jew’s good manners should be emblematic of a deep love for others.

  16. yf says:

    I apologize for not having made my point more clearly.
    I don’t believe anyone is being superficial, and if and when we are superficial, is not my concern. I did not come to address this, as there is nothing wrong necessarily with superficiality, and in fact it may be a necessary prerequisite for sincere service of Hashem. My point is when you see Jews doing things that appear wrong, a careful analysis of the situation will immediately reveal that what you thought was wrong was only superficial, and indeed it resulted from a nisayon/challenge that is in fact far more difficult than originally perceived. This is perhaps why Chazal warn us not to judge others until we have arrived at their place.
    Thus inconsiderate driving is wrong. It is usually wrong to be inconsiderate of others. However, the measure of wrongness is not a function of the inconsiderate act that was done. If a Hatzolo driver was unnecessarily inconsiderate of other people on the road, reasonable would agree it is justified under the circumstances, though ideally should be avoided. Thus the way to measure wrongness is purely a result of the sense of urgency felt by the culprit, something most people are not equipped to do. So if there is a place where the sense of urgency is higher, the direct result will be more rushing, which will manifest itself on the roads and in other contexts as well. In our community, it will manifest itself positively too. So if it is not like this elsewhere, it is likely they don’t feel the sense of urgency/intensity that is felt by the “less considerate” group. This could be positive and it could be negative, but that this is true is hard to debate. I am claiming it is positive. The sense that I need to do, I need to accomplish etc…, is a valuable thing and is the drive that produces most outstanding achievements.
    So when we look at it a little more closely, we see that good manners is certainly a wonderful thing. Great manners unchallenged is also valuable. Challenged decent manners are far greater, because the source of the challenge is also the source of outstanding achievements in other areas,including learning, gemilus chassodim, and in general far higher standards in many areas both bein adam lamakom and lachaveiro.
    Now I’m not suggesting every driver rushing to go chaap another Tosfos or visit an extra old and lonely person, but the culture is one of greater intensity and urgency and as a result, people will accomplish more, but it will also produce challenges and mistakes in other areas. In , whatever do, there is always a trade-off.

  17. yf says:

    “Let’s look at this more closely. Does YF suppose that good manners (including safe driving) are characteristic more of gentiles than of Jews, so that our manifestations of really good manners are to imitate or impress gentiles? This would appear to be a slander on the true Jewish hashkafah! Even if the good manners of some people are superficial, that doesn’t mean these manners can only be superficial. A Jew’s good manners should be emblematic of a deep love for others.”

    Also, your whole assumption is faulty.
    A Jews good manners should be emblematic of deep love.
    It is tragically ironic that with our loved ones, whom we genuinely love, and respect, manners are perhaps one of the biggest challenges.
    Moreover, manners in general are superficial and generally don’t convey regard for others, but as indicated by familial relationships, are in fact not a result of love, but coldness and distance. So it is easier for gentiles to be more well mannered, as they are all very distant, there is no actual relationship.
    Jews are the opposite. Even with members of our nation with whom we have little or nothing to do, we have a relationship, and it is more informal, because the coldness is less.
    This is why in my brothers house, I’ll be comfortable to stick my feet up on his couch, but in a stranger’s house I won’t. It is not due to the greater regard and deeper love for the stranger, but due to my own discomfort. However, sometimes it is inappropriate to do this even at my brother’s house, and he’ll let me know what to do, probably not in the nicest way either. The reason for this impolite exchange is not due to a lack of love or even lack of respect, but due to the fact that it is two people in need of much middos improvement, which can only manifest themselves in that way due to the deep comfort and appreciation that brothers in a healthy relationship have with one another.
    This deep sense of comfort being surrounded by other JEws could also make people forget about others, which is wrong, but it is a byproduct of the tremendousy good situaion of being among other Jews.

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