Sunday, June 27, 2010

Emanuel Redux

My primal reaction to the events in Emanuel produced a lot of comments, and I am greatful to everyone for their observations and insights. I've not posted further on the subject, because I am also not a little confused by it all. Looking things over from a different side of the ocean, it really is a very complex, nuanced situation. Based, in part, on the incisive observations of my readers I've come to the following, developing, conclusions.

1) In stark contrast to the RZ/MO world, the Ashkenazi Haredi world suffers from serious anti-Sephardic bias, which borders on (and frequently crosses) the line of racism. It is an open secret that Ashkenazi Haredi (AH) institutions discriminate against Sephardic students. There are quotas for them in yeshivot ans seminaries. (The סמינר הישן in Jerusalem is just one example.) Sephardic Shiddukhim are shunned, leading to desperate efforts by them to 'pass.' They change their names, dress, family customs...whatever it takes to make it, according to the benchmark set by the AH community. I suspect (and I confess that I don't know) that some of the Sephardim who were against integrating the school in Emanuel fall into that category.

2) There is, as a number of the comments noted, another side of the story. The parents in Emanuel, who were today released from jail, claim that the problem may be found in the inappropriate level of religious observance and comportment among the girls in question. In other words, the parents want an elite, tribally and religio-culturally homogenous school environment wherein they can shelter their children from baleful influences.

Personally, I have a real problem with that kind of elitism. What happened to kiruv? What happened to Ahavat Yisrael? What happened to Torah is for everyone? On the other hand, isn't there a fundamental right of association and lack of association? [Here, the fact that the school in question receives government funds may be a moderating factor.] From this vantage point, as much as I find the behavior of the Slonimer Hasidim (and the loathsome apparatchiks of the Yahadut ha-Torah party) repulsive, there is definitely a civil liberties issue here that got lost in all of the screaming.

3) Hypocrisy cuts both ways. Many of the same fur-clad righteous (צדיקים אין פעלץ) who blasted the racism in Emanuel grew up and send their children to schools that are no less elitist, no less supercillious and no less obnoxious than those against which they took aim.

4) The Supreme Court, once again, is the villain here trying to be the dictator populae. OK, so they want integration in the school. Why do it in Une, when there are a mere three weeks left to the school year? They sit on cases for years without a verdict. Here, though, they send people to jail when there was absolutely nothing to be done. Why not issue an inunction that eveything has to be resolved by Rosh Hodesh Elul, and avoid ripping the country apart? The only reasonable explanation is that they wanted to flex their muscles and stick it to the Haredim in Emanuel, who are the flotsam and jetsam of the Haredi world, as it is. (This was a point made to me by Ben Chorin, though I don't agree with every aspect of his take.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Could Just Scream

I honestly, honestly don't know what to say about the Haredi uprising against the Supreme Court ruling integrating the Immanuel Bais Yaakov.

I want to scream. How low can they go? How disgusting can they be? These people are preaching racism in the name of the Torah. Where the hell do they come off?

And just how Uncle Tommy can Shas be? They were elected to defend the honor of Sephardic Jewry. So they sit there and take obscene abuse from their Ashkenazi handlers, and aid and abet a Hillul HaShem.

And all that is going on while Iran is sending a flotilla to start God knows what...

Yup. Sometimes, all you can do is scream....

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Critique of Pure Reason: Thoughts on Parshat Korach

One of Rav Soloveitchik's זצ"ל most famous drashot is called 'The "Common-Sense" Rebellion Against Torah Authority,' and deals with the Rebellion of Korah (Num. 16, 1-40). In that drasha, the Rav characterized Korah as a populist who sought to undermine Moses' authority through an appeal to 'Common Sense.' [The recording is here and here; a abridged summary is here. Quotations are from the latter.]

'proclaimed that all reasonable people have the right to interpret Jewish law according to their best understanding: "For all the community are holy" (Num. 16: 3). In down-to-earth logic, the lowliest woodcutter is the equal of Moses. This appeal to populism evokes considerable support because it promises freedom from centralized authority; it flatters the people's common intelligence and it approves the right of each Jew or group of Jews to follow their own individual judgment.'

It was not, however, only cheap populism which lay behind Korah's revolt. Indeed, that was not the source of the Rav's ire, either. He objected to the idea that Judaism could be reduced to religious subjectivism.

Korah argued, using the mitzvahof tzitzitas an illustration of his point of view, that the
blue thread of the tzitzit was meant to make us think of distant horizons, of infinity, and of the mysterious link between the blue sea and the blue sky. The mezuzah, he argued, is intended to increase our awareness of God and to invoke His protection over our homes. Why, then, is it necessary to limit this symbolism to one thread or to the doorpost? Why not extend it to the whole garment and to the entire house? If blue, in the case of tzitzit, is able to evoke feelings of Godliness, then total blueness of the garment should certainly be able to do so. The same reasoning applies to the mezuzah.The mitzvahis thus reduced to the level of an inspirational means and not an end in itself. From the standpoint of religious subjectivism and common sense, Korah's argument seems quite cogent.

Friday, June 04, 2010

We Conned the World

I've been flooded all week with ideas, emotions and indignation in the wake of the lynch perpetrated by the world on Israel. Adrenaline usually gets me writing. Too much adrenaline, however, appears to paralyze.

So, Erev Shabbat, as Israel battles back (for once) against the evil insanity of Islamofascism and its Western useful idiots (especially the Israeli version), I decided that the best summary is this brilliant video that has taken the blogosphere by storm.