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The Pierced Teen and I "A"
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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11/27/06

The Pierced Teen and I

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

I hardly ever sleep on airplanes. So after an eleven-hour Thursday night flight to Eretz Yisroel, I arrived Friday noontime, jet lagged and exhausted.

I came to spend Shabbos with my daughter, who is studying in a seminary in Yerushalayim. Together we walked through the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter and enjoyed a beautiful, spiritual Kabbolas Shabbos at the Kosel. After the conclusion of the tefilos, we returned to our hotel, which was almost exclusively occupied by Shabbos observant guests, for the evening seudah (meal). I ate rather quickly and was in my hotel room getting some much-needed sleep by seven o’clock. By midnight, I awoke, already having had a full night’s sleep. I quietly left the room and made my way down to the lobby with a sefer, some reading material, and an assortment of roasted nuts that my daughter had purchased for me.

Sitting in the deserted hotel lobby, I looked up and noticed a teenage young man sauntering through the lobby. He was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, sporting a spiked, Israeli-version- of-a ‘mushroom’ haircut and several body-piercing ornaments. Not your average yeshiva bachur.

I smiled in his direction, wished him Shabbat Shalom, and turned the bags of nuts in his direction as if to invite him to partake in them. He was a bit taken aback at my offer and asked me if I was sincere. When I assured him that I was, he sat down and eagerly made a significant dent in my supplies. Several minutes later, a few of his friends entered the lobby and he invited them over to join us.

Some picture that was – four secular teens and a chassidic, forty-something rabbi chatting in a hotel lobby over a growing pile of garinim shells. Once they found out that I was a school principal, we engaged in a lively discussion about their school life and I fielded seemingly endless questions about the yeshiva where I serve as Menahel.

It was fascinating for me to observe how they warmed up to me as time passed. In fact, one by one they began referring to me respectfully, in the third person. Then, suddenly it got quiet for a moment or two. The young man who was the first to sit down wanted to know if he could ask me a question. “Betach”, (sure) I responded.

Two in a Row

His eyes locked in on mine with a mixture of hostility and genuine curiosity. “Why are there no charedim like you (who are friendly and accepting) in Israel?” he asked me. I responded that there are thousands like me – but that he had simply never met any of them. I asked him if he ever had a Shabbat meal in a charedi home and encouraged him to try that experience – with an open mind. I even offered to set him up with one of many families who would be glad to have him over.

Then his friends joined in. “But why do they (charedim) hate us and throw stones at us?” they wanted to know. I told them that they should not believe the stereotypes about charedim that they have been reading in the papers. I informed them that only a tiny, vocal percentage of our community engages in this type of behavior. I politely but firmly pressed my point. I said that I have had insults and abuse showered on me over the years by individual secular Israelis as I walked the streets of Yerushalayim dressed in my shtrimel, but that I never assumed that any of the four of them were of that mindset.

Like boxers circling each other in the ring, we weaved and bobbed around the issues they raised for a few more minutes until we parted company courteously and respectfully.

I was so deeply disturbed by the conversation that I found it hard to concentrate on my sefer after the kids left the hotel lobby. I got up to stretch my legs and walked around the lobby for a few moments. If round one wasn’t unpleasant enough, I got my second dose a few moments later. As I was walking to the rear part of the lobby, there was a secular woman finishing up a phone call on one of the hotel’s pay phones. I greeted her with a polite Shabbat Shalom. Her response was visceral and harsh. “Aren’t you angry that I am speaking on the phone during Shabbat?” she asked me angrily.

In my barely-passable Ivrit, I responded that anger was certainly not an emotion that came to my mind when I saw her on the phone. Saddened or upset perhaps, but angry? Why would I be angry?

Family Breakdown

I thoroughly enjoy every part of my visits to Eretz Yisroel. The kedusha (holiness), the predawn walks to the kosel for Vasikin minyan (sunrise-time prayer services), and perhaps most of all, watching my adult children progressively grow attached to the holy stones of Artzeinu Hakedosha. But increasingly so, each of my trips to Eretz Yisroel leaves me feeling more and more troubled by the growing harshness and hostility between the secular and religious Jews. Its almost like we are a behaving like a terribly dysfunctional family.

There is certainly more than enough blame to be placed on the leadership (and many individuals) of the secular community. I have been scanning two Israeli papers every day since the intefada started five years ago, and the outrageous, inflammatory, anti-charedi comments are simply horrific and are so far beyond the pale of civilized discourse. I assume that the left wing, secular leadership of Shinui and Meretz will not be reading these lines. But if they would, I would tell them to search their souls and realize that they are depriving their children of the spiritual oxygen needed to sustain Jewish continuity by denigrating us so badly and repeatedly.

Having said that, don’t we, too, need to undergo a cheshbon hanefesh? Whose insane idea was the rock throwing anyway? Step back and think about it. Two generations of young charedi men threw rocks to impress secular Jews about the kedusha of Shabbos or to enforce its observance? Why in the world did we ever allow a fringe element to frame this debate and why did we not forcefully and repeatedly distance ourselves from the violent actions of those who shamed us so? I am not discussing the somber and proper expressions of public and respectful protest at the pain of public chillul Shabbos sanctioned by our Gedolim. We are discussing the lawlessness and desecration of Hashem’s name that took place in the guise of promoting Shabbos observance.

Chazal say that it takes forty years to fully understand events that take place. Let’s subject this issue of the rock throwing ‘hafganos’ (protests) that have taken place on and off over the past forty years to the harsh light of cost-benefit analysis. What did it accomplish? Close a few roads on Shabbos? Is that such a significant victory? Tens of thousands of Yidden have beautiful Shabbosos in America with cars driving all around them, albeit mostly driven by gentiles, which changes the dynamics of our response. However, I have a secular Jew living down the block in my hometown of Monsey. He drives and washes his car on Shabbos. My wife and I greet him with a cordial Gut Shabbos when we pass his home. Each time, he responds with the same salutation – uttered with the utmost derech eretz. And even if the closing of streets in charedi neighborhoods was one in the win column; at what price was the victory?

Of Rioting and Cuts

A.M. Rosenthal wrote a prophetic op-ed piece in the New York Times nearly fifteen years ago, following the horrific Los Angeles race riots. He commented that after the riots of the inner city minorities ran its course, he predicted that in the following months and years, the upper class whites in the country would riot the way they always have rioted. They will abandon the cities and move to the suburbs, he wrote, and they will vote Republican and shred the social services network. Sure enough, in 1994, two years later, Newt Gingrich was propelled to power and his “Contract with America” started a decade-long attack on funding for social programs. And shortly thereafter, President Bill Clinton announced that he would, “End welfare as we know it.”

I conducted parenting classes in different Torah communities in three of the five evenings that I spent in Eretz Yisroel on this past trip. Fielding questions from hundreds of people in an open forum for two hours and taking private request for eitzos gives the presenter (me) a very accurate read regarding the challenges that communities face. I can tell you firsthand that our valiant avreichim and their families are suffering terribly from the draconian ‘triple-whammy’ cuts of the past few years. Simultaneously, child subsidies have been slashed, yeshiva funding cut back and all sorts of regulations on religious schools are now in place – compounding the strain on these mosdos haTorah.

Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if the recent, painful budget cuts brought about in part by the stunning ascendancy of Tommy Lapid and the Shinui party – the rioting of the secular Jews – was even in a small part caused by the self-imposed collective black eye that we suffered as a result of the aggressive actions of some members of our community? We cannot avoid these implications for our future. Just because Tommy bungled his mandate and is slipping from power does not mean that the forces that propelled him there have abated.

A Hopeful Sign

I had the most wonderful five days in Eretz Yisroel, and thoroughly enjoyed the precious time that I spent with my daughter. But the events of Friday night cast a pall over my mood and thoughts as I replayed them in my mind’s eye again and again.

Until Sunday morning.

It was about seven o’clock in the morning – after the vasikin (sunrise) prayers in the Kosel plaza. I was reciting tehilim after davening when I observed a scene unfolding right before me. Several secular Israeli teenagers had just arrived at the Kosel. They were dressed similarly to the young men that I had spoke to in the hotel lobby thirty-six hours earlier. Clutching paper yarmulkes to their heads, they kissed the holy stones of the wall and stood there in silence for a few moments. As they turned to leave, one teen in the group approached an elderly Sephardi bearded Jew and asked him for a blessing. The boy bowed his head while the rabbi blessed him with feeling and vigor. His peers followed the lead of the first teen and received similar blessings. Those who were in close proximity to the rabbi watched this beautiful exchange with pride and nachas. But I suspect it was more meaningful to me than the others – in light of my Friday night experience.

The boys turned to leave and I went back to my tehilim. I lifted my head again when the elderly rabbi loudly called the boys back to where he was sitting. He hugged the boys one at a time and warmly kissed each of them on both cheeks. He then placed his hands on their foreheads and emotionally exclaimed in Ivrit that Hashem should bless them and that all their actions should be met with unending success. They kissed his hand and walked away visibly touched.

My eyes began to blur as I thanked Hashem for restoring my faith that future generations of His children will interact similarly with each other – with tolerance and true ahavas Yisroel.

© 2005 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved



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1. We Have To Start At The Top     1/25/07 - 11:45 AM
Chaim

We in the frum world have been blasted with chumros and takanos in the "Bain Adam LaMakom" world over the last several years. "No TV"; "No Internet"; "Ban this or that book";, etc, etc. And, in the world of what I'll call "bain Frum l'Frum", we've also had our campaigns - "Shmiras Halashon", "T'znius", and the like. But, IMO, one problem still prevails. In the yeshivos and in our homes, our rabbis and our parents, consciously or unconsciously teach us that because we are frum (supposedly Torah Observant) and the secular aren't, that we're 'better' than they are. This type of teaching, coupled with the "they are dangerous to our way of life because of their lifestyle", gives us all the ammunition we need to justify our treatment of them.

We as Torah-observant Jews should know better. I recall a gemorah where one of the Sages went through a market place with, I believe it was Eliyahu Hanavi, and was told that everyone who thw Sage believed was destined for Olam Habaah was really not while everyone he thought was heading to the other place was actually going to end up quite well. In short, we have no idea how the Final Judgement is going to end up. Personally, I can't believe that Hashem would put a holy Neshamah into some person, then plop him down in the middle of, say, Nebraska, where the nearest Jew is hundreds of miles away and this person has no access to Torah, and then judge him for not learning or keeping Shabbos. That is not, in my opinion, the act of a Loving, Merciful Father. So, in our homes and in our Yeshivas, we must teach Ahavas Yisrael, specifically of these types of secular people, with perhaps the same forcefulness as we teach the various laws of Kashrus, T'znius, and Shabbos. "They hate us, we must return that hate" is long past. We think we're better? Let's start acting it. The secular hate us? Show him love anyway. They do all these bad things to us? Show him a warm smile anyway - much like you did in your story, Rabbi Horowitz. Perhaps, that should be the new takana. Make them ashamed for how they treat us by showing that we'll treat them nice anyway. Of course it will be difficult but hey, our current way of thinking is a product of decades or more. It may take an equal amount of time to undo it. But, if Ahavas Yisrael is a mitzvah, from which side - ours or theirs - is it more likely to come?


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2. Finally!     1/25/07 - 11:47 AM
Tova

Finally someone is taking responsibility! Finally someone is saying that WE have to do something instead of blaiming secular Jews!

I lived in Israel for 11 years, I studied in Bar-Ilan (which is considered religious university) for 4 years, not even ONCE I was invited for Shabbos. I came to Israel from Russia and I knew NOTHING about Yiddishkeit.

Only when I met my husband to be (who was already observant & he was from the US)he showed me the other side of Yiddishkeit, something other than disperaging secular people and looking down on the them.

I had quite a few very negative experiences with charedi people even when I was already on my way of becoming ba'alat-tshuva.

When we came to the US I saw that frum people here are more open-minded and non-judjemental and I became completely frum in a YEAR.

What can we do? What we do is we open our Shabbos table to everybody and show the beauty of this life style, the beauty of Shabbos, the beauty of having a family and values. We started having people over for 3 years and already few of our Shabbos guests became fully observant, one man became partially observant at the age of 60! and we even had over one intermarried couple (wife's father was Jewish and mother wasn't), the wife went through proper giyur and now they are fully observant Orthodox family.

What can we do? Open our homes, be nice to secular people, not to judge them, and definetly not to throw rock at them (that wouldn't make ME observant). Give them small gifts - like Shabbos candles, call them to inquire how they're doing, many of them won't call you even if you tell them to, they'll feel uncomfortable to "bother" you, but most of them are VERY VERY lonely and will appreciate your attention.

There are many things we can do, but the most important thing we can do is to be united, to be a FAMILY. When we were in Eretz Israel, my husband went to daven at the Kotel, he was looking for a minyan and one old man was calling out loudly to men to join few of them trying to get the 10. My husband asked what kind of a minyan it is - ashkenazi, sefardi etc. And the old man responded - YEHUDI.

That's what WE should do. Not to look for differences between us but for what unites us; and what unites us is that we are all one people - AM YEHUDI.


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3. Fear is the cause of much hate     1/25/07 - 1:19 PM
Anonymous

Why do the non-religious hate the religious. Why do some Charaidim throw rocks at, and hate the non-religious. The answer in both cases is fear of the unknown. Ask someone in Benai Brak, when the last time was that he spoke to somebody outside of his community. The answer is probably never. Ask someone in Tel-Aviv on the beach on Shabbos, when the last time he sat down at a Shabbos meal was, or when the last time he was in Shul. The best you will get is probably at a Bar or Bat mitzvah. Since it always has been the job of the religious to educate the non-religious, perhaps it is time we left our sheltered environments, and spread the word. Does anyone really think that marching in protest, or throwing rocks, will convince even one person to explore his religious beliefs. If we are really convinced of our faith, that we will not be afraid to go out into the world, and show the nonbelievers what we are all about. How do you bring people back to religion if the only interaction that have with religious people is ducking rocks. Unfortunately I was reminded of this reently, when I watched an interview of the daughter of the new speaker of the house in the US, Nancy Pelosi. She is the ultimate liberal, and comes from California. Her daughter, who holds many of her opinions, decided that she never met an Evangelical Christian. She then spent the next few months in the "Red" states, and wrote a book about somebody from a "Blue" state exploring the "Red" states. She was completely blown away, discovering that there may be 80 million of "them", but they come in all flavors and sizes, and they are not all conservative. In other words, she tried to eliminae the fear factor, and actually met with and lived with them to really understand what makes them tick. What a novel idea. What would happen if every family in Benai Brak invited someone from Elat or Tel-Aviv for Shabbos.


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4. E. Yisrael is not America     1/25/07 - 2:59 PM
dina

Your column is very true and very sensitive, but alas, I think that the difference between our two cultures is so vast and we cannot appreciate the historical animosities. So I wonder if we really can do anything as Americans to breach the divide there which doesn't originate with the Israeli gedolim. This column and your request for suggestions reminds me of a comment on the Cross Currents blog which addressed the issue of the Israeli gedolim nixing an educational program for chareidi women which seemed kosher by American standards. The conclusion was that we just cannot understand each other. Here is the comment: #"

Nearly two decades ago, I had the opportunity to be part of the creation of a new post high school seminary in Israel. I was working in a Bais Yaakov style school and found that many of our graduates were frustrated by a system that gave no option other than a career in education and instead of continuing on in Bais Yaakov style seminaries were enrolling in either the Michlalah or universities. Our plan was to offer the talmidot an alternative to teaching as a career and thanks to the assistance of a number of askanim in the USA, we were able to develop a program whereby the students would receive training and degrees in the paramedical fields including physical, speech and occupational therapies. The entire program was to be under the supervision of Tel Aviv University who agreed that all teachers would be shomrei shabbat professionals and that all clinics would be held at Laniado Hospital. This was truly a groundbreaking effort and we thought that we had all of the pieces necessary to make it work. As educational head of the project I realized that we needed to attract Bais Yaakov graduates as well, if only to insure that we had the numbers to make the project viable. It was obvious, however, that as much as the girls might have wanted to enroll, their families would never allow them to do so unless we could prove that we had the acquiescence – or at least a promise of silence – from Rav Shach and from Rav Chaim Grainerman. Rav Shach opposed the program and told me that I could not train the girls in any profession if they could use that training to work in a irreligious environment. The only possibility of giving the girls this proposed opportunity was to a]open a facility in which they could work and b]not give them sufficient training to allow them to be licensed. Rav Chaim gave me a very long audience – close to 90 minutes which those who have been in his house will tell you is a significant period of time. He heard my arguments, what I proposed, why I felt it critical that the project be started and then said to me: “Landesman, you’re an American and you will never understand.” I had been in Israel for seventeen years at that point, had learned in Israeli yeshivot and lived in an Israeli community in the North rather than in a Yerushalmi equivalent of Boro Park and Rav Chaim was 100%. Twenty years later I can say that I still don’t understand.

Comment by dovid landesman — January 11, 2007 @ 7:33 pm


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5. Leadership starts at the top.     1/25/07 - 6:19 PM
Yanky (the other one) - Monsey

I briefly read your article and the various comments. My perspective is somewhat different as I also lived in Israel and ran a few businesses and was involved in a few organizations. My son and daughter live in Israel today and both run organizations. I had excellent relationships with the full spectrum of Israelies and still maintain those relationships.

A (secular)relative of mine that lives in the north, who runs a very successful hi-tech business, commented to me "Yacov, before I met you I never knew a Charedi". He was born in Jerusalem and lives in Israel!

There are many well articulated issues that polarize us, i.e. army service, elections, Govt funding, etc.

Then there are underlying issues that are really an Israeli culture issue and plays itself out between secular and religious, sephardi-askenazi, labor-likud, and the list goes on and on.

I have a close friend, Rav Elimelech Firer who runs one of the most admired and respected charity organizations in Israel (and abroad) called Ezra Lemarpeh (Helping to heal). He has won numerous prizes, i.e. The Israel Prize and 2 honorary doctorates, one from The Weizmann Institute. He has appeared on TV, has been interviewed widely in the Israeli press and recently Eitan Werthiemer of Iscar fame (Warren Buffet bought his company for 4 BILLION DOLLARS!) said that "Meilech Firer" is one of his close friends.

Another great Rav and Askan is Harav Yitzchok D Grossman of Migdal Haemek. If someone wants to experience Kiruv at its best, go visit Migdal Haemek. It was once known as the "Ir Hapesha" (City of crime). Today it's a model of coexistince without it having to forgo one iota of yiddishkiet. There are many many more.

So, what can be done. For one, It would behoove us to bring together those that have broken down the "wall" and have bridged the gap, to work with the leadership of both sides and take steps to find the things that bring us together and not the things that tear us apart. We all have common issues, i.e. Education, poverty, jobs, kids at risk, etc.

The Army issue. A few years ago, I personally spoke to people close to the Army and one of the solutions that was well accepted was to train "charediem" in computer software specifically for the defense industry. They would work uder the DOD for 3 years and it would be considered army service.

I spoke to askanim and gedolim (chasidiche) and they believed that it could be worked out. I also approached people on the political level and they also believed it could be worked out.

BTW, the person that wrote about the "fear" of us speaking to "them", should note that it exists the other way around. They also "fear" us and when you do break down the barrier the fear dissipates.

There was supposed to be a bi-partisan media board that would review any inflamatory articles and have disciplinary powers. Those are some of the things I know about, I'm sure that there are many many more.

I just want to add a well known joke about Israeli drivers that really encompasses the culture. What is an Israeli driver? It's the one that will run you off the road but stop to take you to the hospital!


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6.     1/25/07 - 6:31 PM
Yakov Horowitz

To: The other Yanky (I like the ring of that)

I read a great quote from Rabbi Berel Wein years ago. He wrote that, "When we closed off B'nei Braq [from cars on Shabbat], we closed out Tel Aviv."

The truth is that there is little if no interaction between many charedim and secular Jews nowadays.

When I learned in Mir Yeshiva nearly thirty years ago, there was far more interaction than now. The two homes that I regularly visited on Shabbos -- in the heart of Mea Shearim -- had secular Jews living in their yards.

YH


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7. Maybe we should change our hat?     1/25/07 - 9:22 PM
Elliot Pasik, Esq. - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

I live in a suburban New York community. I wear a standard, yeshivish black hat on Shabbos, but to the slightest degree, I feel (1) the black hat gives me an aloof, standoffish, and piously snobbish attitude to my neighbors that I do not wish to convey, and (2) again to the slightest degree, I am conveying sheker, by wearing a rabbi's garb.

Recently, I bought a grey hat, with a black band. I now sometimes wear it on Shabbos, and I feel much more comfortable. I feel I am conveying an image of who I actually am - a friendly baal ha'bos, who wears attire that blends into the neighborhood.

The practice of publicly wearing tallisim on the street has been criticized by many, and I agree, it is not right. It is disruptive.

Years ago, many great Jews did not wear the black hats that we all do now. The old photographs are there for all to see.

Real change sometimes has small beginnings.


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8. Pierced Teens and We the People     1/26/07 - 2:10 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

Regarding the specific issue in the “Pierced Teens and I” article, I thought that is was refreshing to see communal chesbon hanefesh, and I feel that it should be done more often. I am not talking about introspection regarding things like kashrus or lashon hara, but issue such as this one where the problem is with a perceived frumkeit such as protesting chilul shabbos, or more recently, the parades in Yerushalayim.

I agree with Rabbi Spolter that there are beautiful people within the charedi community. Having been a victim of this type of stereotyping myself, I love seeing it shattered, and like Rabbi Spolter writes , I have friends in Lakewood, or in Israeli Kolleilm who certainly abhor such conduct.

Elliot Pasik touches on the issue of people’s perception of charedi garb. While in my own life, I don’t treat wearing a black hat as yehoreig val yaavor, I would also note I have met Chasidim who are simply wonderful people, but some would not know that, without seeing beyond the preconceptions relating to a particular mode of dress.

Nevertheless, I do not agree that “your call for introspection on the part of the charedim is, in my opinion, equally out of place”. Dovid Hamelech’s sin was forgiven(unlike Shaul), according to the Malbim, because he responded to Nosson Hanivi immediately by admitting his guilt. Just like as individuals, we are taught to follow Dovid’s example of Teshuvah and not to rationalize, neither should we do it on the communual level.

At the same time, the charedi community certainly has strong points, and the strengths are the means of correcting the weaknesses. As Rav Yisrael Salanter said, worse than not knowing one’s faults is failure to recognize strengths.


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9. Pierced Teens and We the People(Cont.)     1/26/07 - 2:18 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

More generally, Rabbi Horowitz wrote in the e-mail, "Do you have any thoughts on what “we the people” can do to improve things?". I do have some questions which perhaps deserve a separate column by Rabbi Horowitz and/or should be brought to our Torah leaders and/or communal organizations.

I think that one can expand the question to what is the role of “we the people” in the Torah world? Is there a concept of a chareidi “think tank” by the grass roots? On the one hand, we are taught to follow, not to dictate to our leaders(as Rav Y. Salanter explained “ pnei hador k’pnei h’akelev"). Nevertheless, I think that the Torah world needs to create some type of discussion forum. The benefits are chizuk/support, catharsis, brain-storming, and communication with leadership(see below).

I have been following blogs for about two years now, and I am aware of some discontent amongst both people within and without the Yeshivah world. It might have to with what Chaim, above, posted about the perception of being "blasted with chumros and takanos in the "Bain Adam LaMakom" world over the last several years". However, the discontent might always have been there, and the internet just brought these voices to fore.

It is easy to deflect the issue by pointing to the disrespect and anger on the blogs, but if I were a leader, I would take notes of the comments. There are many who don’t identify with the charedi world, but who who are sincere and have similar Torah values. From the other side, there are bloggers who live in and identify as part of the yeshiva world, but have complaints, or just are a drop more individualistic.

I am wondering if Rabbi Horowitz has any ideas on how to integrate these people into the community. Perhaps, again, this should be brought up with gedolim and with our organizations on how to engage this "community within a community", which I call “adults at risk”. I have yet to see anyone address this issue.


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10. Pierced Teens and We the People(Cont.)     1/26/07 - 2:44 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

I heard a radio interview with Hella Winston, who refered to passionate internet postings by formerly Chassidic bachurim. She said it’s poignant that, in essence, they are trying to tell their community and their leaders about what’s on their mind, but no one appears to be listening, because in her words, they are too busy trying to ban the internet. Whether she is fair or not in her assessment of the situation in both that statement and in her book, her point about the poignancy is worthy of consideration.

As reported in the Jewish Press, there is an effort to institute takkanos for home usage of the internet in Brooklyn. If this is done, there needs to be some way, perhaps through e-mail groups, to address the vacuums which blogs seek to and do fulfill. As a letter-writer in last week’s Hamishpocha wrote, the well-meaning editors of charedi media often have their hands full trying to make their publications "acceptable" to the more extreme elements.

For example, when I read the JO, I appreciated Rabbi Horowitz’s “Pierced Teen and I ” article which gives an honest look at the Israeli situation. Yet, many feel that more real and thorough discussions need to take place. Some people do not have this need and are not so concerned about abuse or other issues. I, however, am one of those who feel a need for real, thorough discussions.

Besides the few occasions when I have spoken to certain Rabbonim in the Yeshivah world, I have learned to satisfy my need by blogging, reading non-Charedi publications with Torah values, or listening to shiurim of talmedie chachamim and other leaders, who while have strong Torah values, are slightly outside the Yeshivah world. I think that others do the same, and while I don’t think it’s so terrible in of itself, I wonder if someone born and raised in the Yeshivah community should even feel a need to go outside the system.

To borrow Rabbi Horowitz’s analogy of a business exit interview, a business needs to communicate or project that it is concerned about the needs of all of its customers. There needs to be an attempt to understand people’s concerns. Sometimes, nothing can be done about an issue, because the issue may be considered very fundamental, such as a particular approach touching on ikkerie emunah. But often there can be change, because the issue is one of communal habit and inertia, rather than involving a core principle. And even if nothing can be done immediately, communication is healthy, and it takes away misunderstanding on both sides.


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11. article in Nov. 2006 Jewish Observer     1/26/07 - 10:30 AM
YH (me too)

Anybody read the article in the Nov. issue of the J.O. called, "Reaching the jewish soul with nefesh yehudi"?

In a long and moving article, the author describes a program in which secular Israeli university students are paid a stipend to learn about Judaism. She has some amazing stories and descriptions of how the stereotypes are shattered. She says they need chareidim to learn with these students and they have a program which prepares chareidim to handle the questions etc.

There are Partners in Torah type programs - are chareidim interested? Seems not enough are available.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe urged outreach many decades ago and was laughed at. Now others are joining the bandwagon. Finally. Putting tefillin on with people, giving out candles for Shabbos. Going from mockery to imitation. The Litvishe leadership instills the goal of "ani es atzmi hitzalti." Shteig and become a gadol. Support your husband's shteiging. Leave Gemara to reach out to another Jew?! What about "talmud torah k'neged kulam" and my seat in Olam Haba?

Pnei ha'dor k'pnei ha'kelev indeed. Time and again I read in comments to Rabbi Horowitz's articles that we need to get the leaders to do something. What a busha. And the articles themselves either say the same thing or they say we've got to do something - waddaya think, any ideas?

Any leadership out there?

Someone once told a Lubavitcher to tell his Rebbe such-and-such. The Lubavitcher replied - you tell your leaders what to do. In Lubavitch, our Rebbe tells us what to do.


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12. Pnei Hador     1/26/07 - 10:55 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"Anybody read the article in the Nov. issue of the J.O. called, "Reaching the jewish soul with nefesh yehudi"? "

I read it; I thought the program sounded similar to the Ayelet Hashachar program Jonathan Rosenblum wrote about in Cross Currents and in Hamishpocha.

When I mentioned pnei hador etc. I meant that notwithstanding that I think that the leadership on different levels needs to be more in touch with the grassroots and that there should be two-way communication, ultimately, it should not turn out to be that the grass-roots dictates policy.

As far as what is actually currently done until now, I don't know if it's all the fault of the leaders. There is no point in making a gezirah that the tzibbur will not follow. Regarding wedding takanos,for example, gedolim first had to make sure that people would be willing to go along with them. Both the leaders and the followers are not the same as the previous generations, but that's not a problem in of itself--ein lach leilech ela eitzel shofeit s'hbyamev.


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13. We the people are the leaders     1/26/07 - 12:51 PM
Elliot Pasik, Esq. - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

Interesting famous phrase in Rabbi Horowitz's column - "We the people", the opening words of the Constitution of the United States of America, the world's oldest modern democracy.

What we're seeing lately, particularly with the advent of blogs, is the democratization of the American orthodox Jewish community. Pres. Bush advocates the spread of democracy all over the world, and we see it happening in our community, whether we realize it or not.

There is a pasuk: klal Yisroel is a goy kadosh, mamleches kohanim, a holy nation, a government of priests. Rashi comments, This means we are leaders.

I submit there are times when we do need to ask our designated leaders for change, ask advice for change, and discuss change, and there are also times that "We the people.." need to act as the leaders that we all are. Each of has a neshoma from Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who acts in this world through us, the am bechira.

These are one man's humble thoughts. Anybody disagree?


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14. Bridging the Disconnect     1/26/07 - 2:32 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"These are one man's humble thoughts. Anybody disagree? "

I agree in part. It is not only chareidim, but centrists as well who follow some type of Rabbinic authority in the communal structure. In Jewish history, the role of Torah leaders was never limited strictly to basar b'chalav questions, or to what is chapter and verse in the Shulchan Aruch, because Jewish life is more than just strict Halacha. I think that we have to work with leaders and not against them.

Dr. Marvin Shick starts off his Jewish Press article(4/6/05), "Lead us by Teaching":

"Religious Jews are obligated to be obedient, an obligation that was embedded in our essence as a sanctified people at Sinai. Obedience means that we accept what we do not understand and practice what we prefer not to do. Being obedient is emphatically not an exercise in following what we agree with. While there are occasions when we may unfortunately stray from what the Torah requires of us, which is why tshuva is also an aspect of our being a sanctified people, it can be said that religious Jews are obedient to Torah authority. "

Nevertheless, one may ask what role personal autonomy plays in life. We talk about being Avdei Hashem, but by Korach, the situation is described as "tisnasue al k'hal Hashem", referring to a hierarchy. I don't think that it is the exact same level as Avdei Hashem, even considering derashos like es Hashem elokecha tira etc, or mora rabach k'mora shomayim.

There is a role that creativity, and personal decision making plays in Avodas Hashem; there are some people who might take the concept of asking sheilos too far, to the extent of never expressing an opinion on a philosophical or current-events matter, or not realizing that an issue is complex, and a decision has weaknesses, and may be made for the benefit of the community on a whole. At the same time, respect towards gedolie Torah needs to be strengthened, because it is vital, and has never come naturally.

Assuming that we agree that there is a disconnect, the question is how to address the issue within the charedi system, as opposed to from without. One can not change the ultimate concept of submissiveness to Torah authority in Orthodoxy in general, nor the more intense degree that it exists in the Charedi world. However, one can improve communication.

As Rabbi Alfred Cohen has written:

"And yet, on the whole, the Orthodox Jewish community today is blessed with many fine and committed people, who are not ignorant either of the Torah or of secular matters. I think they could handle serious discussions of communal issues, or appreciate in-depth explanations of certain aspects of current hashkafa... There are many who seek to be enlightened. They are not challenging Daat Torah – they just want to understand it better, so as to incorporate and integrate the thinking of Torah greats into their own approach to Jewish belief and practice"

Rav Matisyahu Salomon has said:

“...we have no complaint against anyone asking questions about our convictions, or even disagreeing — agreeably — with stances we have seen fit to take.”

Open and appropriate communication doesn’t always change things; decisions may still be made taking into account the community as a whole. And any change grassroots may want to see, will not be regarding core issues of charedi Hashkafa, but rather regarding the way the system operates. And even such changes need to be gradual, because of the complexity and the diverse groups that make up the charedi world.

But I think that it would still be healthier for a Torah society, if leaders communicate the perception that not only are they caring and highly dedicated to the Klal, but they are interested in at least hearing people's non-conventional needs, concerns, or ideas. Any business needs to give that perception. Or to use your analogy to secular democracy, one might call open, two-way communication a form of checks and balances.


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15. wedding gezeiros and leadership     1/26/07 - 3:38 PM
YH (me too)

They had to be sure the tzibur would follow? Well .. Every issue of the J.O. has an abridged version of the takonos YET the vorts continue. Can we say that demonstrable, measurable changes have taken place in our simchos? Have the roshei yeshiva on the list literally not been mesader kidushin at any wedding that did not follow the takonos?

Maybe we need to define "leader". If we, the people, need to make suggestions to the leaders only to get their names on our letterheads, why are they the leaders instead of the ones making the suggestions?

as for practical suggestions to bridge the religious-irreligious divide in israel - how about R' Shafran's Am Echad type ads in the Israeli papers or is that being done already?


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16. Rav Hirsch says.....     1/27/07 - 9:36 PM
Elliot Pasik, Esq. - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

There is an excellent discussion of the communal responsibilites of every Jew in a sefer entitled, Collected Writings of Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch. Shmini Atzerets, which emphasizes communal participation and responsibility takes us into Mar Cheshvan, a time when Jews should pay attention to communal needs as the entire year lies ahead of us. Don't rely on the leaders, Rav Hirsch say, who may be failing in their responsibilities. The example of Elkana and Chana is given, who saw that the Jews of their time were not properly observing the shalosh r'glayim. They marched around and exhorted their fellow Jews to travel to Yerushalim. They succeeded. Clearly, Rav Hirsch was talking about the challenges of his day, e.g., Reform, maskilim.

The parallel is clear. We have more than our share of challenges today that are not being properly addressed. Yes, discuss these issues with recognized Torah leaders - we shouldn't repeat the error of Nadav and Avihu, and this is what I and others have done. Then - we should, with zeal, z'rizus, fulfill ratzon Hashem.


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17. daas Torah?!     1/28/07 - 9:24 AM
YH (me too)

If so, then the newly minted "daas Torah" concept has to be discarded. If the ideas come from the people and are only rubberstamped by the leaders, then the daas Torah concept [in which supposedly the leaders have inside knowledge of G-d's will and inform us of such (even if different rabbis proclaim conflicting "daas Torah") and we need to follow unquestioningly) is a farce.


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18. don't ban adam l'chavero     1/29/07 - 12:33 AM
Anonymous

As I read Chaim's note on "Bein Frum L'Frum", I thought "don't ban adam l'chaveiro". Don't ban it, let us promote "bein adam l'chaveiro"


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19. Lots of feel-good Kiruv-talk     1/30/07 - 4:57 PM
Sholom - Nunya - anarchistrabbi@gmail.com

Lame, cliche, overused tired-old fundraising lines. Ahhherm, love-bombing?


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20. Two worlds with nothing in common     10/25/07 - 11:27 PM
teddydouglas - teddy.douglas@gmail.com

Anarchistrabbi has a good point. Do you (and can wider chareidi society ever) respect those secular boys or just want to collect their souls?


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21.     10/26/07 - 10:39 AM
M

Why the scorn and cynicism?

What does it mean to respect them? The politically correct garbage of you do your thing, I'll do mine as long as we're all happy?

They are not secular. They are part of the holy nation of Am Yisrael.

It's not Ahavas Yisrael to ignore a neshama's cry. It takes love to reach out to them and show them what their neshamos really want.

Read this: http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/israeldiary/A_Light_in_the_Darkness.asp

for an example of what true respect and love are all about.


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22. thank you     2/4/09 - 5:32 PM
Anonymous

Im crying I just finnished reading this article Rabbi, why arent there more people like you out there? if only i would have met someone like you when i was younger i probably would look alot different now. I wasnt turned off cause i hate judaism, i was turned off because all the hatred that i saw ,all the fighting and besmirching thats directed torwards anyone that doesnt agree with your view. Thank god there are still some jews left that know what it realy means to be a jew.


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23. anon above me     2/4/09 - 5:40 PM
yoni

I'm sorry you got such a bad view.

if its any consolation I am extremely turned off when ever I spend much time in very "frum" areas because of the outragous, offensive and atrocious behavior of so called g-d fairing jews.

Had I grown up in brooklyn I'd either not be frum or be in a mental institution for getting up on the bimot of new york shuls condeming them for abandoning the good way that hashem has set for them and turning astray after the delights of their eyes, desires of their hearts, and of course, the arrogence.


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24. 21     2/4/09 - 10:25 PM
Traveler - Chicago

Every community has one or two Jews who genuinely care about people regardless how they look, think and act. Rabbi Horowitz's approach is nice, but for American teens who grew up in frum houses, but left religion in pain, it Would be too much. It would come off like another messenger trying to convince us to return, I would probably snot him out and not give him a chance to show he's a great guy. When I was completely messed up, I picked fights with many rabbis, rebbes, and kiruv people just to prove that they were only in to my soul, not me. I made myself impossible to reach, until the one caring peson finally reached me, and allowed me to speak my mind, didn't freak out with what I said. Its a long road, but I'm on my way back thanks to him.


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25. No problem with Hashem     2/5/09 - 8:21 AM
Benzion Twerski

In concert with some recent comments, I must chime in with a message that I repeated in a MASK meeting last night. I often hear about the at-risk child who is “off the derech”. This child has either gradually stopped keeping mitzvos, or suddenly shocked a parent with the statement, “I’m not religious anymore”.

My reaction is that this child has no problem with G-d. And any effort to address this as an issue of faith, emunoh, philosophy, or hashkafah is doomed from the start. Most of us have provided a background strong enough that our children do not engage in philosophical turmoil about Hashem, and none actually scour the world for alternative systems of belief that satisfy their inquisitive minds. In fact, none are looking for something else or are attracted to other religions. All, yes, every one of these children who leave the derech is not struggling with any questions related to Hashem. Their problem is with us. They are rebelling against us, as authority figures. Religion, since we have taught them that it means so much to us, becomes one way in which they tell us how angry they really are. If left alone, they continue with their level of emunoh. They may make some compromises, depending on what risky behaviors they have chosen for their path, but G-d is not the issue.

This issue might yield much discussion, but I would rather leave my statement open ended, and allow for others to comment, especially those that have experienced this first hand. “The youth that leave the derech are not being attracted by outside influences. They are running away from authority which they believe is hypocritical and abusive. Religion is just the context they choose for this expression.”

My two cents. I would appreciate comments.


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26. The medum is the mesage     2/5/09 - 10:00 AM
Anonymous

Every time I am zoche to travel to Eretz Yisroel, I am struck with the identical observation noted by Dr. Twerski. I get into cabs driven by chiloni drivers and ask "how are you?;” invariably I get a 'baruch Hashem." Phrases like "haelokim yaazor" impart from the lips of Jews who appear quite unobservant. Recently, I flagged a monit from a hotel in Yerushalayim and directed the driver to the Kosel. He removed a yarmulke from his glove compartment, donned it for the duration of the ride, and when he let me off he turned to me, misty-eyed, and asked that I please pray for his son who had just been deployed to Gaza.

Maaminim bnei maaminim--no question about it. Their problem is not with Hashem or Torah; their problem is with those of us who have distorted its true priorities and misrepresented its meaning in the way we live and behave. Given the premise that Torah is True and Good and Perfect, there exists no possibility for those who adequately plumb its depths to remain callous and unimpressed. If its brilliance appears murky, this can only be the result of fault in the medium through which its clear light is refracted—in Jews who throw stones and spray bleach at pple “leshem Shamayim.” As Yidden who claim to practice Torah, WE are the medium, and we would do well to remember that “the medium is the message…”


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27. No problem with Hashem, problem with themselves!     2/5/09 - 11:59 AM
Anonymous

I'm not quite sure the rebellion in the arena of religious observance is intended to stab parents where it hurts most. Intuition tells me that this is all about self-esteem. I have previously noted on this site my observation that the relationships with our parents set the stage for so many of our behaviors and interactions. Healthy parent-child bonds foster positive self-esteem, and this is the basis for all healthy decisions and relational patterns—culminating in our relationship with Hashem.

Years ago as a young mother, I listened to Rabbi Horowitz’ ten-cassette lecture series on the subject of parenting. I recall neither the specific subject of the tape nor the context of the anecdote, but Rabbi Horowitz read a letter written by a teen-at-risk who had lost an expensive electronic item (camera??) at summer camp and could not be consoled. The letter was addressed to G-d and revealed the depths to which the boy felt rejected and unloved by the Ribbono shel Olam. Perhaps a reader whose memory surpasses mine can fill in the details, but the general point conveyed was that the teen’s rebellion against Hashem was nothing more than the result of a terribly painful low self-image.

The motivation to do good, the desire to accomplish, the inspiration to bond with Hashem (the ultimate achievement!)—these can only stem from the belief that we matter, that we are important, that insignificant man is in fact worthy of a relationship with an infinite G-d. When early relationships and experiences reflect to the child that he is good and that his needs are important, self-esteem flourishes. This is reflected in a child who wants to learn, who engages in constructive projects, who faces a productive direction with joy and assertiveness. When parents convey to their children that what the neighbors think counts more than what they need, that they simply can’t do anything right, or that their feelings don’t matter, they teach children to devalue themselves. This is apparent in a teen who disengages from schoolwork, who engages in destructive behaviors, and who seems bent on destroying his life with bitterness and aggression. Beyond “running away from authority which they believe is hypocritical and abusive,” I believe our teens on the run are actually fleeing themselves.

Why do these children unleash particularly aggressive vitriol against religion? Perhaps because our spirituality is the essence of whom we are—and so it is the piece we throw farthest away when we reject ourselves.

Thinking back to Rabbi Horowitz’ tape, I recall that he could barely read the boy’s letter, so choked was his voice with tears. I cannot accept that this empathic ahavas Yisroel stands peripheral to Rabbi Horowitz’ tremendous hatzlochah in the arena of kids-at-risk; rather my understanding is that Rabbi Horowitz conveys the message: you are important, your matter, you are valid. The ensuing turnaround in religious behavior, I would guess, can only begin to occur when this positive esteem begins to penetrate the teen’s self-image.


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28. Problem with Hashem ?     2/5/09 - 8:03 PM
Shades of Grey

"... yes, every one of these children who leave the derech is not struggling with any questions related to Hashem... This issue might yield much discussion, but I would rather leave my statement open ended, and allow for others to comment, especially those that have experienced this first hand"

I can't speak first hand, or as an educator, but I agree with Dr. Twerski, with some caveats.

A person is made of both intellect, and emotions. I think today, even those who attack Orthodoxy intellectually, but who grew up frum (with perhaps the exception of organized groups), have a warm spot for Yiddishkeit. Certainly, the average OTD child, a product of a Yeshivah education, has the feelings and experience which would overcome any intellectual conflict.

Further, such a child rarely would have been exposed to information which would present "alternative systems of belief", as Dr. Twerski put it. Any questions the average OTD student has, are natural and developmental, and are really no different than feelings of a different nature, which any yeshivah student needs to deal with in some way --even the "best bachur"--, despite the fact that for understandable reasons, no attempt is made to "normalize" the topics in public education.

In fact, the OTD child probably would have deep feelings for Yiddishkeit, despite, or perhaps because of, his non-conventionality in the intellectual arena.

However, if you look at the Klal as a whole, and from a historical viewpoint, there is room for discussion of whether "Hashem is an issue". It is true that for various reasons, our generation does not have the same intellectual pull as European communities that struggled with it in the 19th Century and the Middle Ages. But that doesn't mean that there is not an underlying issue, like a geological fault underneath the earth.

Project Chazon was started for a reason. It not only focuses on emotions such as ahavas hatorah and simchah etc, but on the intellect as well(obviously in a way not contradicting today's approach of emunah peshuta). One of the haskamos refers to organized intellectual opposition(hamevin yavin), which I think goes back in time some years.

Rabbi Horowitz himself wrote in "Wallmart is Coming",

"Many look at the immoral content of the Internet as the primary adversary as today’s version of Yakov Avinu’s battle with the angel of Eisav. I beg to differ. From my vantage point, our generation’s challenge is to prepare our children (and ourselves as adults) to maintain our Torah values and hashkafos, fundamental beliefs, in the open arena of ideas that technology provides nowadays.

I think of the Internet not in terms of a mobile red-light district, but rather like the Haskalah on steroids."

Bottom line, I think that that the product of a Charedi education(or a more Modern Orthodox one, for that matter) should have the religious experiences sufficent to overcome intellectual questions, in our generation where the milieu of challenge is primarily an intellectual one. But that doesn't mean that when looking at the Klal as a whole, that the intellectual issues have not taken on a new importance. Only a Navi can tell what challenge each future generation will face, as these things wax and wane over history(this last point is discussed by R. Dessler).


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29. Correction     2/5/09 - 8:08 PM
Shades of Grey

Last paragraph should say:

in our generation where the milieu of challenge is NOT primarily an intellectual one


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30. shades of grey     2/5/09 - 10:07 PM
Anonymous

Perhaps the way to differentiate is that an otd teen/adult alienated for intellectual reasons will probably not display the destructive activities that tend to go hand-in-hand with the at-risk child experiencing emotional alienation. Substance abuse, premarital intimacy, and "acting out" suggest that the problems go deeper than issues of belief and conviction.


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31. Answer to Dr. Twerski     2/6/09 - 12:03 AM
Nate - Chicago

You want the whole truth not sugar coated?

Here is my reason, and my reason for taking it out on Hashem.

I was taught to IDOLIZE people in power. A person above me is not allowed to be questioned, whatever they do is right even if my little brain doesn't understand what they do. This means parents, rabbis , rebbeim and principals have total control over the defenseless kids. Plus its lashon hara to complain if something is wrong. Lashon hara is a guaranteed trip to gehenim, so you better keep quiet.

I honestly believed all this nonsense, until I became a teen and realized that my body is mine. No one has the right to harm me, and I will fight back. I mentioned what happened to someone who blew it about what a chutzpah to say this about authority people, plus its lashon hara. He made unclear threats to me and against my parents.

I realized then that the laws of the Torah are meant to help those who harm innocent people. The people I was supposed to idolize believe this too. If thry could be like this, and say they follow Torah, I'm sunk. If this is Torah and Hashem wrote the Torah, then he also loves those who harm people MORE than the one being harmed.

SO...

I went out to hit back at Hashem, and let Him feel some of the pain I was going through.

Nobody cared to hear my feelings and feel my pain. Real big rabbis feel so proud of their power that they are too fragile to listen to broken harts telling the truth. They arent hit with troubles like this, they didn't go through garbage as kids so they look down at us as cokaroaches to be stepped on. I finally got help from a former rebbe in town who helps a lot of us.

I learned: 1] Hashem loves me unconditionally, so there's no point in geting Him mad, He will never give up hope on me.

2]Find something to do with my life don't just throw it away. Get a GED, learn a trade from someone willing to train, go to college, volunteer, ANYTHING not to waste away.

3] The laws of lashon hara were being abused by authority to keep me quiet, while the Torah never meant them to be applied that way. Hashem and Torah are good, just people pervert it to fit their needs of the day.


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32. To Dr. Twerski and to Nate     2/6/09 - 12:32 PM
Asher Lipner, Ph.D.

I completely agree with the explanation of the line of reasoning that is dissafecting our youth that Dr. Twerski explained and that Nate acknowledged. I suspect that although Nate, you are able to articulate it so clearly and well analyzed, that while you were going through this process much of the dynamics you describe were unconscious.

I did my doctoral dissertation on "Unconscious Ambivalen Feelings Towards G-d in Psycoanaylsis and in Judaism". There were a few theses including:

A) that Torah and Science are not dichotomous and can be used together to understand people and help them grow including in their relationship with G-d.

B) Also, that as Dr. Twerski points out, even people who deny G-d are not doing so, most often from rational intellectual motives, although they may profess too, but as Freud said about religious people the opposite is true too: Belief systems and attitudes about religion are due to unconscious feelings that are often ambivalent and complex.

C) That the Torah's details instructions on Chovos Halvavos, especially the Mitzvah's of Love and Fear of Hashem, are meant to foster a sophisticated mature developed complex relationship between every individual and G-d in the way that we know that the great Tzaddikim struggled always with nisyonos that are documented in the Torah.

But one of the main points I argued and had actual clinical and researched-based evidence for is that the development of people's attitudes and feelings about G-d are heavily influenced by their relationship with authority figures and especially caregivers (i.e. parents) during their formative years. Of course the relationship with a rebby who the Gemarah explains deserves even more respect than a parent because he "brings you into eternal life" is also going to have major influence on an unconscious as well as a conscious level for how we experience Hashem. The "image" we have of G-d as our father and rebby, is molded by our image of parents and rebbeim that we grow up with. The research that proves this was done by a Catholic psychoanalyst named Anna Marie Rizzuto published in her book "The Birth of the Living G-d".

The same conept is expressed differently in the Sefer Hachinuch on the Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va'em, where the Chinuch says that the reason for this mitzvah is for people to learn to honor and appreciate G-d who is a partner with our parents in giving us life. This is why He gave us parents and told us to work on our relationship with them. Unfortunately, this means that parents or rebbeim who make this mitzvah more difficult by being abusive or neglectful, are not just creating a nisayon for the children regarding one important mitzvah, but are gravely harming a normal devlopmental experience meant to foster spritual maturity and a healthy relationship with G-d.

The story is told of an old man who was a "maskil" (atheist) his whole life, and was crying on his death bed that he realized he wasted his life and that Hashem will be angry at him for having rejected Him. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchv consoled him by pointing to the false premises of his understanding and image of G-d, saying "Don't worry, the G-d that you rejected, I reject too."

In other words, when kids are going off the derech these days, maybe it is understandable because the derech we are living is a false one to begin with. Instead of trying to save/fix the kids maybe we need to look inwards as to whether we ourselves are on the right derech.

Yasher Koach, Reb Yankie for yet another masterpiece. Please keep'm coming.

Asher


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33. Dr. Lipner     2/6/09 - 1:30 PM
Shades of Grey

"Belief systems and attitudes about religion are due to unconscious feelings that are often ambivalent and complex."

You weren't addressing me, but I agree with this statement.

I focused on the "complexity" of the role of the intellect, and that people are different.

I believe(but can't prove) that even some of the ostensibly defiant, adult "frum-skeptics", actually underlying, have a desire to not be alienated from Yiddishkeit and community. They would probably make very good Jews had they the opportunity to find an outlet and/or counter-balance for their questioning nature.

The complexity is something to think about over Shabbos.


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34. Mee K'Amcha Yisroel - to Shades of Grey     2/8/09 - 3:47 PM
Asher Lipner, Ph.D.

The fact that so many Yidden who have been alienated, dissiulsioned, abandoned and abused by their experiences within our community choose to either stick it out or to keep some connection if only minimal or an ongoing search is testament to our greatness. It reminds me of this story in the concentration camps.

The Rabbis seeing the suffering of the people decided it seemed to be that G-d himself had been "kabayochol" guilty of neglecting and harming the Jewish people. So...they decided to bring Him to a Din Torah. They convened a Beis Din complete with Dayanim, Toanim and Sanegorim to defend Hashem. In the end, after much determination they paskened that according to their understanding, He was in fact guilty as charged. Whereupon the meeting adjourned because they all had to go and daven mincha.

Any survivor of sexual abuse by a rebby or a parent, or anyone who has been rejected by the community or its leaders when crying out for help, who continues to attempt to "daven mincha", to me is analogous to the heores of the above story.


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35. Looking Back Over Half A Century...     2/8/09 - 10:43 PM
JN - NJ

I too have a deep distaste for the 'frum world' -- even though I am fully Shomer Shabbos, would never dream of eating non-kosher, and don't even have a TV. What makes it so frustrating is that it's so hard to even put a finger on the problem. But it seems to be a combination of individualism (I gag everytime I imagine having to follow the 'penguin' dress code), realizing that even as a teenager, I saw things more clearly regarding issues like ostentatious affairs, the importance of work to both self-esteem and financial health,etc.

I also noticed that there seemed tobe absolutetly no correlation between the amount of time a person spent learning and davening to their middos. (If anything, I noticed a negative correlation!)

When I was down and out and undergoing tremendous suffering and deprivation, almost no frum person would give me the time of day -- yet 2 of the non-Jews I knew did.

When i was dragged to see some big (Chassidic) rabbi and couldn't speak up due to my illness, I was waved off like I was some sort of flea -- and of course my mother still had to write him a fat check. And did I mention that I wasn't allowed to sit down in his holy presence?

I could go on and on, but I've gone from trying to show non-religious Jews the beauty and light of our heritage to wanting to warn them to flee as fast as they can.


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36. Looking Back Over Half A Century...     2/8/09 - 10:46 PM
JN - NJ

Correction: >I saw things more clearly regarding issues like ostentatious affairs, the importance of work to both self-esteem and financial health, etc. than many so called leaders (i.e. 'Das Torah'). When they finally got together and signed a takanah against ostentatious affairs, I knew it'd fail miserably due to the fact that they were foolish enough to add that they're under no obligation themselves to follow their own edict!<


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37. 37jn-nj     2/8/09 - 11:07 PM
Anonymous

Just curious: what was your relationship wih your parents like growing up, how did they treat you, did you feel you were imortant to them, did they instill you with self-confidence? And what were their attitudes toward Yiddishkeit?


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38. Since You Asked...     2/9/09 - 10:55 PM
JN - NJ

Hard to explain. On one hand, they were extremely dedicated Jews in their own way and had a great love for EY and fellow Jews. On the other, my father was verbally extremely abusive but can be forgiven due to the fact he was brought up as an orphan and had it really tough. My mother, who always defended me, suddenly turned to instigating him often enough when I turned 13. He could be very nice -- as long as we were alone.

They're both alive, b'H, and i would love to ask them to explain it all but of course I don't have the guts. Besides, I'm a parent of teenagers myself now. 'Nuff said!


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39. To JN-NJ     2/10/09 - 5:02 AM
Yardena - Israel

You sound extremely likeable!

I'm sorry you went through a hard time with rebbes and the like. I have too, and I don't deal with them at all now, and I'm sympathetic to your experience.

I also noticed that people who learn all the time are less likely to invest positively in their families and derech eretz than people who work but koveah ittim (although we all know of learners who behave with good values and slimey businessmen, I meant in general). Halachah commands men to work and invest positively in their wife and children in addition to learning Torah. Obviously, halachah knows best, and that's why concentrating exclusively on learning doesn't work for most people. It's not the way Hashem made us.

I honestly feel that people like you and Yoni and others who were so hurt by frumkeit, yet refuse to give up on Torah, are the reason why so many missile attacks and suicide bombings are foiled here in Israel. Yes, there are horrendous exceptions, but logically speaking, it should be much, much worse. I believe that your faithfulness and decency in spite of it all is very precious to Hashem and is a zchus for us all. Dr. Lipner discussed the power of this above.


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40. Rov Noah Weinberg Z"TL     2/11/09 - 7:15 PM
Anonymous


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41. Rabbi Weinberg     2/12/09 - 7:57 AM
Anonymous

Sorry.What i meant to post was that i think a tribute to the ohev Yisroel who saw past the piercings on thousands of lost Jewish teens and made it his mission to draw them close to Hashem would be approriate on this thread. To the best of my knowledge, this gadol relied upon no bans or blacklists--everything about his message was positive, inspiring, and undistractibly focused upon what is right, good, and valuable in Hashem's creations. http://image.aish.com/movies/RY-Tribute.mov


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42. Yardena...     2/17/09 - 5:45 PM
JN - NJ

Thank you for the kind words!


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43.     5/6/09 - 8:01 AM
Moshe Schorr - Jerusalem Israel - moshesc@savion.huji.ac.il

Rabbi Horowitz, I was moved by your stories.

If I may, your story of those boys being blessed at the Kosel, is an outcome of a different "divide". They had no "frum" vs. "frie". But they were Sfardim, so they didn't have the history of the Enlightenment and the Orthodox response to it, to spoil their relationship with the old rabbi there. They didn't go to you for a bracha, did they?

Maybe it's time we rethought that old "war' whose casualty count keeps mounting?


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44. The heart and warmth of the Sefardim     7/1/09 - 11:56 PM
cvmay - bklyn,ny - drivewithcaren@gmail.com

Finally Moshe Schur #43 hit on the fact that was clearly stated, the three boys approached a elderly white bearded Sefardic man. WHY? The love and warmth surrounds the Sefardim like a halo of security and comfort. Their non-judgmental attitude is inviting to all.

Question is: What is missing in our similar Yeshivish Ashkenazic world? Why are we not huggers, kisses, schmoozers and givers of warm validation to our beautiful children? Why such ice in our veins? How can this change?


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45. I never meet people like you..     7/8/09 - 6:53 AM
Reader - Jerusalem

Well I just commented on the "Nauseating Piece" and introduced myself as secular Jew living in Jerusalem for the last 10 years with 5 kids.

What I read here is so true. All humans identify 'anything and anyone' by using his frame of reference. Logically a match is applied when a similar experience pops-up. How beautifull a man/woman who can refrain from an impulsive reaction based on the match in his head (frame of reference).

So this woman on the phone and these boys tend to match a - or more than one negative experience with the site of a Religious Jew. How nice to discover that the match was wrong. It takes a 'man' to admit that, especially when that impulsive reaction loosened the tongue.

I myself meet many people due my work as a technician and feel the need to say that I would be delighted to meet (at last) someone not prejudice of another Jew. Someone that would not box me before he'd know me.


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46. Wonderful!     7/17/09 - 7:50 PM
Anonymous

A beautiful, inspiring article--Thank you so much!


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47. Utterly brilliant.....     8/17/09 - 6:17 AM
Rajiv Ranjan - Birmingham


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48. input     4/28/10 - 4:44 PM
Anonymous

I am dealing with a situation where a not-quite pierced teen has been redt to my child. S/he has been on track (and could have been much more off even at her/his worst moments) for a good 2 years. Am I being irresponsible considering this shidduch, which otherwise sounds great for my child? How to convince others I'm not?


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49. input     4/29/10 - 11:52 AM
Anonymous

A P.S. to the request for input: ask your daas Torah. We have since done that and been guided in a way that gives us the maximum menuchas hanefesh to continue looking into what seems to be a quality child while spelling out exactly what we need to know and offering us the outside help we need to find it out. But parents, know that the olam isn't giving up on your kids, wherever they (still) may be.


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50. May you & yours be blessed.     7/11/10 - 9:13 PM
Anonymous

May the Aibeshteh bless Rabbi Horowitz and his entire family till the end of time!


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51. Brought tears to my eyes     5/31/13 - 2:32 PM
Jennifer in MamaLand

Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping give this BT hope that there is a Jewish future in Eretz Yisrael.

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