What does an MP3 player have to do with my esteemed fellow bloggers? Not much, perhaps, but I can attempt to explain the stream of thought that led to this post.
Recently, I was studying in a local Bais Medrash (study hall), listening to a pre-recorded class, when I stepped away to speak with someone on his way out. I spoke with him for ten minutes, escorting him halfway up the block in the process. As I turned back, it occurred to me that I had left my MP3 player out in full view, on the desk. And given that I had read several recent articles about the rampant theft of iPods and other MP3 players, it occurred to me that I’d just left out an open invitation in the Jewish equivalent of the public library — and I wasn’t at all concerned.
Yesterday, Eytan Kobre referred to a conversation between Jonathan Rosenblum (yet another esteemed fellow blogger) and author David Landau, in which both parties acknowledged the greatness of the gedolim (great scholars) and tzaddikim (truly pious) of the charedi community. Toby Katz seconded Eytan with a story from Rav Aryeh Levine. At the same time, however, despite their mutual focus upon these shining leaders, Mrs. Katz also referred to what all humans can accomplish.
Sure, there is theft in the charedi community, as everywhere. But I do not think a person would return to the average public library with the same lack of concern I felt this morning.
This reminded me of a story from 17 years ago. The Yad Eliyahu sports arena, near Tel Aviv, hosted the inaugural gathering for the Degel HaTorah political party, founded by Rav Schach zt”l. For those who have never been there, the arena is divided into four separate sections, each of which is separated from the next by a floor-to-ceiling metal fence. The dividers are not composed of conventional, lightweight fence material, either — these are walls of solid, immovable metal rods in a crisscross pattern. This is because the modern, sophisticated supporters of basketball team A might on occasion be moved to violently assault the modern, sophisticated supporters of basketball team B cheering on the other side, were the barriers between them not impossible to hurdle.
Meanwhile, when the stadium was taken over by primitive, violence-prone charedim, the following occurred. I was in one of the side sections, and happened to be near the barrier that divided our section from that which ran behind the dais. An Israeli yeshiva student, on the other hand, had the misfortune of being in that rear section, which afforded him the opportunity to observe the backs of the distinguished Rabbis on the dais throughout the evening.
He passed me his camera through the fence, asking me if I would do him the favor of going down the side so that he could have a photograph of the distinguished Rabbis on the dais, taken from the front. I agreed, walked off into the crowd, took the picture, and brought him back his camera.
I then asked him if he had ever contemplated the fact that I could have simply left with his camera — had I done so, of course, there was absolutely nothing he could have done. He looked surprised that I would even ask, as he said no.
And that, I told him, was one of the greatest things about that evening. That probably never happened before in Yad Eliyahu.
Oh — and, yes, my MP3 player was still there. But those familiar with Batei Medrash already knew that.