What Is Wrong With This Picture?

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Watch this video at your own peril. It will be painful.

You will see young, happy Israelis. They are exuberant, articulate, and full of confidence. They seem pretty clean-cut. No tattoos or piercings or gaudily colored hair. Several have families, including well-behaved kids, who also look happy. Their preferences in music tend to the upbeat-expressive, rather than raunchy or gothic. They did not shirk their duty to the IDF.

They are not from religious backgrounds, but they light candles Friday night, have mezuzos on their doors, identify with the Jewish calendar. Some wear tzitzis. Most surprisingly, unlike secular Israelis, they embrace Tanach enthusiastically, claiming complete loyalty to its spirit and its demands.

They do not see any contradiction at all in accepting Yeshua.

They definitely don’t see themselves as Christian. Their ranks are swelling in Israel. They have 15 congregations in Yerushalayim alone. Yerushalayim!

These are not the people we were taught to believe are the targets of missionaries – the poor immigrants, who fall prey to the wiles of deceptive proselytizing, and free food, and better schools for their kids. As much as you can tell from one short video, they seem to come from a different class of people

Watch their extemporaneous prayers, their joyful and wholesome group singing. They seem to have gotten the message that G-d loves them.

How did it come to this? The friend who sent this to me is an evangelical leader who tried hard not to be triumphalistic in pointing it out to me. He told me that in the last 5-8 years, some of their congregations have gone from 50 to 500 members. How do all these people live in the land of Israel and miss out on the idea that the Jewish G-d stood for love well before the competitors moved in?

Maybe the answer is too obvious. Maybe, if you are an outsider, the religious choices all seem hopelessly unattractive. [Note: the following lines are not my own thoughts, chas v’shalom, but a projection of what Jewish life must look like to some people looking in.] On the one hand are the folks in black, off on the margins of society, living in self-perpetuated poverty in a climate of enforced sameness, with leaders who never seem to smile for the press shots. On the other hand are more modern folks who seem to have confused land and territory with essential religious principle. To find people who manifest their happiness, you are left with people who make a point of jumping out of cars in traffic, who are devoted to a leader who died a few hundred years ago, and who’ve created a new Jerusalem in the Ukraine while chanting a strange mantra, when they are not busy painting it on the sides of buildings. Unless you are attracted to their cousins who are a bit more conventional, except in thinking that their deceased leader is still alive.

Have we all, in attending to other parts of our avodah, failed to make visible and palpable to others what they need to sense – that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is full of abundant love for all of us? Chovos Halevavos writes that the mark of a chasid is a constant smile, broadcasting his happiness in being a servant of Hashem. Why are the messages we broadcast getting lost in all the static?

Or am I too upset to see more cogent explanations for this growing tragedy?

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46 Responses

  1. Natan Pandolfi says:

    Beemza…….
    I think that the way the issue should be addressed is in terms of what is written in the Brit Chadasha itself. When this book was written Jerusalem was in the hands of the Romans, the Temple was defiled……In the words of Z’kharyah ha Cohen (not the Rambam) this is what Moshiach was expected to deliver in order to be accepted as such…..
    “Praised be Adon-i, the G-d of Israel,
    because he has visited and made a ransom to liberate his people
    by raising up for us a mighty Deliverer
    who is a descendant of his servant David.
    It is just as he has spoken
    through the mouth of the prophets from the very beginning –
    that we should be delivered from our enemies
    and from the power of all who hate us.
    This has happened so that he might show
    the mercy promised to our fathers –
    that he would remember his holy covenant,
    the oath he swore before Avraham avinu
    to grant us that we, freed from our enemies,
    would serve Him without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness
    before Him all our days.”
    (Luke 1:68-76)
    …Consider this – these people should be gently asked, like Abraham Avinu would have gentky asked… – has Yeshua met these standards? has he delivered what was required of him? What happened to the Jewish people for the next two thousand years? Have the Jewish people been delivered from their enemies and from the power of all who hate them? Have the Jewish people been freed from their enemies and can they now serve Him all their days? The answer is obviously: NO! He has NOT even met the standards set by the “evangelists” themselves, let alone the 300 or so prophecies that are always quoted…. Does’t this mean that we have to harass, intimidate, persecute, his Jewish followers and their children? This is revolting!! Should we curse them and wipe them off the land, as I have seen written in some of the blogs by some meshuga!!!What a shame!!!!There is much worse in our society at the moment to be taken care of! Believe me…..!!

  2. Natan Pandolfi says:

    What we see is the result of the problem being still addressed the way the Gur do in the documentary, with missionary zeal: shouting, screaming, shunning, denying, ponting the finger, humiliating instead of presenting it from a correct historical perspective, presenting the good and the bad. As you rightly point out, you are dealing with very educated people. In short let’s leave behind denominational biases, his caricature as an apostate, a magician and an enemy of the people of Israel. In fact he died so that t”we should be delivered from our enemies (the Romans)and from the power of all who hate us…so that…freed from our enemies,would serve Him without fear,in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days….
    I am afraid Rivka Frei will never be back into the fold. Maybe it is also time to start asking kids at the table: mi rotze leitpalel?…

  3. Shella Sadovnik says:

    In response to Mr. Joel Rosenbaum, I would only like to point out that even if the belief in Jesus should not be painful to the rest of us (even though technically it is ANTI-JEWISH because it is a belief in IDOLATRY), the two obvious questions are:
    1. Would they still believe in Jesus if they had recieved a deep, and nurturing understanding of Judaism? My guess, most definately not.
    2. What will their children believe in? The parents may be able to hold the conflicting beliefs together somehow, but their children will have NOTHING Jewish to relate to (because the parents have not built a foundation for them). What is sad about the video is not so much that they believe in Jesus, but that they DON’T believe in HaShem.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Looking at the spectrum of possible beliefs about Jesus, at point does belief in Jesus become a sin for a Jew? For a Ben Noach?

    Note to all the Christians reading this: I am asking a question about Jewish Halacha, which prescribes a few beliefs and proscribes others. Please do not be offended by characterizing Christian beliefs as sinful – I am sure that according to Christian theologians the Jewish rejection of Jesus is equally sinful, and that according to Muslim Shari’a experts we both sin in rejecting Mohammed.

    Here’s the spectrum of beliefs I could come up with about Jesus:

    1. Jesus never existed.

    2. Jesus existed, taught heresy, and was crucified by the Romans.

    3. Jesus existed, was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who was crucified by the Romans, and that his words were distored by his followers (as Kipling said) where they disagree with Orthodoxy.

    4. Jesus existed, that what he taught was true, and that where his words disagree with Orthodox Judaism it is Orthodox Judaism that has it wrong.

    5. Jesus existed, could have been the Mashiach, but that he was crucified by the Romans which stopped the process.

    6. Jesus existed, was a special human being (just like Moses and Abraham were special), and that he was crucified as punishment for our sins.

    7. Jesus is an eternal part of G-d who took human flesh.

  5. w. berman says:

    When Judaism is reduced to ultra nationalism on the one hand or picayune “frumer than thou ” attitudes on the other-this is the result.The success of Jews for Jesus and Messianic Jews in the U.S. is part of the same tragic problem!

  6. Joel Rosenbaum says:

    I have been reading Rabbi Adlerstein’s articles for years not only in cross-currents, but in various sites across the web. His writing is always provocative, insightful and passionate. His advocacy and the intensity with which he defends the pro-life agenda is especially gratifying. And even when I find myself in disagreement with his conclusions, as for example, his stand on the death penalty, at least I come away after reading his articles questioning my own beliefs. When Rabbi Adlerstein writes I listen. So it came as more than a disappointment when he describes the messianic Jewish video using such pejorative imagery. Why should it be painful to see our fellow Jews embracing life with spirituality, faith and joy? Why should we watch expressions of joy at our peril? Why indeed does he ask the rhetorical question: “how did it come to this?” The answer seems to be that spirituality, joy, faith, the desire to be a part of the Jewish people, to serve in the defense of the Jewish state suddenly become null and void, contaminated, dirty, and vile if coupled with the belief in Jesus. These same holy Jews that would be welcome as brothers and sisters where they atheists, new age or Buddhist Jews are somehow suddenly lost to us even though they celebrate the Sabbath, serve in the army and consider themselves an integral part of the Jewish people. What right does Rabbi Adlerstein or anyone have to exclude these holy Jews from our midst? The video brought tears to my eyes and hope for the future. May their movement continue to grow and prosper. May we in the orthodox camp learn to embrace diversity in all its beauty. From the fervent intensity of their worship it is quite clear that these Jews have found a high quality spiritual product. May we come to understand that if the competition in the market place of spirituality builds a better product rather than trying to destroy it we should work to increase the quality and attractiveness of our own spiritual products.

  7. michoel halberstam says:

    Now that we have figured out how to bring Chabad into this discussion, it should take on a life of its own.

  8. D. Cohen says:

    The video on the Messianic Jews was probably one of the first in Israeli media to portray the Meschichim in a positive light. It amazes me that the mainstream Jewish community ostracizes these Jews while not coming out against the Lubavitcher Meschichim whose beliefs border on Xtianity- see the article at this link (from an article at Haaretz) http://rickross.com/reference/lubavitch/lubavitch47.html. While I am not advancing one position over another, I find it capricious that those whose positions are almost identical to those who believe in “Rebbe Yeshua” are not labelled as a missionary threat (which they truly are, as they harass Jews with their moshiach materials in the streets and subways of New York, and closely resemble the proselytizing of JFJ with their tracts and literature).

  9. Roman Catholic says:

    Re: Rabbi Menken’s video link in #37, the film is prefaced “June 2, 2006.” That was Friday, but Shavuot, no? Sorry, I’m not familiar with what goes on ba’Aretz nor do I really learn these things at St. Joan of Arc–so correct if I’m wrong–but don’t Shabbat restrictions apply on Shavuot?

  10. Yaakov Menken says:

    Mark, I agree with you that all of this sort of display is counter-productive.

    But just to be fair to those protesting, if this is the video — it’s far too bright out to have been Friday afternoon. The neighborhood around the shuk is an observant one, and the workers apparently came in with a truck to do their business on Saturday afternoon. There would be complaints if trucks drove down residential streets early Sunday morning in most US locales, just not expressed the same way.

  11. mark says:

    Last Shobbos a friend of mine saw one of her young neighbors standing on a street corner yelling, “Shobbos! Shobbos!” at the passing cars. His tone conveyed anger and indignation, rather than sadness at the desecration of Shobbos, or – what would have been even better—a smiling message of celebratory joy, as in “Good Shobbos!”

    She went up to him (she’s a grandmother) and said, “You know,the way you’re doing this will just push people away. It won’t make them want to try observing Shobbos.”

    He replied, “Ze baia shelahem.” [“That’s their problem.”]

    I saw a video on YouTube recently that was quite disturbing. Charedim all dressed for shabbos were taunting chilonim who were closing up shop after a hard day’s work, late Friday afternoon. “Shabbos…shabbos…shabbos…” They did not stop. It was clear that the chiloni workers were exhausted and just wanted to close up and go home. Their day of work was done, but the frustration on their faces was very visible. It seemed to say, “We just busted our collective rear ends working all day and we just want to go home (or wherever) in peace.”

    I have little doubt that if the charedim would instead approach some of the workers with a smile and say, “How would you like to join me for a wonderful shabbos meal with delicious food and zemirot. My family would love to have some company…” It would have done a lot more good than the methods they have chosen to use. Why the heck would anyone want to be observant after being harassed? The approach is all wrong.

  12. sima ir kodesh says:

    The week after Purim, the weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post magazine section had an article about the charadeiazation of the neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol. It is a must to read (or download) to get an honest opinion of the early residents of the neighborhood and why they are so upset with the present situation of charedeim taking over? They complained that dealing with ISRAELI CHAREDEIM is impossible in contrast to the AMERICAN CHAREDEIM who are more open to discussion. Several complaints were:
    1. Setting up electric generators that are not safety-checked, with wires all over (those who do not use electricity on shabbos)
    2. A lack of cleanliness and respect for building residents (carriages and bicycles thrown around the lobby, etc.)
    3. Do not participate with the Vaad Habayis re: repairs & cost of living
    4. Using all neighborhood facilities (parks, daycare, tipat chalev) with out paying arnona.
    5. Lack of menchlekeit for the elderly, handicapped and chiloni residents.
    These are some of the quotes from the article, true or not, it does open your eyes to the feelings and needs of your co-residents. My personal solution: More aliyah from AMERICA is needed.

  13. Loberstein says:

    It took me until now to watch this video and it was a struggle to not stop it before the end. It is so tragic that in our Jewish State we have failed so misserably to project a positive image of our faith to our own fellow Jews. How many secular Israelis are prey to these people? How many think that orthodox judaism is synonimous with backwardness, intolerance and hypocrisy? I think the current generation of Israelis no longer know what it is they reject. If they think bad thoughts about torah judaism , it isn’t their fault. true, the secular media is anti-religious , true the political system mitigates against the separation of religion and state, but we have to find a way to overcome these obstacles and show the pretty face of Judaism, not be the “ugly chareidi”.

  14. Roman Catholic says:

    Actually, the video downplays the nature of the attacks by Gur Hassidim on Messianic Jews. It was at a Messianic Jewish congregation here in the U.S. that I first learned about the Gur firebombing and trashing Messianic properties in Arad. This is in addition, the reports claim, to the Messianic Jews being repeatedly subject to insults and taunts. I’m with the viewpoints above that call for expressions of love and reaching out by Jews to fellow Jews.

  15. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I mentioned above something I’ve read, that “religious Jews being genuinely happy in observing Shabbos, is as important as protesting or saying to chilonim ‘Shabbos’ “, but I didn’t mean that the author endorses the latter. I think that he was responding to a letter from a Baal Teshuvah who was turned off by protests taking place in Israel, and he was trying to strike a balance between addressing the writer’s concerns, versus not being overly-critical of elements of the charedi community.

    There was an interview in Mishpocha some time ago with a Chassidic Rebbe in Israel. He studied in a Tel Aviv yeshiva as a teenager, and one Shabbos there, he passed a secular Jew driving his car, who stopped and shouted ” good Shabbos” to him, in an imitation of the “Shabbos-zuggers”. Instead of reacting angrily, the boy warmly spoke to the driver, and after a few minutes, he promised never to drive on Shabbos again! While this is not a typical example of behavioral change, it is noteworthy what a brief positive interaction could accomplish, even with a teenager.

  16. Sarah Shapiro says:

    Last Shobbos a friend of mine saw one of her young neighbors standing on a street corner yelling, “Shobbos! Shobbos!” at the passing cars. His tone conveyed anger and indignation, rather than sadness at the desecration of Shobbos, or – what would have been even better — a smiling message of celebratory joy, as in “Good Shobbos!”

    She went up to him (she’s a grandmother) and said, “You know,the way you’re doing this will just push people away. It won’t make them want to try observing Shobbos.”

    He replied, “Ze baia shelahem.” [“That’s their problem.”]

  17. Bob Miller says:

    We should not discount the sophistication of the missionary networks and their operatives’ ability to camouflage themselves.

  18. One Christian's perspective says:

    Christians do have a few commands but these are not all.

    1. Love your neighbor as yourself and do him good – every person is created in the image of G-d and he is your neighbor.
    2. Love G-d with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
    3. Forgive those who do you harm
    4. Love your enemies, do good for those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
    5. Do not worry – that is unbelief
    6. Do not judge or you too will be judged in the same manner and with the measure you use.
    7. What is the kind of love that G-d approves.
    Love is patient, kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
    8. Give generously and with a cheerful heart to G-d and to those in need
    Lend to your enemies without expecting to to be repaid in full.
    9. Give praise and thanks to G-d in all things
    10. Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought. Be careful if you think you are standing firm, you might fall.
    11. Do not show favoritism
    12. Do not do your righteous deeds before men to earn their praise
    13. Do not cause your weak brother to stumble
    14. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Hillel also said this)
    15. Do not lie, steal, covet, commit adultery,
    16. Do not worship idols. Do not commit idolatry.

  19. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Without giving any blanket alibis for the phenomenon of “dreary” frum Judaism, we have a lot to do. They can just focus on being nice. My friend Mark Powers of Harrisburg, the director of Magen, a counter-missionary and outreach movement, is a great exemplar of a Jew who is genuine without being accusing to members of the missionary movements. He has had success with individuals, sometimes after many years, because he has earned the respect of those who encounter him. Another person in that category is Moshe Kempinski, whose store in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is often the scene of all sorts of discussions with people of all sorts of beliefs without getting into a theological food fight. More people have to learn to be happy and good-hearted. When a stranger walks into your shul, beis midrash or other community activity, walk up, be friendly, show interest, say something besides “you’re sitting in my seat”. The whole point of Torah and mitzvos is to work on your inner being through your outer actions. Even justified indignation at evil can leave a person with negative character traits.

  20. cvmay says:

    Teaching Emunah starting in yeshiva ketanas and continuing into Mesitvos, to our children would make a major difference in being “sameach bechaldo”. A stronger focus of “ben adom lecharero” will solidify warmer relationships, and open channels for discussion amoung Jews.
    To love every Jew as if he is an intimate family member, is a mantra of the teachings of Rav Kook z”tl. Understanding and respect should not be connected to indoctrination. The political haggling of the Torah Parties in Israel, incites secular society to look at the Torah observer as self-absorbed, small minded and bribe able. (eg: Today’s news, UTJ negotiating for Charedei funding will join the govt)

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for bringing these issues up for discussion.

  21. de la costa says:

    there was an allegation made above that xtian $ to the settlers is the problem. i doubt there is much of this shmad in settler areas. there has always been huge dollars and MANY different ministries, usually led by US meshumads, who have concentrated on this specialty. they have good tv shows, slick publications etc. this money would come in regardless of xtian-west bank politics. helping the jews and converting them are 2 separate xtian mitzvot…..

  22. Phil says:

    Can someone elicit Rabbi Tovia Singer’s comments for this blog?

  23. Sarah Lipman says:

    What are we to do, practically speaking? If the idea is to take the lesson from this that we need to work on relaxing and experiencing the pleasures of “simply enjoying the moment” of mitzvos — whether zemiros, learning, time with our families, davening — then the point is well-taken. Learning to appreciate our moments with the Ribbono shel Olam is a challenge in today’s frenetically-paced world. I am grateful for the reminder.

  24. Moshe Hillson says:

    After viewing the video, one gets the impression that the religion shown appeals to its adherers as another one of the new-age religions, which appeal to seekers of instant spiritual gratification without toil and effort, as opposed to genuine Judaism – acceptance of the Oral Torah, which prescribes effort as a pre-requisite for any spiritual growth. IMHO, that is the root of the problem, more than any other of the numerous reasons mentioned.

  25. mb says:

    They are not that frum. How about Kol isha!

    Haven’t researched it, but are there really 15 in Jerusalem?

  26. Noam says:

    Kudos to Rav Adlerstein. My own two cents is this. Unfortunately, those without a solid Jewish education will always be susceptible to the blandishments of Jews for J, and other spiritual opportunists. In the United States at least, education is the key. In Israel, if the secular Jews really have a bad image of the orthodox, then work needs to be done to change that image. I would also agree with the need to keep out of the country those who seeks to convert Jews. Finally, just like I am sure there are smiling chareidim, many of the religious zionists are not wild eyed gun toting fanatics who are desperate to hold onto every particle of dust(although personally I think it is a good idea to hold onto as much land as possible). I think that emphasizing to the Israeli public the gemillut chassadim side of chareidi society, and the Rav Lichtenstein type of religious zionism would help.

  27. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” On the one hand are the folks in black, off on the margins of society, living in self-perpetuated poverty in a climate of enforced sameness, with leaders who never seem to smile for the press shots. On the other hand are more modern folks who seem to have confused land and territory with essential religious principle. ”

    I admit to strongly feeling that parts of the charedie world would benefit from being a little more flexible and tolerant in a number of areas, yet I recognize my biases, and certainly do not over-generalize. In fact, if I would want to give an example of a paradigm of someone who has a constant, ready smile, it would be a restaurant owner right off Meah Shearim. In addition, in discussions about the topic of “Off the Derech”, it is acknowledged that dissatisfaction with observance is complex, and is strikes all groups, including “more modern folks”.

    “To find people who manifest their happiness, you are left with people who make a point of jumping out of cars in traffic…”

    There are also less radical examples of innovative types of religious experiences. I think that an occasional Carlebach-style nussach of davening is a less radical opportunity for people who are dissatisfied with a typical approach,(not that I think that such minyanim are the sum total of spirituality). One can substitute other composers, if it suites one’s taste better, and keep the general idea.

    On a related note, Litvshe yeshivos have been influenced by aspects associated with Chasidus, such as singing(perhaps they need to borrow more from Chasidim in these areas), even some on Yomim Noraim.

  28. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Yet, statistically speaking, it can be hard to be human, and to be genuinely happy. Although I don’t think that it’s a true conflict with the message of the Chovos Halevavos that Rabbi Adlerstein quotes, the Mesilas Yesharim writes, at least regarding humanity in general, “who is truly happy and content in this world?…not one in a thousand is to be found to whom the world has yielded a superabundance of gratifications and true contentment”.

    Frum people should ideally be a model of happiness, but practically speaking, Frum life can have its own challenges. I wouldn’t sell the Torah to potential BT as a New Agey gimmick that guarantees satisfaction, but rather as a tool for happiness and self-discovery, if used properly with sustained effort. Rav Moshe said that one should not say “es iz shver tzu zain a Yid”, but if someone feels like that, pretending that such an unbecoming reality doesn’t exist, will not make it go away. There are financial or other pressures in Frum life, so it’s not easy for everyone to constantly smile. Perhaps in addition, some people need to be disabused of their subconscious notion that authentic Litvacks and Balie Mussar who are not somber, betray their principles. :)

  29. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I think that one has to look at the picture in a nuanced way, as opposed to pretending that all is fine on the one hand, or becoming cynical and pessimistic about Frum life, on the other. Rabbi A J Twerski in “I Am I” writes, IIRC, that religious Jews being genuinely happy in observing Shabbos, is as important as protesting or saying to chilonim “Shabbos”. Rabbi Yisroel Miller in the preface to “What’s Wrong With Being Happy” also touches on the topic of this post.

    About ten years ago, I remember, a speaker addressing a group of mechanchim on the issue of “Kids at Risk”, and quoted the Alter of Slabodka on the Passuk in Malachai: “You said it is vain to serve Hashem; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge”. The Alter said to the effect, that this refers to people who project an image that Judaism is dreary. He then apologized to the mechanchim if he brought the point out too sharply, but said that if one wants to get a message across in public one needs to be sharp, to an extent. I also took a lesson from this, that sometimes, there can be a difference between charedi public postures, and private, more nuanced views expressed by rabbonim.

  30. NLG says:

    All of the above comments are insightful and worth pondering in depth.

    But it is painfully obvious to me that there is one thing missing, which is a sine qua non for anyone truly interested in understanding this phenomenon and trying to figure out a solution: actually spend time with these folks and ask them what’s going on. That the question is instead posted on this blog, and discussed amongst blog participants — most of whom, if not all, are engaging in complete speculation — is to me incredibly telling.

    How that can be accomplished, I am not sure. You’d have to approach people with sincere measure of respect, completely nonjudgmental. And I don’t know how many Torah observant Jews would be capable of doing that while the commentary in their heads is screaming about how the person is a wicked heritic or whatever. For another, few observant Jews, even those active in kiruv, know much of anything about xtianity, and I’m not sure how receptive anyone would be to being approached by an observant Jew who reflects any sort of hostility towards that religion (especially a hostility devoid of truly informed judgment).

    I wandered for years as a Jew among xtians, and not once did I encounter an observant Jew who could sit down with me and in a totally non-threatening, respectful, friendly even loving way have an informed conversation with me. They always wanted to debate, argue, or even in one or two cases accuse. Had one observant Jew come along who approached me on a truly loving basis, able to carry on a really deep conversation in which I could tell they really did spend time studying xtianity and were thus in a position to really help me compare things, weigh things, examine things, I bet I would have returned to Judaism long before I actually did.

    Either that, or else you’ll all just have to wait while Hashem hopefully points at least some of these lost ones back towards klal yisrael. But all this finger pointing, speculation and all the rest would make me laugh if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

  31. Eliyahu says:

    In addition to the answers suggested above, an important role in the “non-BT” movement is probably played by israeli media, which constantly bashes observant jews.
    To use an example from R’ Adlerstein article “more modern people who confuse land with religious principles”. If one followed the coverage of disengagment in Israeli newspapers, you would think that the people opposing it were buch of messianic zealots and extremists, who stubbornly held out to their outdated idea in the face of pragmatism and common sense. Now it turns out that the settler opponents of disengagement (and unilaterla withdrwawal from Lebanon) were the ones with the most common sense. But your average Israeli will still be bombarded with the “settler fanatics” message.

  32. de la costa says:

    can it help that a major movement in judaism r adlerstein alluded to, says that death does not preclude messianic status–legitimizing Second Comings?

  33. Jacob Haller says:

    Moishe P,

    For the record, your entry was not one of those I had in mind when I entered my plea.

    If you’re suggesting that if we can walk from this tragedy with only one item in mind – to improve Derech Eretz to levels beyond what we previously thought possible – then I’m in full agreement.

    That said, it’s also a little much to expect and demand that everyone in the fold needs to be likened to an Oxford-trained diplomat.

  34. dovid says:

    I heard the following in the name of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zichrono l’vrachah: Someone asked him why that particular Jew became the leader of a new faith 2000 years ago, embraced by hundreds of millions of people. Why him and not someone else? The Rov answered that the Jews and Judaism were held in very high esteem in those times, so much so that many aristocrats and princes of the other nations converted or considered conversion to Judaism. What held back those who only considered conversion (they outnumbered those who converted), was their perception that Judaism is difficult; it places a lot of demands on the individual. (Bilaam had the same complaint.) Then, this Jew came and told them that he can deliver Judaism to them without the mitzvos (commandments). That’s how the new faith came about. It’s undeniable that the people that Rabbi Adlerstein referred to in his article, have an urge for spiritual life. Otherwise, they would just have a beer at the beach. (To some people, that’s the ultimate bliss.) I guess they want to practice Judaism without the mitzvos. This, however, might be an easy, self-congratulatory, and misleading answer to Rabbi Adlerstein’s query. I am afraid his reference to Chovos Halevavos ( the mark of a chasid is a constant smile, broadcasting his happiness in being a servant of Hashem.) is closer to the truth. If our demeanor does not advertise to the world that being a Torah Jew is the best thing that happened to us, then we failed. The psukim in parshas Tochacha tell us that the calamities listed there will come to pass if we don’t perform our mitzvos cheerfully. Carrying out HaShem’s mitzvos dutifully is not enough. We must do them b’simcha.

  35. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, you are, IMHO, totally and uncharacteristically overreacting to this video. (A case in point why Chareidim shouldn’t watch TV. :) Yes, of course, even one Jew joining these misfits is tragic, but let’s put it in perspective. You’re talking about a few hundred, maybe, a few thousand misguided Jews. And let’s be honest these Jews are fully “recoverable”, they are still Jewish, marrying Jewish, having Jewish kids, and are even observing many of our rituals. We have over 5 million Jews here. In any group that size one is bound to have some percentage of deviation. While spiritually significant their numbers are just not numerically important.

    I don’t see how this slickly overproduced canard can lead such a brilliant man as yourself to lose your cogency. Especially, since living in the US, you have a front row seat to an actual holocaust as millions of American Jews are disappearing under you nose. This while the US orthodox establishment perversely thumps its chest at the “success” of orthodox Judaism in America.

    I think it’s a very positive thing that several of the speakers in the video mentioned the need to remain under cover and the experience of being ostracized by, presumably, chiloni kids in school.

    Your hypothetical (and disclaimer aside, quite offensive) outsiders perspective of orthodox Judaism is specious. In the US, messianic cults pull in Jews who have little or no exposure to the “evils” of orthodox Judaism.

    I think you need to count to ten, take a step back, and realize that you have much bigger fish to fry in LA and the US in general. Baruch Hashem Judaism is thriving here in Israel. You want to help, get those people off that sinking ship over there.

  36. Moishe Potemkin says:

    “It’s hard to believe that if the 3 hypothetical descriptions the author gave about how outsiders view the Orthodox in Israel, all extremely negative and cynical, were the beginning the middle and the end then the Ba’al T’shuva phenomenon and the miracle of the Shuvu school system would even exist.”

    I don’t think anyone was suggesting that the negative stereotypes were the entire story. However, the non-Ba’al Teshuva phenomenon also exists, and there are likely reasons for that as well.

    “I sincerely hope that those with personal axes to grind will avoid opportunistic instances of rubbing extra and gratuitous mud in the face of the author and this blog in general which in my opinion expressed tremendous humility in presenting this issue.”

    Rabbi Adlerstein asked a legitimate question. Several people, myself included, had equally legitimate responses. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I cannot for the life of me understand how this equates to gratuitous axe grinding or face-rubbing. Think of it this way – you disagreed with something that someone had written here, and you criticised it. Fair enough. I did the same thing, citing what I think is a relevant example of an attitude that supports the non-Ba’al Teshuva movement.

    (Obviously, if anything that I wrote sounded like a personal criticism of Rabbi Adlerstein, then that indicates that I communicated poorly, and I readily apologize for doing so.)

    – Moishe P.

  37. Jacob Haller says:

    It’s hard to believe that if the 3 hypothetical descriptions the author gave about how outsiders view the Orthodox in Israel, all extremely negative and cynical, were the beginning the middle and the end then the Ba’al T’shuva phenomenon and the miracle of the Shuvu school system would even exist.

    I sincerely hope that those with personal axes to grind will avoid opportunistic instances of rubbing extra and gratuitous mud in the face of the author and this blog in general which in my opinion expressed tremendous humility in presenting this issue.

  38. Bob Miller says:

    When some of our people defect to another faith (even one misidentified as Judaism), we need to look at ways to reclaim them, but never abandon or modify our Torah-mandated principles and practices.

  39. michoel halberstam says:

    I think we need to confront the fact that Israel, whatever else it may be, is a society consisting exclusively of Jews, which has been thrown to gether into a great petrie dish, and left to develop, like a blood culture. We have not had such a situation in Klal Yisroel for may centuries. As a result, we are developing, much as our ancestors did in the period of Bayis Sheni, into numerous splinter groups, each seeking to find its own way. There is no feeling that there is a right way to be a Jew. To this extent we are vulnerable to whatever winds are blowing.

    If I am correct, we can speculate as much as we want about what is to blame for this, but in the end, we will have to live with the outcome. In antiquity, there is no doubt that observant Jews had to tolerate a broad spectrun of differnces in practice and attitudes from their friends and neighbors. We may have to do the same. Regarding the question of Messianic Judaism, the problem is precisely that certain people don’t feel that the religion they were taught at home answers their spiritual needs. The only way to deal with this is to insist that our religious peractice remain flexible enough to help these people meet and confront these needs.

    Of course there is a tremendous risk inherent in this, which is that people will go far afield in search of these answers. I think that the only etzah is the one that has been proposed from the first day. All discussion of Judaism can only take place in the context of the study of Torah. The text is the glue that will keep us together. This to me is the true meanin of Lu Osi Azavu, V’torasi shamaru, shehamaor sheb machaziran lemutav. Hashem Hatove yechaper b’ad.

  40. Daniel Weltman says:

    I do not mean to negate any of the constructive criticism in the post. However, I think an important possibility is being overlooked.

    There are people in every community who are just looking for something new. We live in a world culture whose mantra is, ‘if it’s not perfect, trade it in!’ No matter how exhilarating, the doing the same thing every day can become dull, and people will begin to look for new inspiration. Mature people who are confident in their faith will look inward for this renaissance, but many modern people will immediately look outward to find religious renewal.

    It is unfair to place the blame for this external renewal on the practitioners of Jewish Orthodoxy. Most of us find ourselves at points in our lives, in all issues, uninspired. Marriage, work, leisure, study, and religion all can bore a person when done routinely. Even in boredom, it is our job to recognize the inherent value in what we are doing, and re-ignite our passion through it. We can’t just trade it in, when it is an important part of our lives.

  41. Moishe Potemkin says:

    “Or am I too upset to see more cogent explanations for this growing tragedy?”

    Here’s a thought: Not too long ago, a contributor to a fairly well-known Orthodox blog expressed her sarcastic hope for the speedy reinstitution of the death penalty for expressing non-Orthodox beliefs.

    Perhaps it’s not just that the general population doesn’t see us as happy, it’s that they don’t see us as particularly nice, or worthy of emulation.

    – Moishe Potemkin

  42. Loberstein says:

    The problem as I see it is that we are not doing a good enough job of showing people the beauty of Torah obsrevant living. The othodox community is caught up in its own problems and the political system leads to justifiable cynicism. If Degel hatorah sells its 2 votes to keep Olmert in office for funding for chareidi schools, and this is in the papers in the open, it leads to a feeling that ‘they are no better than we are.’
    The mian problem is deeper . Jews are not “believers” in sense that Chrisdtians are. Many is not most American rabbis or the non orthodox varieties are secular more than believers, They rarely talk about G-d, only culture,etc. Many Jews see no real belief in their Temples. This is the product the Christians are selling and it nourishes famished souls who have been starved . Jews are not taught to believe, only to be proud Jews and give to Israel.

  43. Moshe P. Mann says:

    Why the disclaimer? Your description of Orthodox Judaism in Israel is 100% accurate! There’s no reason to be ashamed of telling the hard truth as it is.

  44. yitz says:

    Yes, we have failed, and as we say here, “ub’gadol!” [greatly!] I don’t think the corruption that so many politicos are involved in, not only the secular but also the religious, has helped things at all, either. And in that I would include extorting the gov’t for “benefits” [read: bribes] in exchange for votes and/or coalition support. Klal Yisrael has much to correct before the real Moshiach arrives! Thanks for your straightforward post.

  45. Trefene Baal Habos says:

    This is the obvious result of all the money and acceptance of the Relegious Zionist crowd from the Evangicals. There is always a price to pay, and the piper is coming in to be paid. So sad.

  1. May 10, 2007

    […] As one person pointed out in comments this afternoon, the two Degel haTorah representatives are negotiating to join Olmert’s failing government. Their intended goal is to ensure passage of something called the “Haredi Education Law,” under which, according to Yediot, “local authorities will fund state schools and non-state schools equally.” […]