As Mark so subtly pointed out in his last email, I haven’t posted here in a while. Part of the reason for that is that I haven’t been feeling especially enthused about the mitzvos lately. The Lebanon war really did propel me to a higher level, particularly in my davening, but then something happened over Sukkos that really got me down.
What happened essentially is this: Person A, whom I respect, said that Person B, who I also respect, has some incorrect hashkafos. The incident upset me on two counts. First, Person A probably would never have said that if not for my own poor choice of words in presenting Person B’s position. But even when I tried to amend my words, Person A cited an entire frum community to justify her statement. For me, that was the hardest part to take.
In my last post, I wrote about davening for strangers on the street as a means to healing the rift between Modern and Chareidi. I now think that’s the easy way out. Loving one’s fellow Yid is easy from that distance. Having a disagreement with someone makes ahavas Yisroel a lot more challenging. And when matters of hashkafa enter the picture, and the other person takes the “more frum” position, I feel an underlying personal criticism.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels put on the defensive by other people’s frumkeit. The regular critics of this blog attest to it. Why would they bother to make a cause of debunking us otherwise? Similarly, when some Satmar chassidim literally ran away from my Modern Orthodox friend’s shul during some Zionist celebration, she called it “sinas chinam.” She later took that back, but she also said the incident made her feel marginalized, which I completely understand.
The problem gained a paradoxical angle for me when I saw it from the point of view of a new BT who visited me for a Shabbos this summer. After hearing the story of how one of my Chareidi neighbors discreetly pointed out a store clerk’s breach of tznius, the new BT said, “A person’s clothes are a reflection of their personality. If you say there’s something wrong with their clothes, you’re saying there’s something wrong with them.” And of course, it applies to more than just clothes. It’s hashkafa. It’s secular studies. It’s boy-girl interaction or lack thereof. It’s Internet vs. no Internet. It’s absolutely everything in our lives.
And herein lies the paradox. If you want to be mekarev someone, you are hoping the Torah will benefit them, but at the same time, doesn’t it mean you’re looking down on them because you see what they are lacking?
In my cynical mood, the only thing I can conclude is that it’s easier for me to love a more modern person than a more frum one because the modern person poses no challenges to my level of observance. Perhaps I even feel superior, though I certainly hope not. The problem comes when someone, in expressing their more frum hashkafa, puts down mine. That can and has put me in a bad mood for weeks. I know I ought to be past this, but I’m not. So perhaps some of you have grown past these sorts of feelings, and I turn to you for advice. May Hashem help that the ensuing discussion contribute to achdus b’klal Yisroel.