What are the Benefits and Pitfalls of High Walls?

There has been some discussion lately on the blog regarding the issue of “high walls”. For the sake of discussion, let’s define high walls as taking strict measures to keep what’s deemed good in the community in and keep what’s deemed to be detrimental influences outside of the community.

The benefit of high walls seems clear: they help preserve the purity of the community and to keep bad influences out.

It seems fair to ask, though, “are there drawbacks to high walls”?

Some have pointed out these possible drawbacks, high walls may:
1) also keep out positive things;
2) create a less welcoming community;
3) not properly prepare members for how to interact with others with differing perspectives thereby diminishing ahavas yisroel and the potential for kiddush Hashem;
4) stifle those community members that need/desire alternative expression;
5) not properly prepare its members for how to handle a situation in which they are faced with one of the outside influences that the high walls are intended to keep out.

Are there other benefits to high walls?

Are there other potential pitfalls?

Are there ways to decrease the potential pitfalls and increase the benefits?

40 comments on “What are the Benefits and Pitfalls of High Walls?

  1. Regarding Mike S’ first point above:

    Years back, we would read of Japanese businessmen deployed to offices or subsidiaries overseas, such as in the US. After a time, they were thought in Japan to have “gone native” and were held in lower esteem when they returned to Japan.

    If an insular group sends out hand-picked emissaries to do kiruv, does the group begin to look down on them because of their unavoidable contact with the “others”? If so, this might indicate an unhealthy level of insularity.

  2. High walls can protect us to some extent from outside influence. But they also carry some serious halachic risks.

    1) Creating high walls means that we cannot have a positive influence on our Jewish brethren. We are responsible for their mitzvah observance, and have been since our ancestors first entered Eretz Yisrael. In our fear, we abandon that responsibility.

    2) We communicate to our children that we do not believe that the Torah, chas v’shalom, can stand the competition.

    3) It creates a contempt for outsiders that can often lead to violations of the issurim of ona’at devarim and innui hager. Also speaking ill of other communities, which is also a violation of the laws of Lashon hara.

  3. I believe there are halachic and civil problems when a couple marries in a Jewish ceremony without obtaining a civil license.

    Since a marriage is a monetary matter, as stated in the ketubah, we are compelled to follow the law of the land. I don’t have the actual New York statute at hand, but I have read it in the past and it is similar to the following Ontario statute:

    1) There must be a license issued before the marriage is solemnized;

    2) The person solemnizing the marriage must be registered by the province;

    3) There must me two witnesses to the marriage ceremony;

    4) After the solemnization, the officiant must enter the particulars in a marriage register (supplied by the province).

    This text was obtained in the link: http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/JewMarrAndOntLaw.html

    While Judaism does not encourage out of wedlock cohabitation or intimate relations, there is no assessment of illegitimacy on the child of such a union, as long as the relationship is not intrinsically prohibited.

    When I weigh all of the factors, I think we should criticize the practice of performing Jewish marriages without civil licenses, since there is a violation of the spirit and letter of both types of law.

  4. Re: David’s comment (#30)

    Just an FYI, at least in some states –

    As far as marital status and civil law, receiving welfare benefits is dependent on additional factors, including who lives in the household, and whose food is prepared jointly, so I’m not sure marital status alone is significant.

    The bigger issue would be said applicant lying about household members or income.

  5. I’m simply highlighting why unless one really understands the various temptations, it’s not as easy to rush to judgment as you think.

    In the example you gave, and it’s illustritive, the “temptations” are self-created, i.e. a man who’s true responsibility it is to provide for his family opts out of that obligation and throws that burden on his already overburdened spouse. And/Or people choose to have more children than they can truly afford, even living at a very low standard. The “norms” of the community, learning and large families, which could be laudable under the right circumstances have instead created a situation where otherwise fine, upstanding, people can become like unskilled illegal immigrants and fall into the welfare trap.

    Now take these “temptations”, lack of education and disdain for the “outsider”, whether that be non-Jews, non-frum Jews, less frum Jews, the government, etc., which can be caused by the ever growing higher walls and, despite our Torah which is supposed to guide us otherwise, those temptations can easily become actionable.

    Just like in a poor, immigrant community, who’s “walls” are usually forced on it from the outside, many in our communities get sucked into this vortex where criminal behavior can be rationalized as necessary, even acceptable. And I think our self-imposed walls carry a good deal of the blame.

  6. Steve Brizel wrote:

    “erecting high walls may work well to fight and combat yesterday’s enemies, but may be woefully inadequate to the conflicts of today and tomorrow”

    I have often thought that if Judaism really is truth, it has nothing to fear from the outside world.

  7. Nathan,

    You wrote,

    “I sincerely believe it would be best to stop accepting converts completely.”

    The rabbis interpreted the Torah to say that we are supposed to accept converts when we can, and in fact we always have done so when possible. Would it be best to stop observing other parts of the Torah as well?

    “conversion for the sake of marriage to a Jew [which is forbidden by Torah law]”

    I am sure there are opinions that agree with you on that, but the overwhelming majority opinion is not in accordance with that. Eternal Jewish Family primarily works with non-Jews in relationships or married to Jews, and the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel agreed on procedures for converting in such a case. In any case, the gemara rules that such a conversion is valid after the fact.

  8. David,

    Among the allegations levied against those arrested were the sale of counterfeit merchandise, charity fraud, and money laundering. While one can argue grey areas in the tax code (it really *is* complicated), there is no questioning that selling merchandise that isn’t what it is claimed to be at least violates lifnei iver (and theft of intellectual property if the latter has halachic status). Charity fraud where someone gets most of their contribution to a charity rebated but claims the entire amount as a contribution is not a grey area of the tax code, and neither is money laundering.

    And calling the poor bocherim who got caught trying to smuggle drugs in Japan “innocent”, as some communal leaders have done, is absolutely a distortion of halachah. If X convinces Y to do an aveirah, as apparently happened in this case, Y is liable. (That doesn’t mean X isn’t a rasha.) Furthermore, the lawyer for the bocherim lawyer has stated publicly that the three believed that they were trying to smuggle antiquities through customs. That is also asur, as the gemara in Bava Kama 113 clearly states that we are required to pay customs duties that are legally levied and collected.

    I could go on but will spare the too many other recent examples. It is difficult to conclude that the high walls have prevented us from aveirot. Our community is not pure and we have not kept bad influences out — unless the bad inflences originated from within.

  9. My mistake. I assumed that when you used the words “Muttar and Assur” you were referring to the halachic obligation to abide by secular law, not the law itself.

  10. Menachem,

    Shabbos and Kashrus are not comparable to US law. I abide by US law because I have to, not because I believe it to be the absolute G-d-given truth. My only concern is not to do something for which I can be arrested. Halachah is something that I believe to be truth and binding regardless of whether I was punished or arrested.

  11. Menachem,

    “What are you basing this on? Are you aware that people in the frum community receive medicare, medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, WIC, a whole range of services for special needs kids, and probably a whole host of other forms of assistance I’m not aware of?”

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. Indeed, there are many who do and that’s where the problem lies. When one is heavily reliant on government funding, the temptation and potential for fraud is everywhere and requires tremendous ethical strength to avoid. This is especially so when there is an appearance of injustice.

    Let me give you an example of what I mean.

    Suppose you’re a young illegal immigrant who happens to be unmarried and pregnant? In some states you will automatically receive Medicaid assistance for yourself and the child for a number of years, no questions asked.

    What if you’re a frum kollel wife who is married according to Halachah but not legally, pregnant, and in need of medical assistance? Your married status can disqualify you from receiving this level of assistance.

    Since you’ve never married according to civil law, it can be very tempting to apply for assistance as an unwed person and receive all the benefits of many other minorities who make use of this service all the time.

    How about filing for a civil divorce and choosing to remain married halachically? There are benefits to be had in that too. Should our firm commitment to marriage get in the way of receiving benefits that others who aren’t as committed as we are, enjoy regularly?

    Note: I’m not expressing an opinion. I’m simply highlighting why unless one really understands the various temptations, it’s not as easy to rush to judgment as you think.

  12. there is alot of flexibility in the law and there are things that almost every Jewish organization does that may not be clearly Muttar but also aren’t clearly Assur

    Would you advocate this approach with Kashrut or Shmirat Shabbat?

  13. Bob,

    “Since you evidently are within both US legal and halachic limits in doing your accounts, why even bring that up?”

    With you or my accountant?

    My basic point is that especially when it comes to tax fraud, there is alot of flexibility in the law and there are things that almost every Jewish organization does that may not be clearly Muttar but also aren’t clearly Assur [the tax code as you know is vast and unclear in many areas.] Therefore, a lot of Shikul HaDaas is needed to know when to err on the side of leniency and vice versa.

    I know of numerous frum orgs that that are constantly erring on one side or the other [as is almost every small business] and some of them could conceivably make the headlines one day. That doesn’t mean they’re crooks or thieves.

    Furthermore, and I’m not an expert in tax law but have alot of organizational experience and therefore have seen many situations, some of the alleged crimes are things that IRS auditors pick up daily in audits – no FBI stings and no headlines. Why suddenly they became headline material is another matter, but these are not [with some exceptions – organ transplant] unusual or large operations from what I’m given to understand. [Yes – they were wrong, but that isn’t my point.] These were not the kind of crimes that usually make headlines and are quite common across the population.

    2. Which, if any, activity brought to light in the recent FBI sweeps would be illegal under US law but allowable under halacha?

    I prefer not to enter a halachic debate on this forum but suffice it to say there’s plenty of room for debate on a number of the violations [unless you’re resorting to Dina D’Malchusa Dina which is another ball of wax]

  14. Gary,

    Your point about yeshivos and Jewish organizations needing to be beyond any suspicions is valid.

    In the case of Agudah and Ohel, I think these organizations have much to be proud of in terms of relating to the government(I am not focusing on specific decisons, policies, hashkafos, etc., which one might disagree about).

    The following was released by Agudah(printed on Vos is Nais as a comment):

    To the lay leadership of Agudath Israel:

    As we have received a number of inquires today, I want to set your mind at ease.
    This morning’s New York Times makes mention of Agudath Israel Community Services in the context of a story about the procedures used by Mayor Bloomberg’s office for allocations to social service agencies like those operated by Agudath Israel.

    Whatever may have motivated the Times to publish this story at this time, I wish to assure you that there is absolutely no implication of any wrongdoing, chas v’shalom, against Agudath Israel.

    Allocations from the Mayor’s office have helped our social services programs (and hundreds of others) for many years, through many city administrations – in Agudath Israel’s case, dating back nearly 20 years to the Dinkins administration. While we do communicate with government officials about the importance of funding vital community projects, including those sponsored by Agudath Israel, we have never been privy to the internal mechanisms and procedures involved in the actual allocation of funds.

    We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the years for the community thanks in part to the funding we have received from a variety of government sources. We are grateful to Mayor Bloomberg and all the other public officials whose generous support of our programs has enabled us to serve many thousands of needy New Yorkers.

    Chaim Dovid Zwiebel

    David Zwiebel, Esq.
    Executive Vice President
    Agudath Israel of America

  15. some minority populations get ridiculous amounts of help, while others get virtually nothing.

    What are you basing this on? Are you aware that people in the frum community receive medicare, medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, WIC, a whole range of services for special needs kids, and probably a whole host of other forms of assistance I’m not aware of?

  16. The comments on this post have turned towards Jewish involvement in unlawful financial practices. Such involvement is intolerable and uncondonable. What can we say about Jewish involvement in cases where no law is broken, but a practice or policy is questioned?

    When a widespread practice is questionable or perhaps just curiousity provoking, the media seems to zero in on the Jewish participants. Note that two articles from diverse papers – the New York Times and the New York Post – did exactly that on the same day!
    The passage quoted below from the Times of August 4, 2009 reports that 500 groups received mayoral funding, but only two are named: Agudath Israel and Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services.

    “Records show that from 2002 to 2008, when the fund was shut down, the Bloomberg administration gave nearly $20 million from the fund to more than 500 groups on behalf of more than two dozen council members, most close political allies of the mayor’s.”

    In an article headlined “Stimulus Feeds Yeshivas,” the Post of August 4, 2009 named a Yeshiva that spend about $20,000 on kitchen equipment. No other school is named.

    The article informs us that “…private Jewish schools are getting nearly $1 million statewide, while Catholic and public schools are also getting grants from $100 million earmarked nationally for “equipment assistance.”

    Folks, the eyes of the world are always upon us! Of course we shouldn’t follow the crowd when it is doing something wrong, but it seems that even when something is legal, we can be chastised in spite of the fact that “everyone is doing it.”

    I perceive a subtle form of anti-Semitism that transcends many boundaries. The Post and Times are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and their readerships (to whom their editorial and news-flavoring policies are directed) are also a study in contrasts. Nevertheless, all concerned seem to be enjoying these two swipes at the Jews.

    Walls with windows provide us with a safe vantage point from which to view the outside world before opening the door to participate in its affairs. We should use this “cover” to evaluate situations for their consistency with the Torah and secular laws, and whether even the most legal of endeavors will result in a Kiddush Hashem, or, G-d forbid, the opposite.

  17. David,

    1. Since you evidently are within both US legal and halachic limits in doing your accounts, why even bring that up?

    2. Which, if any, activity brought to light in the recent FBI sweeps would be illegal under US law but allowable under halacha?

  18. Bob,

    I’d add another point too and I’m sure many will jump out of their seats over this if they don’t stop first to think about what I’m saying.
    Acting contrary to Halachah [i.e. reaching into your pocket and stealing your money] is not exactly the same as breaking certain laws of the US. Sometimes, a violation of civil law is also a blatant violation of Torah law, sometimes it’s not. That doesn’t mean we should be doing it, but it’s not the same. It’s wrong for many reasons, but can not always be compared to violating halachah.
    Personally, a few days after the recent FBI sting I sat down with my accountants to run through our books and make sure that we’re within the legal limits, but I also stressed to them that I want to take advantage of every legal loophole too. I have no interest in supporting increased taxes and will do everything legally in my capacity to avoid it. I’d like to be as close to the line as possible without crossing it or giving the appearance that I may have crossed it.

  19. Bob,

    I didn’t think I was saying that and definitely didn’t intend to say that but if that’s how it came across then I reject it.

    What I meant to say was that if you think about it, you’ll see that there are important similarities comparisons between the Chassidic communities and the minority populations that I mentioned. Large families, low level of education [for different reasons – still] etc. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear [or justifiable – the separation between church and state can be taken to unreasonable extremes sometimes] some minority populations get ridiculous amounts of help, while others get virtually nothing.
    Given this scenario, it’s not so hard to understand why people are “tempted” to push the limits as far as they can [especially when it’s so common and easy] and find every loophole imaginable. Unfortunately, once that’s the goal, it’s very easy to slip over the line and rationalize it and soon it becomes second-nature.
    Is it wrong? You betcha. Is it hard for me to understand why people [some of] whom I’d trust with my life savings might cross the line? Not at all.

  20. David,

    Clearly the Rabanim who called this Asifa, specifically intended for the Chareidi community, knowing who Brafman was and what he said in similar speeches in the past, disagree.

    Brafman is not even one of “them”. He self-described himself as modern orthodox, but apparently he’s often called upon to defend people in this community. And clearly the organizers felt what he had to say was of a high value to speak at a forum side by side with talmidei Chachomim.

    The items you mentioned are probably factors as well. But they wouldn’t be enough, on their own, to cause this problem. Insularity breeds distrust and contempt of those on the “outside”. Lack of eduction breeds ignorance. Together they are a potent combination. Throw into the mix that our Rabbinic writings contain much that is based on living in times and places, unlike today’s democracies, where Jews were singled out and persecuted simply because of their religion.

    I’m not sure I even understand your comment about the the “insane amounts of assistance” other minorities get. Aside from public school, the frum community is entitled to, and receives, whatever the others do. This includes medicare, medicaid, housing assistance, and more. And that’s without even getting into the discussion of the people in the frum community who are choosing to be poor and still receiving this assistance. But one does need to look at the double whammy of those who under-report their income (thereby underpaying taxes) AND take this assistance.

    There’s nothing wrong with understanding the motivation for the myriad of transgressions man is tempted to commit as long as that understanding doesn’t lead to justification.

  21. David, are you saying it’s understandable for a religious Jew to let his motivations or emotions or analysis push him to act contrary to the halacha? Then what would “religious’ mean?

  22. Menachem.

    I don’t know if Brafman is right that, “extreme insularity and lack of education are contributing factors to the ethical lapses we are seeing.”

    I would say that they “could be” contributing factors, but not necessarily are. If I had to choose one reason why some in the Chassidic community [and there are so many who aren’t party to this] might be open to ethical lapses in certain areas, it wouldn’t be their insularity or lack of education [both of which are problems for others reasons imho] but much more due to an attitude problem. They are very daring by nature [perhaps because they are so different that they’re used to not blending in] and take risks that are unimaginable to the rest of us. This is evident in the businesses they can get involved in [l’tov] and some of the ethical lapses.

    I also believe that it’s very difficult to watch certain minority groups that are well-represented by the media or congress [Blacks, Latino’s etc.] receive insane amounts of assistance by the government and not benefit from that as well. The fact is that most Chassidim [and Orthodox groups in general] cannot receive much of that assistance because of Church and State separation and that leaves us holding the bag for many things that the aforementioned minority populations get millions for. This perceived inequity drives people to look for as many ways as possible to game the system.

    It may not be right, but I can certainly understand the motivation even if I don’t agree always with how it’s done.

  23. We ought to analyze those walls that separate FFB groups from one another. These are numerous. A BT who finds his way into one FFB community could find that it disapproves of one or more other FFB communities where he has friends, acquaintances or neighbors.

    Our factional divisions these days go well beyond the basic MO-UO or Chassidic-Misnagdic divisions. How much of this intramural separation has any proper basis in Judaism?

    I’m not suggesting dissolving the boundaries entirely, but feel that they should be reconsidered when they interfere with normal friendly communications and Jewish solidarity. One who thinks he has to review an approaching Jew against a mental checklist before greeting him could be causing a problem!


  24. There is so much negativity in the recent media, that it is gratifying when one sees something positive from a completely unexpected chain of events.

    R. Asher Lopitan, a modern-Orthodox rabbi had published a critique of the Jerualem riots on Vos iz Nais and in other sources. The American Yated took him to task for the article( although I had no problem with the original article). Included in the critique was an invitation to visit Meah Shearim.

    R. Lopitan writes on his blog:

    “At the same time, I am gratified that beyond the issues of Hilul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem, the invitation to Me’ah She’arim from USA Yated Neeman editor Rabbi Pinchas Lipschutz was sincere, and we have been in touch, and I look forward to meeting with him, and eventually being in Me’ah She’arim together. This is a new relationship with a leader in the Yeshivishe world that I hope to foster, and I am grateful for it.”

    He also includes advice that anyone can learn from:

    “But I understand, that especially when being critical of my brothers and sisters, I need to be humble and modest , avoiding any sarcasm and certainly not relishing in critique. The truth is that if the message is right and true, it will get heard without being “in your face” and sensational. I was happy that my ideas were picked up by many different outlets, but I feel that since it was a message of rebuke, tocheicha, I need to work harder to make sure not to feel even one shemetz – one iota – of satisfaction of taking on a community and its leadership”.

    All of the above has nothing to do with correct or incorrect hashkafos, or who is right and wrong, and therefore can be accepted by anyone.

  25. I have met FFB young adults that seemed to have great difficulty relating to people that were not like themselves. Not to speak bad of Klal Yisroel, but I would go so far as to say that this is quite common.

    A major, very charedi Rav in Flatbush, who is an intellectual type of person, once told me that he was looking for ways to broaden his children (who were very pure and insular). He wanted to maintain the purity but make them into people that can relate to others.

    This is an important topic.

  26. When people are strong, and can think independently without being swayed, they don’t need high walls. But most people are not strong. The problem then becomes that the high walls cause a greater weakening and inability to deal with external challenges.

    I am right now contemplating sending two of our children to a camp (for one week) that has a mix of frum and not frum children and I am very excited to do it. We might not send due to the cost / scheduling issues, but I would really like to give them the exposure. It is important (maybe critical is a better word) that we look to expand our children when the opportunity is there.

    This a great advantage that most baalei t’shuvah have, that our children are exposed to other types of people. But it still has to be with seichal and appropriate caution. Not “fear” but caution.

  27. At the recent Asifa in Boro Park in response to the recent arrests in NY/NJ a lawyer, Ben Brafman, was invited to speak. His whole speech is terrific, but at about 8 minutes in he touches on this issue. Basically, he says that extreme insularity and lack of education are contributing factors to the ethical lapses we are seeing.

    You can listen here.

  28. I’d like to point out that there are two different kinds of “high walls” — those that keep Other Jews (and that which comes with them) out, and those that keep Non-Jews (and that which comes with them) out.

    Sometimes communities put up one, sometimes they put up both.

    But i’d like to point out what it says at the end of the fourth chapter of masekhet Sanhedrin — just as we are held liable for learning from the bad habits of other peoples, so too we are held liable for *not* learning from their good habits.

  29. Menachem,

    You lament the fact that our tents are not as open as that of Avraham Avinu.

    See Meshech Chochmah – Bereishis 33:18 – who points out that this was not by accident, but by design. Avraham did not have a critical mass. The only way he could create one was by opening the doors. Yaakov, on the other hand, had twelve righteous sons and therefore he closed the doors of the tent.
    He uses this to explain why our sages use Eruv Tavshilun [a symbol of welcoming guests] as an example of Avraham’s strict adherence to Torah and Mitzvos, whereas Techumin is the example provided for Yaakov. Techumim limit and restrict outsiders, as opposed to Eruv Tavshilun.
    He wrote this not too long ago and clearly stated that Yaakov’s approach is the one we must adopt in exile.
    He may not be the only view on the subject, but he’s certainly a worthy one to consider in support of high walls.

  30. I agree with Mark Frankel-high walls project a “my way or the highway” message as well as a POV that the community properly emphasizes Sur Merah and Yiras Shamayim and Yiras HaShem but possibly at the expense of Vaseh Tov and Ahavas Yisrael.FWIW, before WW2, the French thought that the Maginot Line was impregnable. It took a matter of weeks for the Blitzkrieg to render the fixed fortifications obsolete. By comparison, erecting high walls may work well to fight and combat yesterday’s enemies, but may be woefully inadequate to the conflicts of today and tomorrow.

  31. “I suspect that some choose the high walls because it is simply the easier position”

    I think that’s one reason, but these communities also believe that they are creating a unique product, completely “al taharas hakodesh”.

    I have no idea what the future will bring, not being a Navi, but there is nothing in the Torah that says that such communities will never be subject to change until Moshaich comes.

    The success of the Eidah, will at least depend upon their ability to solve internal problems on their own terms, whether it’s rioting in Ramat Beit Shemesh, or in Meah Shearim.

    Even the Eidah is dependent on the good-will of both secular and other Orthodox Jews, and one simply can’t have a situation when there are riots in Beit Shemesh, etc. I think it will eventually stop.

    One can say that the same hashgacha pratis which caused one American chassidic community to come to terms with the American government, can effect the Israeli counterpart as well.

  32. Mark’s comment #1 succinctly touched on the core issue. What is one’s larger vision of Torah? I understand Torah to actually require selective interaction and integration. That demands discernment, not total exclusion.

    Notice the walls of the mikdash were not solid. They had windows of a particular design. IIRC, Radak says there that the design of the window was to allow more light out to the world, than in from the world. This taught that we have to be selective in our interactions with the rest of the world; but the walls were not windowless to exclude any and all interaction or integration of influences from the rest of the world.

    Discerning and choosing and disciplining ourselves is certainly more difficult. I suspect that some choose the high walls because it is simply the easier position. The problem is that it may be (indeed is, as I understand things) a distortion of Torah. When we distort the character of Torah, no matter how noble the motivations, that is a dreadful serious matter.

  33. Nathan:

    Your strategy does nothing to change problem #1, and converts who fall into categories #2 and #3 are irrevocably Jewish already — so there’s no question marks over anyone’s head unless someone decides to specifically put them there.

  34. Any community that accepts converts [gerim] DOES NOT HAVE HIGH WALLS, regardless of how strict they are with other things.

    A genuinely sincere Halachic convert is a great person.

    But in our times, there are many problems with:

    {1} non-Halachic converts

    {2} conversion for the sake of marriage to a Jew [which is forbidden by Torah law]

    {3} failed or lapsed converts who abandon mitzvah observance

    I sincerely believe it would be best to stop accepting converts completely.

    The alternative is that future generations will have question marks hanging over their heads concerning their status as Jews.

    I know this sounds harsh, and I apologize for that, but it seems to me that there is no alternative.

  35. Time to re-read the works of Rav SR Hirsch ZT”L and also those of the rabbinic leaders of Telz in Europe.

  36. We can’t be an “Ohr L’goyim” (a light unto the nations) if we’re so sealed up that no light can escape. How far we have fallen from our forefather Avraham’s tent that was open on all sides.

    I think that so much of our high walls are built out of a fear which comes from insecurity which ultimately derives from a lack of faith in the truth of Torah and its ability to fortify us.

    Granted some of this, legitimately, comes from the degradation in our Torah knowledge. But it seems to have become a Catch-22; the less we trust ourselves to transmit and fortify ourselves with Torah the higher we built those walls and the higher we built those walls the more divorced Torah becomes the world around it, the world it’s meant to fortify.

  37. Because high walls can keep out the good along with the bad, they can cause a demonization of the “outside” and therefore reduce the humanity of those *inside* by disfiguring their souls with fear, devaluation, and other negative emotions.

  38. The question was touched on in a recent Forward article, regarding the Asifah, gathering, in Boro Park(a kiddush Hashem, in my opinion):

    “There are a lot of benefits of insulating oneself from the broader culture around us, as we do,” Zweibel told the Forward. “But one of the costs of insularity is perhaps a lack of appreciation of the importance of compliance with secular law. That is a message that is important for people to hear.”

    If one listens to Attorney Ben Braffman’s speech, he directly addresses the issue of costs/benefits of insularity, and corrections neeeded. Note that he is speaking to a chasidic audience in presence of community leaders.

  39. Walls are built to keep out either people or material which is not consistent with a given communities Torah outlook.

    I think the biggest drawback to high walls is they prevent us from fully integrating the world that Hashem has created into our lives.

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