Appreciating Healthy Torah Values

Rabbi Avraham Edelstein, a founder and director of Ner LeElef has recently written a good article titled Between a Good Living and a Good Life about the many positive attributes of the Israeli Haredi community.

It should be pointed out that even the staunchest American Yeshivish communities in Lakewood and Monsey differ in many ways from Israeli Haredi society. However many BTs and FFBs across the Modern and Yeshivish spectrums share the values that Rabbi Edelstein highlights, such as the valuing of spirituality over materialism:

As far as values go, the Haredi community gets it right. It is family, and it is the spiritual that count. Seen in this light, the high level of scholarship of the Torah is a part of a healthy and admirable core. In a world where the millionaire is king, we ought to be finding out some of the secrets of a community which seems genuinely disinterested in materialism.

The second major area where BTs share Haredi values are in their appreciation of Torah. We came to Judaism because of the Torah and we continue to work hard to learn and live a Torah life. Here’s Rabbi Edelstein on Torah:

But, in the midst of all of this change, let’s not lose sight of the true values that Haredim bring to the table. Haredim truly believe in the Torah as the central force upholding the Jewish people. On that, we are a part of a broad consensus. Ben Gurion (not usually seen as sympathetic to Judaism) says in his memoirs that there are three pillars of the Jewish people: the Torah, the land and the Hebrew language. The number of secular Israelis who engage in at least weekly Torah study, numbers in the many tens of thousands. Haredim are not unique in adhering to this value. They are unique in the lengths to which they are willing to go to achieve this and what they are willing to give up in the process.

Unfortunately, there is currently much divisiveness among Jews, and it’s very helpful to constantly recognize the common spiritual values most Torah Observant Jews share. Please read Rabbi Edelstein’s article for his thoughts on how to approach some of the issues facing Israeli society.

2 comments on “Appreciating Healthy Torah Values

  1. Shmuel, that’s an interesting dichotomy you’ve experienced. My high density neighborhood in Kew Gardens Hills forces generally smaller houses and low-key living which is one of the reasons I think it’s a great community. That’s not to say there’s no materialism or consumerism, but it is diminished.

    Wealth is not evil at all, materialism however is an impediment to spirituality, and the more wealth you have, the more materialism challenges you face. But like many people, I continue to try to grow my businesses and bring on the subsequent challenges.

  2. Using the quotes from the article as a jumping off point rather than to discuss the main point of the article (as I think Mark intended): My experience has been that when I became observant I encountered people much more focused on the spiritual than anyone I was around when growing up in the larger society –and this seemed to be true of most of the people I met. How different my outlook and the outlook of those around me is from what mine used to be is one of the things that I still periodically marvel at when I reflect on my experience. At the same time, when I became observant was the first time I ever remember encountering people (not all, but there were and are plenty) who were so focused on wealth –who has it, how could they get it, etc. I don’t think that this focus on wealth is inherently evil (though I do find it distasteful), but it is certainly not admirable. So I’ve found it’s a mixed bag in the spiritual vs. material tension.

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