In Rav Avigdor Miller's dvar Torah Parshas Ha'azinu: Recognizing the Greatness of Am Yisrael, Rav Miller points out that Moshe Rabbeinu is so great & his sin so fine-tuned (in Hashem's Eyes) that Chazal struggle to determine exactly what Moshe Rabbeinu's sin was.
Seeing as Moshe Rabbeinu achieved a closeness with Hashem that no other human being has achieved before or since, how could Hashem rebuke him in his final moments?
By criticizing Moshe Rabbeinu in his last moments, Hashem ensured that Moshe Rabbeinu would come into the Next World COMPLETELY cleansed of even the most minuscule speck of ego.
Remember, Moshe Rabbeinu was one of the humblest people who ever existed.
By criticizing him in his last moments, Hashem ensured the best Afterlife possible for Moshe Rabbeinu.
"The Bnei Yisroel, despite all the criticism, actually because of all the criticism, will remain His people and His servants till the End of Days. And that is so important to understand."
-Rav Avigdor Miller
(Not to mention the dire threats & curses Hashem promises to heap upon anyone who harms His People in any way.)
Rav Miller's next words are so important, I can't help copying & pasting the entire text here [all text in square brackets & boldface my own clarification/emphasis]:
We live in a world that doesn’t accept the greatness of the עם ישראל [Am Yisrael/Nation of Israel].
It’s a world of darkness and sheker [falsehood].
And it has an effect on us. Absolutely it does. And therefore, you will have to put effort into internalizing the truth of the greatness of our people.
And no matter how much you speak about it, it won’t be enough.
Now, I know that you all think that it’s a waste of time for me to talk about this.
You all believe it already. You all believe that the עם ישראל is Hashem’s beloved people.
But it’s not enough to simply believe. That’s almost worthless. You have to know and understand the greatness of our nation more than you know anything else in the world.
There is a certain prevalent attitude of knocking the frumeh, the best that our nation has to offer.
We have to be aware of this and realize that there is a certain form of anti-semitism in Jews themselves. When Jews knock the frum community it’s nothing but an echo of the anti-semitism in their own hearts.
You don’t realize how much the environment outside is affecting you.
I know that you don’t want to hear this, but most of you in this room are goyim. Yes, you are covered with a thin layer of Orthodoxy, but under that, if you scratch a little bit of the paint off, you’ll find that you’re thinking like the goyim around you.
It’s affecting you all the time.
The negative comments about frum Jews – whether individuals or different groups – that one hears from Orthodox Jews is simply the infiltration of gentile propaganda into our minds.
Not only gentile influence, but even more insidious is the influence of the non-religious Jews.
The Reformers, the Zionists, and all the Jewish resha’im have nothing but contempt for authentic Torah Judaism, and for those who practice it. We live among the resha’im, we see them, we speak with them, we read their writings, and we therefore think like them.
And therefore, the only way to counter that propaganda is by heaping praises on the Klal Yisroel as often and as much as you can.
Everywhere you go, you can find opportunities to speak the praises of the עם ישראל. And if you can’t find opportunities, then you have to be wise enough and alert enough to make them.
Every day brings you many varied opportunities to propagandize on behalf of Hashem’s people.
And maybe it's important to acknowledge that yes, people will accuse you of being an apologist.
People will accuse you of having your head buried in the sand or of sporting rose-colored glasses.
People will respond with unpleasant stories of the misdeeds of frum-looking folk (whether true or not).
And from personal experience, it does not matter much if you acknowledge the ugly warts marring the frum community as you extol its virtues and all the wonderful people you've met that you never met or heard of in any other community in the world.
Acknowledging the warts is simply not "honest" enough for some people.
Unless you're trash-talking the frum community, you may be considered a distasteful, stupid, naive, hypocritical, blind apologist.
But you're not.
Unconscious Propaganda-Indoctrinated Hypocrisy
I see that many, many frum Jews of all different stripes also suffer this mistaken assumption (again, with the very good intention of yearning to display honesty & sensitivity).
It was only after feeling somewhat battered during so many conversations with non-frum Jews (or anti-charedi Orthodox Jews) that I started to wake up.
Whether it was people I'd known and liked my whole life — and felt they'd always liked me too — or getting blindsided after I thought I'd made a completely innocent and inoffensive comment (including all the mental struggle to find just the right words so as not to offend, then the other person getting all offended anyway), or being confronted out of the blue in a way that would NEVER be tolerated by that same person if I (or any other frum person) would dare do that...I started to realize who the real hypocrites were.
(Even though they didn't mean to be hypocrites; it was unintentional hypocrisy resulting from living in a culture in which the views deemed "politically incorrect" are presented in a distorted manner.)
For example, when I visiting my parents in the USA, an old family friend and one of my favorite adults growing up stopped by.
We were all enjoying a friendly conversation that drifted to the state of many "Conservative" (who are actually anti-Torah liberals) Jews in New York (where this man was originally from), and how it differs from "Conservative" Jews in most other parts of America.
Mentally struggling to find just the right word and keep the conversation inoffensive (for them, anyway), I settled on what I felt was a fairly neutral word: "traditional."
So I replied that the "Conservative" Jews in New York seemed more "traditional" than in other areas.
This old family friend smirked, then said, "You mean RIGID!" Then he and some others (not my wonderful parents) chuckled self-indulgently.
I felt punched. And outnumbered.
No, I did NOT mean "RIGID."
"RIGID" is not how I view people who are basically shomer Shabbat and observe more of the authentic halacha. (Halevei these "Conservative" New York Jews would become fully frum!)
And it's odd how he knee-jerk responded to the word "traditional."
"Traditional" really can be viewed positively, negatively, or neutrally. It's interesting that he reacted so defensively to the (accurate) insinuation that the more mitzvah-observant "Conservative" Jews in New York were indeed more, well, traditional.
Turning it around, how do you think this same person would respond had I said that "Conservative" Jews outside of New York tend to be even more compromised and assimilated than their already somewhat compromised and assimilated New York counterparts?
That's actually TRUE, by the way.
"Conservative" Jews ARE compromised and assimilated. Even the ones who don't mean to be and are simply misled by their pompous leadership, even they are still compromised and assimilated.
Do you see what I mean?
(In case you're wondering, I did not respond in any way, nor did I show I was hurt or offended.)
That's just one example.
Where is All That Religious Coercion I Keep Hearing About?
I couldn't help noticing that the most open-minded people, the people most concerned about the feelings of others (including those with differing opinions) were the more religious Jews -- whether they classified themselves specifically as charedi or whether they were just sincerely frum Jews who strove to uphold every iota of halacha regardless of any label.
As written in previous posts, I've had very positive experiences with the level of openmindedness of the Yerushalmi women I met when I lived in the Geula-Meah Shearim area of Yerushalayim.
I've repeatedly seen how so many frum Jews try to reassure others to feel comfortable around them, try very hard to hold onto their own values without offending others (keeping to the laws of lashon hara, for example, can be very tricky in today's culture of "I-have-a-right-to-express-myself-darn-it-and-if-I-can't-then-there'll-be-heck-to-pay").
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- bar mitzvahs
- waiting in line
- any other social opportunity
Rav Miller suggests we notice (and APPRECIATE) the following:
- families with many children
- a mother walking with a baby carriage
- tsniusly dressed girls
- little boys wearing tzitzit & kippahs
- fully kosher homes (despite the extra expense and effort involved)
- fully kosher mezuzot on every doorpost of every home (not cheap, especially the beautified ones) — and then you need to tend to their upkeep and check them every so often
- frummies give 10% (at minimum!) of their earnings to tzedakah (and NOT meaningless art museums, but REAL tzedakah)
- all the Jewish parents who send their children to frum schools, despite the expense (especially in America) and sometimes the distance (I met a Chabad family in Long Island who drove their daughters to an excellent frum school that meant driving one hour EACH WAY every day!)
If you live in a frum neighborhood, and especially if you live in Eretz Yisrael, you get to see sukkot everywhere. It's a real joy, especially if you grew up as a Jewish minority in America.
Instead of Halloween decorations hawked everywhere & carols already crooning from the radios and mall loudspeakers in November, you hear frum pop music and see sukkah decorations for sale until all hours. Sukkah boards and lumber stand along sidewalks and stick out of the backs of cars.
During Sukkot, you get to hear everyone singing from their sukkot because you're all outside together.
Baruch Hashem, we have such sounds and sights in our Land once more! May all Jews be redeemed sweetly to Eretz Yisrael and may Hashem erect the fallen Sukkah of David Hamelech.
And again, especially in Eretz Yisrael, the Sukkot weather is usually very pleasant (unless you live in a very humid area or there are thunderstorms & rain once or twice during the week-long holiday).
But heck, even that's part of the fun, everyone needing to escape into the house in the middle of the night. (The children, anyway, have very positive memories of this as fun.)
"A whole nation of people, all types of people, sacrificing and laboring for their ideals, for Torah ideals. And they are a people that are loyal to Hashem. There’s nothing better than the frum community, make no mistake about it."
- Rav Avigdor Miller
Yes, there is what to criticize.
He says it in the long quote above.
He says it in most divrei Torah.
He says it in his advice for shalom bayit.
But he loves his fellow frummies anyway.
And he emphasizes that there is actually a lot to love!
Having lived in different places and communities throughout my life and having studied anthropology (the study of other cultures) in college, I can definitely attest to the fact that the level of chessed found in the frum community is unparalleled.
It may not always be perfect, but even with its flaws, it's unparalleled.
Recent emergency tzedakah campaigns have demonstrated the profound achvah we feel for each other and our generosity proves our respect for the mitzvah of redeeming captives or aiding the sick.
"There’s no better time than now, as we begin the new year, to make a commitment to yourself. This year is going to be a year of raising the banner of the greatness of our people. This year I’m going to look only at the good of our people – because really there is so much good to see."
- Rav Avigdor Miller
Rav Miller acknowledges that you need to plan for it. You need to make a project out of it.
This is very important as far as sweetening din goes too.
Rav Miller quotes Mesillat Yesharim (Chapter 19) on this:
”אין הקדוש ברוך הוא אוהב אלא למי שאוהב את ישראל — Hashem only loves only those who love the Jewish people”