We are engrossed in our daled amos [four cubits] and the people are drowning, either because of lack of knowledge of the Torah or by the guilt of the irreligious and the ridicules of the disbelievers [A Divine Madness, pg. 142]
- He wrote beautiful and compelling books that are still studied and taken to heart almost a century later by the majority of religious Jews.
- He beseeched the Heavens and fasted for days on end—and did so repeatedly—for the sake of Jews whom he barely knew.
- His tenderness and understanding toward individual Jews of any age and status is still spoken of.
And the religious people of whom he spoke had their hands tied in so many ways as described in the book. (Really, what can you do as Rosh Yeshivah of Slutsk if one of your boys pulls out a gun and thus forces the entire yeshivah to listen as he blabs on about the joys of socialism?) What could they have done?
Engrossed in their daled amot. Engrossed. Not trapped and not looking out in dismay at the world crumbling around them. Willfully engrossed within their own world.
Just like me.
Yes, it hit me like that. He was talking about me.
Yes, I daven for other people. I have a list of sick, the captive, and the spiritually distant for whom I daven. I’ve davened many times for the benefit and salvation of Am Yisrael and even for the sincere Noachides. I repeatedly ask Hashem to bring all of Am Yisrael (including myself) to do teshuvah out of love, and not through of any suffering or humiliation.
But it’s not enough.
Well, what do you think I do almost every time I see:
- mention of the Women of the Wall, led by that glory-seeking atheist hypocrite?
- Or whenever I read about Christian missionizing in Eretz Yisrael?
- Or read about the encroachment of the Conservative/Reform movements, especially with regard to giyur/conversion?
- Or the IDF enlistment of girls, in particular the spike of religious girls who want to serve in combat (which is problematic on so many levels, it deserves a post of its own)?
- Or Charedi-looking Jews (REAL ones and not government provocateurs in disguise) acting like thuggish vandals out of a sense of unearned piety?
- Or anything along those lines?
I flee into myself, I turn the page, I find another distraction, I fleetingly muse, “Oh, we just need to daven more and Hashem will take care of it…” (without immediately davening myself!).
Because these things cause me so much pain.
But even more, they make me very, very, very ANGRY.
And there’s nowhere to put that anger.
(Actually, there is. I could channel it into passionate prayer. But because the anger is so painful, I don't even do that much.)
And there’s nothing practical to do.
Demonstrations or confrontations? I get depleted in the worst way from the atmosphere and emotional upheaval the comes from such things—and it doesn’t change anything. People just hate you and whatever you stand for even more than they did before…and they can fight back in the worst way. They are capable of doing things that you, as a decent person, will not contemplate.
(Although the hundreds of sincere female religious worshipers who came to the Kotel to pray with sincerity in the face of the Women of the Wall was a nice idea that worked out well.)
Nor is there anyone to talk to.
The leaders are completely corrupt and consumed with narcissism. And their groupies…well, I know what their groupies are like having grown up with feminism, Conservative/Reform and all the rest, and having dealt with these people after I became frum. I know exactly how sincere, yet exactly how brainwashed and needy they are, and how unwilling they are to really hear the other side of things.
Unless they approach you, or unless they are already on a quest for truth, then there really is no point in addressing the issues because you’ll just come away feeling even worse, they'll despise you, and all for nothing.
Having been one myself, I know how self-righteous and determined they are while possessing very little actual knowledge.
On the other hand, I’ve spent years increasingly delving into classic Torah sources in the original Hebrew—and not by rote, but really thinking about what these great Torah Sages had to say to us and what they really meant and how to apply it today—because it is applicable today, despite what even some otherwise respectable charedi Orthodox Jews might tell you.
So, here is a picture of my world before I discovered Torah-true Judaism:
Then I discovered Torah-true Judaism and it looked like this:
But the more I learned, the more I was dismayed and shocked at how much I’d been lied to (all with the best of intentions of course, by people who were just as deluded and deceived as I’d been).
And as I delved deeper and deeper, it started looking more like this:
(Of course, I must also disclaim any rose-colored glasses. I see the warts in the frum world. I really do. But the actual Torah, the halacha, the real wisdom from real Sages, the increasing closeness to Hashem? It looks full of expansive color and beauty.)
And every time I read about the very disturbing issues listed above, all I can think is that they want to completely demolish everything and revert everything back to this while I’m sitting in the middle of it:
After all this expanse, color, and beauty, I kick and scream against having to ever go back to that dark gray ugly world again.
So it’s very easy for me to sit at home with my emuna and mussar books, surrounded by Torah-observant neighbors of whom I’m very fond, in my neighborhood which is designed especially for Jews like me, where Shabbat is a truly beautiful and peaceful place with no cars or stereos and the sound of different melodies of love-songs to Hashem flow out from open windows on Shabbat night, and to blog about emuna and the Kli Yakar and think I’m doing enough, and to blind myself to the ugly muddy tsunami that is rising around the pretty bubble of my own daled amot.
And the words of the Chafetz Chaim woke me up to that.
The people are drowning! And where am I?
Engrossed in my own daled amot, thank you very much.
But it’s not right. I’m basically sitting here as if thinking,
I can’t swim out that far. Anyway, there are sharks in the water and those drowning will just lob a spear into or upend my inflatable lifeboat, drowning me along with them. So I’ll just keep on doing my own personal best and hope that will weigh the scales to the side of merit.
Wrong! says the Chafetz Chaim. I need to care about all those lost Jews enough to pound the Heavens for their sake. Instead of running away from the disturbing news, I need to shout out to Hashem,
“STOP! I protest this madness! I protest this destruction! You must please turn these precious Jews around right now! You must please wake them up now and with a great deal of gentleness and kindness because they obviously can’t do it on their own! And while You're at it, if You could also gently shake me awake to do COMPLETE teshuvah from love, I'd be very grateful!”
If I really loved and cared about the people outside my own daled amot, this is what I would do. And b'ezrat Hashem, I'll already start.