One of the things that’s happening is many things are losing their seemingly “pareve” or “neutral” status.
For example, it used to be acceptable for even very frum people to go to the professional ball games. It was neutral, it was pareve.
(In other frum communities in the world, ball games were disdained as a waste of time, but not in America.)
Yet greater awareness among more yeshivish communities of the prohibition against wasting time has pushed many frum people away from an interest in sports. Furthermore, halftime performances and ads have become completely indecent, ridding ball games of their pareve status. To the minds of many frum people, these games are firmly treif.
Some frum people are still trying to find away to do it ("I'll just close my eyes at half-time..."), but it's getting harder.
The Infiltration of Vulgarity
Even non-fiction books liberally utilize vulgar language, mock traditional values, laud anti-Torah values, and insert raunchiness.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the history of seafaring, psychological theories, the art of good writing, politics, or anything else, a lot of treif stuff goes in. Yes, sometimes it’s done subtly, but it’s still done.
And even if it’s written from a very conservative point of view by a religious conservative, it usually still contains foul language.
Newspapers aren’t much better, though many give lip service to keeping a clean mouth. But if I spell “table” as “t@ble” or “t*ble,” do you honestly not hear the entire word in your head? Of course you do.
Speaking of foul language, words censored from TV networks in the Eighties are bandied about freely in the new millennium.
Grandparents who washed their own children’s mouths out for lesser words are now using worse language to those now adult children in casual conversations and emails.
There are even frum people (albeit yeshivish people less so) sprinkle their conversations with foul language.
Even Maternity Needs to be "Hip"
But in front of your husband and children, you can’t read about what age to introduce yogurt without kashering up the cover somehow.
No More Kosher News
And this is considered "equality," for some reason.
Much of frum media freely displays images of reshaim, untsnius images and videos, violent or disturbing images, and articles that don’t really suit a frum readership. Some frum media has also started featuring images of professional women dressed for a beach party.
Death & Raunchiness for Kids
Children’s movies portray morbid images and glorify raunchy jokes and impure spirituality.
For example, the re-make of A Little Princess features a split-second cut of a dead solider with his face alight in blue methane flames. Really appropriate viewing for kindergartners, to be sure! [sarc] (And there’s this creepy Eastern mysticism theme throughout.)
It's Not Just Stocked with Paper Towels Anymore...
At the entrance stood a vending machine packed with offerings that I cannot mention on this blog. (Suffice to say, it wasn’t a food vending machine.)
“Can you imagine taking your 6-year-old to the potty and having to pass by this?” she said.
No, I really can’t.
But it’s standing there, unprotested.
His older brother has a phone bought with his own money and decided to show everyone the video of the song. One minute into the song, I noticed everyone get up and leave, looking a bit discomfited and shy to tell me why.
What could be wrong? This singer’s songs contain a lot about emuna and other beautiful concepts. I took a look and the video and said, “Oh.”
I’m not looking to bash the artist, so I’ll leave out details of the video, but it’s something that normal young men would definitely find alluring, even though other technicalities of tsnius were observed.
And there are several music videos out by frum people that contain women who are dressed or behaving in a manner not in line with tsnius.
I understand that some women feel “deleted” by the lack of females in frum media, and frankly, I like to look at images of women too. (In general, I like to see the photographs of people described in a book or article).
It's a halachic discussion, not a social one, whether images of women should be portrayed in videos and newspapers. But regardless, the behavior and style of the women in these videos isn’t appropriate. And as is usually the case, it seems like the women in these videos honestly do not realize that their behavior and style are inappropriate. (Women often do not understand what men find alluring. That's pretty normal.)
By the way, I have books about frum women which contain photographs that I can gaze at to my heart’s content. I love seeing how frum women dressed throughout the ages in all different cultures.
Anyway, I think it means something when a yeshivah bachur cannot comfortably watch a video put out by frum men. (Who, being men themselves, should know exactly how males feel when seeing young females dress or behave like that. So what is going on with these guys? Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic. I'm honestly perplexed as to what they are thinking.)
And that's in addition to the fact that frum women traditionally maintain their dignity and refinement even when there are no men around.
Tsnius is not just about male taavah.
After all, we're a Nation of priests and princes and princesses. Men are supposed to dress tsniusly too. And most frum men do.
In fact, chassidish men dress even more tsniusly with more layers than the vast majority of frum women. Where's the equality?
Yet I know that just for saying that there's a problem with tsnius in the frum media, some frum people are going to get offended and think that I just don’t understand.
Perhaps I am uptight, repressed, controlling, judgmental, and ignorant of “real” halacha!
(For those well-meaning people, I’d just like to make a plea of understanding for myself: Please know that I'm a formerly secular person who, on the path to becoming charedi, was a lot more modern for a few years, so it’s unlikely you will be able to "enlighten" me with something I haven't already heard & didn’t say myself in my younger years. Yup, I probably said it myself at some point.)
Who's on First?
I’m still amazed at how fast society accepted all this gender dysphoria as legit.
It took a couple of generations for same-gender relationships to gain widespread acceptability. When gender dysphoria as a legitimate lifestyle came out a couple of years ago, I laughed.
Now I’m not laughing.
Against all rationale, it gained widespread acceptance—along with the predicted crimes as a result.
The fact that gender-based pronouns are even an issue is a serious sign of insanity (except for the extremely rare situation in which a person suffers a medically diagnosed chromosomal and physical anomaly in this area—but even they undergo tests and evaluations to choose one gender or the other).
Monkeys against CO2!
A denial of man-made global warming or an opposition to useless carbon taxes brands you a cruel uncaring nitwit—and again, even if you have evidence to support your views, your name is still mud.
Jews, especially outside of North America cannot keep a low enough profile, cannot keep their heads down enough.
When you have elderly Jews gunned down in America and pre-teen Jewish girls attacked on a bus or the street in Europe (and that’s just 2 examples), then you know you have a severe problem coming on.
When the world’s most respected newspapers do things like portray authentic Judaism & Torah Jews in the worst light and report the justified shooting of a terrorist running down innocent victims with his car as “Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian driver,” you know that the world is closing in on you.
In American politics, the Democrat Party is openly anti-Israel and openly anti-Torah Judaism. (Jews themselves are still okay though—as long as they toe the Leftist line).
But even on the more conservative Republican side of things, there is a growing number of people who also hate Israel and who solidly believe in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
American Christians are a mixed bag because while there are some who sincerely appreciate Jews and Israel, there are a great many who possess underlying hostility—even if they themselves aren’t aware of it, but you can pick it up in their words and the way they look at you or deal with other Jews. In their heart of hearts, they believe that even the saintliest Jew (who firmly believes in God, by the way) is going to Hell—simply because the Jew refuses to believe in a divine trio.
Where's the Silver Lining?
In other words, hardly anything in the gashmius world is "kosher" anymore.
And anything you do to increase your spiritual and halachic awareness automatically shrinks your world—the world of gashmius, anyway.
But there’s something very good about all this...!
The Refreshing Expanse of Torah
A great many people are seeking to immerse themselves in the light of Torah.
People are struggling to conquer their worst middot. People are turning to Hashem to speak with Him and build a relationship with Him.
Chessed organizations, services that cater to the ill and their families, organizations and individuals who deal with troubled youth. Tehillim groups, and prayer gatherings are not only thriving, but expanding and improving.
Recently, I decided to start learning Mishlei/Proverbs with Rashi. I go at a very slow pace. And while I’m immersed in it, I’m in bliss. First of all, the metaphors on their own are very compelling. But Rashi (and other commentaries) expand the metaphors to reveal even deeper meanings. And it’s deliciously geshmak.
As another example, Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender’s Words of Faith is a compelling book that’s surprisingly hard to put down once you start reading it.
It feels good to learn Likutei Moharan, to completely focus on a part of Mesillat Yesharim that really speaks to you, to listen to your favorite frum speaker’s words of inspiration…it feels very good to talk to Hashem as you would to the perfect friend who understands and forgives you for everything, and who can always help you and genuinely wants to help you…
And yet…do you have any idea how hard it is for me to get myself to sit down and do what I need to do—do what I LOVE to do?
What crazy resistance! It’s so illogical!
I LIKE learning Mishlei with Rashi. I LIKE talking to Hashem. And yet when I have the time to do it, resistance crowds in. I have to really fight it.
In Garden of Emuna, Rav Shalom Arush wrote that there’s always a yetzer hara against speaking to Hashem. He feels it too, he says. And this is from Rav Arush, who has regularly done 6-8 hours of hitbodedut with Hashem.
Rav Bender said that even a book's binding can be an obstacle. Just needing to get up and open the sefer can incite the yetzer hara to say, “Oh, it’s too much trouble…I just don’t feel like it…”
It’s totally frustrating, yet completely natural.
So it’s a funny thing that so much of the Torah world is so enjoyable, yet there’s a resistance that isn’t there about less enjoyable and genuinely meaningless things.
And that’s the yetzer hara for you.
Anyway, I’m not sure what the original source is, but it has been common knowledge for a while that Hashem is going to force people to stop straddling the fence and decide. Apparently, each person is going reach a type of breaking point where he or she will be forced to pick a side.
Some people have picked a side, but haven’t scooted into that side far enough or are still hanging onto stuff from the other side.
Others have picked the wrong side (but they can always change).
And others still wobble between both sides.
The Hate-Filled Lovers
After investing a ton of research, one feminist shed her feminism. She said that she wants to focus on equal rights equally for both genders--equally. What could possibly be wrong with that? She doesn’t want to emphasize just women’s rights any longer, so she no longer goes by the feminist label.
And even though she still holds by the other depraved liberal ideologies, she has been raked across the coals by the mainstream media and her liberal community—just for refusing to call herself a feminist any longer. She still supports women’s rights, but not exclusively. That’s all! And now she has been under attack.
Another man who always considered himself attracted to men only and had indeed immersed himself in that lifestyle since his early teens decided to change.
At one point, he realized that he was actually attracted to women and that his former orientation had been a lie and a response to trauma.
In other words, he’d been repressed.
So he got his act together and married a wonderful woman and he’s really happy in his new (and authentic) orientation.
Yet he underwent a massive years-long character assassination because of it.
Especially because he’d never been with a woman before and only men, his “conversion” was considered quite radical and a slap in the face of all the pro-toeva theorists. So this guy, who seems like a real sweetie, was attacked for 8 years by his university faculty, his liberal students, his liberal family members, Leftist activists off-campus, a journalist who represented a civil rights org, and so on.
All because he said that being raised by a toeva parent wasn’t so great and because he switched orientations when he was 28.
That’s it! And he was slaughtered by all the pro-tolerance peace ‘n’ love-niks.
The Real Thing
But the real world—the world of Torah—is wonderfully spacious yet cozy, and it’s full of beautiful light and color.
We just need to slide into it.