Sorry, Rav Aviner. With all due respect to you, it’s very important. I don’t mean one should peruse for hours reading through all comments on articles about Israel by all the yahoos on Yahoo (they really earn their name on this one), but get an idea of how an article can make it or break it by gleaning through.
He’s afraid for people’s spiritual health; I get that. So am I. But I think I’m more worried about ignorance than overbearing information. If you can’t take a little inquiry, then you’re in trouble. We can’t hide and we can’t run away. You might think from this week’s parashah that we can’t criticize people without getting punished. Moshe Rabbeinu tried to do that and G-d chastized him. But the fact is that we learn that “gedolim” (or should I write ;;?) have to be accountable and can be punished! The great Moshe was wrong and was put in his place. This is a huge lesson, as the hareidi world tries to rewrite all of history. The hagiography is terribly damaging to our souls and to our sense of purpose.
And if you only read the headlines, or even the articles, you might think that things are simpler than they are.
There is a story going around that a bunch of wabbis (can you read the sarcasm in that one?) have banned the Vos Iz Neias (VIN) news blog. Harry Mayles on his blog here puts an end to that very nicely. But he continues today to examine how such a thing could happen, and how he thinks the chumra-ization of the yeshiva world has happened. I’ll quote just a bit from him, but really you should read the whole thing. And the comments.
I believe this mentality has taken hold and is what drove – and still drives – many of the Chumros adopted by the Yeshiva wolrd. The homogenization of Chasdim and the Lithuanian Yeshiva world is in part the cause of the move to the right. That has also caused another Chasidic idea to creep into the yeshiva world. Roshei Yeshiva are now looked at in ways similar to a Chasidic Rebbe. Certainly those that are considered Gedolei HaDor.And since appearance is so important to the Chasdic world appearance has become more important in the Yeshiva world. The more religious one looks, the more one is given respect and trust. If one looks Frum he must be Frum. A man with a long beard who wears a frock (Kapote or Bekeshe) will almost always be trusted. After all why would anyone want to look so different religiously if they weren’t truly religious. Thus – psychologically- they are granted a credibility they haven’t really earned simply because of their appearance.
Now it’s true that this is not automatic. There have always been evil people disguised as righteous people – wearing ‘the look’. But without any information to the contrary, I believe such people are generally given more credence by the right wing then those of us who look more modern. And if any such person is perceived in any way to be a community leader among his own – that pretty much gives him a free pass to make just about any claim he wants and not be questioned.
All of this is subliminal. It is an unconscious process of Chumraization based in part on a Chasidic infux into an America that does not have cultural boundaries. That is changing somewhat. Chasidim now have their own schools and live in places like Kiryas Joel that is virtually 100% Satmar. But the cat is out of the bag. Their presence in such close proximity in the mid to late 20th century has taken its toll. Intermingling with the Lithuanian world strongly influenced the Lithuanians to the right.
So we who consider ourselves Centrists or MO or whatever name we give ourselves, we better get working harder than ever, because, for sure, the center cannot hold much longer.