Mar 22, 2006

Is he religious or secular?

Last night in my daf yomi shiur, we somehow ended up in an interesting discussion. Somebody mentioned a story they had just heard on the radio. The story was about a secular (a.k.a. chiloni) jew about 15 years ago. This fellow wakes up one day in the middle of Pesach realizing he never had sold his chametz from his makolet. It was a result of miscommunication and confusion. Each of 2 different Rabbonim had thought it was taken care of by the other and somehow he fell through the cracks and his chametz never got sold. After looking for possible ways out unsuccessfully, including bittul which he had not done, they decided that there was no solution and all that chametz was assur and he would have to burn it. He said on the radio the value of the chametz was roughly 15,000 NIS (15 years ago).

A beautiful story of faith and dedication by a person we quickly call chiloni/secular, just because he does nto wear a yarmulke or perform mitzvos the way we do. The discussion turned to the idea that someone like that should not be called chiloni. I mentioned that had it been a religious jew with the problem, they would either have found a heter or he probably would have sold it to a goy or some other quiet way of getting rid of the problem.
I probably should not have said it and it was likely motzei shem ra on the dedication of religious jews. However, I still think that that is what would have happened. Obviously some people would do the right thing and burn it or whatever the Rabbi says he is supposed to do despite the great financial loss. However, most people would have whitewashed it, I think.

This turned into a debate between everyone in the shiur. Most agreed, but some did not. The main example used to argue against my point was the sheitel controversy. The scandal broke and everybody stopped wearing sheitels until things would get cleared up. The arguer said and look how everybody ran to burn their sheitels because the Rav said to.

My response was that only a number of people actually went and burned their sheitels. Most people waited and eventually heterim were found and most sheitels ended up on the list of ok sheitels and it was never really a real problem to begin with. No store owner went out and burned all his inventory of sheitels. My point, exactly. When it came to the religious public they found heterim and people ignored the initial statements and waited until things calmed down and cooler heads prevailed.
I do not mean this to be a condemnation of everybody religious. I am not really sure what I am trying to say, but some people have the emuna and the commitment to do the right thing, even if they are not "as religious" as we are. There is more to it than just wearing or not wearing a yarmulke, or eating mehadrin or regular rabbanut.


  1. Rafi,

    I hadn't realized how naive you are. D'uh! Here in Chicago, we have a big "Achdus" campaign running starting in our shule. If you are like us, then we have achdus!!! Otherwise, You can come to my shiurim and shules, and table, but I can't participate in your functions. (I am refering to kosher affairs). The garbage in our shule alone between hashkafot is ridiculous.
    I met a cousin of Leslie's at her G'ma's 90'th b-day party a few years ago. I told this story to "someone" of rabbinic standing in my shule. There was a gentleman from a tiny town in Kentucky who came over to my father in law and said "I've been jewish my whole life, they tell me this is a kosher affair. What is kosher"? The "rabbi's response was "oy -nebech" I said "wait a sec. here's a person who doesn't know what kosher really is, but in his town everyone knows he's jewish and he is proud of being jewish". " I know "frum" people who have no idea of the halachos of kosher - and I'd say nebech for them first, before I'd say it for this guy. He lives out among the goyim, not in a ghetto community like us, and he makes sure they all know he's jewish. he may not understand all it entails, bt he's a yid like the rest of us.
    anyway, welcome to the real yiddishkeit. do like us or you aren't really worth it.

  2. all you say is true, but I am not sure what Achdut has to do with anything in this discussion?

    Achdut is a red herring. Whenever you hear someone speak about achdut, you are supposed to shut down your ears. Achdut means "like us". My Rabbi in shul will not associate with anything that is being done on the paltform of Achdut and has spoken in shul many times that Achdut in the common use of the word is not a goal nor an ideal. It is bad. A better word is respect for fellow jews despite the differetn style they may have.

    But that has nothign to do with what I wrote about (other than the story of the old guy who was proud to be a Jew, and that is another perfect example of people who might not be religious i the conventional sense of the word, but have more Jewish pride and more faith that religious people.)


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